The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Foster Care Program works to provide safe, stable, and nurturing foster homes to children who have had to deal with abuse, neglect, or unsafe and dangerous conditions. Coinciding with a recent rebranding effort, DCF enlisted our help at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 to create an online advertising campaign to raise awareness for the foster care programs in the state of Massachusetts. The overarching goal was to increase and diversify the number of foster parent applicants to fill the growing needs of each individual DCF office across the various markets in the state.
Our research from other related campaigns showed that videos performed exceptionally well at raising awareness for this topic. Particular to the field of foster care, we learned that videos focused on positive emotions garnered stronger reactions compared to ads that focused more on negative emotions (such as guilt). Additionally, research shows that ads that elicit negative emotions have been shown to be effective in prompting one-off low-risk behaviors (monetary donations), whereas messaging centered around positive emotions has been found to be more effective during high-cognitive-elaboration donations, which are major, long-term decisions requiring substantial cognitive processing (fostering a child).
Armed with this knowledge, we developed a series of video ads highlighting the positive benefits of being a foster parent, showcasing how the arrangement can be beneficial to the parents as well as the children in need. This allowed for our target audience to identify with the messaging more readily while also working to hold foster care in a much more positive light than is usually portrayed in the media. The creative we used purposely includes a diverse pool of foster parents to increase and promote diversity among applicants and help change the stereotypes associated with foster care providers at large. The videos are designed to offer glimpses into the heartwarming everyday moments of foster parents, framing the real-life benefits and challenges that come with the responsibility. The underlying strategy for this was to both increase sentiment, as well as connect with prospective foster parents.
The video ads ran across digital media including programmatic placements, native video, Facebook, YouTube and television through connected-TV. Augmenting the awareness gained from the video ads, we ran similar looking image-based display ads, social media ads, and ads in local print publications. We used contextual, interest, behavioral and geographical targeting to reach diverse audience groups, reflecting the most urgent markets within the state.
To improve the conversion process from the awareness gained from these marketing efforts, we ran a remarketing segment on Facebook to show ads to users who has previously visited the dedicated landing page but didn’t end up completing any actions. We also ran an adjacent Google Ads paid search campaign, designed to drive interested parties further down the conversion funnel into completing applications to become a foster parent.
By the end of the 2020 campaign, we helped generate 11,314,555 impressions, along with 2,013,180 video views and 33,130 visits to the foster care website. Our videos surpassed benchmarks for video completion rates across Facebook, YouTube and programmatic, leading to a total of 1,369,868 completed video views.
Even in the midst of a pandemic that was filled with uncertainty around families’ employment status, we were still able to directly produce over 700 applications and 270 phone calls from our ads. Not only did this campaign effectively raise awareness for the need for foster care across the state, but it also helped fill the pipeline with prospective foster parents who are ready prepared to take children into their homes.
After reviewing the most successful channels from 2020, our campaign in 2021 came back even stronger. Most notably, we increased clicks to the DCF website to 37,253 which yielded 861 applications, a 23 percent increase from 2020. These increases resulted from 8,597,653 impressions which included 1,726,832 from video views. The video completion rate between CTV and social was 63 percent, meaning almost 2 out of every 3 viewers watched the entire video.
Not only did this campaign effectively raise awareness for the need for foster care across the state, but it also helped fill the pipeline with prospective foster parents who are ready to take children in need into their homes.