A year of the GCS Benchmark Database

The GCS Benchmark Database is a library of media intelligence, enabling the creation of a set of benchmarks that support campaign planning, objective setting and gives sight of how paid-for elements of a campaign’s performance compare against previous government campaigns.

It is a combined effort between GCS and OmniGOV, the government’s media buying agency, with the ultimate purpose of assisting key performance indicator (KPI) setting and driving better dynamic campaigns.

GCS and OmniGOV are committed to providing data-driven and actionable insights from the database with colleagues across GCS, through the publication of quarterly reports, creation of user-friendly tools and bespoke paid-media analysis.

A year on since the introduction and publication of the first GCS Benchmark Database report, this blog reflects on the last 12 months and summarises 5 key insights to consider when planning campaigns in the next fiscal year. While directly aimed at marketing and advertising professionals, all communicators will find the insight useful and applicable to their activity.

1. Setting SMARTer KPIs

In November 2020, the Media and Marketing Data team launched the GCS SMART Targets tool to support planning, by allowing cross-government users to easily access Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data from the GCS Benchmark Database. It is designed to assist campaign planners in objective setting under the OASIS framework, ensuring that they are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

The tool supported a wide range of campaign teams in setting KPIs that are achievable and challenging during the recent Communications Single Budget (CSB) and Professional Assurance (PASS) process, providing a means for evaluators to assess mid-year campaign evaluation returns against previous KPI performance.

Email data.gcs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk to request a demo and access to the tool.

2. Focus on audiences

Providing insights by target audience can support campaign planning towards more focused messaging and better use of media channels. Here are some of the key findings from the Q1 FY20/21 report (login required to knowledge Hub):

  • Social media is a primary channel when communicating with the Youth (16 to 24) audience, who account for a third of all campaigns. Keeping copy and content fresh on these platforms is key to ensure campaign cut-through.
  • Adults (25 to 54) are now far more tech savvy than in previous decades, and the report highlights that campaign planners should make greater use of digital channels when speaking to this group to drive greater relevance.
  • Families with children engage more with campaigns relevant to them, which primarily focus on encouraging parents of young children to introduce new behaviours in healthy eating and physical activity.
  • When reaching out to the Business community, getting the right synergy between online and offline channels is important. Use offline to address a broad array of business owners, and accompany this with more personalised online advertising with a clear call to action that is relevant for their specific sector.

3. Campaign objectives are important

As communicators, we know the importance of objective setting. Campaigners should make sure that communications objectives and success KPIs are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely), based on theory of change and clearly aligned to the policy goal. A deep dive on the topic formed the basis of the Q2 FY20/21 (login required to Knowledge Hub) report with key findings below.

Where the objective is a behaviour change, a diverse media mix is recommended, to ensure the main message lands.

  • Behaviour Start: include more audio/visual, radio and digital display
  • Behaviour Stop: make greater use of search and social media platforms
  • Behaviour Maintain: consider upweighting Print, TV and Video on Demand (VOD) advertising

Recruitment campaigns tend to be larger than average and perform particularly well in KPIs like Recognition (the percentage of people who recognise the campaign when prompted with a visual) and Main-Message Take-out (the proportion of people who are aware of the message being communicated). The Youth audience are usually the main target audience when it comes to recruiting for essential public services such as health care and the armed forces. As mentioned previously, it is recommended to maintain a strong creative focus to keep campaigns fresh.

4. Duration impacts effectiveness

The Q3 FY20/21 report (Login required to Knowledge Hub) highlighted that the number of weeks a campaign runs is a factor in how effective a campaign is against common outtake KPIs. For Planned/Considering Behaviour Change (percentage of people who went on to complete the call to action communicated in the campaign messaging), campaigns aiming to drive a short-term action require 1 to 4 weeks, with higher weekly spend weights, whereas a longer-term behaviour change requires between 3 and 6 months.

The analysis also found that Issue Awareness (percentage of people aware of the topic raised in the campaign) peaks between 9 and 11 weeks, with effectiveness diminishing thereafter. For campaigns that have awareness as a core objective, this highlights that the message can land effectively with the target audience within this timeframe.

5. Umbrella campaigns

Recent paid-media analysis suggests that running a campaign under an umbrella theme, with consistent branding across several campaigns, leads to an average plus 3 percentage points (55% vs 52% for single campaigns) in outtake KPI Main Message Take-out (the proportion of people who are aware of the message being communicated). Structuring campaigns in such a way can make media spend and partnerships work more effectively, as well as improving cut-through for standard audiences like Adults and Families with Children.

If you have used the GCS SMART Targets tool in setting KPIs, or applied any of the above learnings to your campaign planning, consider entering the GCS Campaign of the Month competition.

All reports are accessible via the GCS Knowledge Hub, within the OmniGOV OmniKnowledge section (login required). For more information, contact Noel McGarrell, Data Strategist at GCS (data.gcs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk).

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