SpotCo, a full-service ad agency, wanted to build awareness for the hit Broadway show "Once." To reach its ideal audience at scale, SpotCo targeted niche groups like theatergoers and music fans. With the Hover-to-Play ad format, SpotCo brought the sight, sound, and motion power of video to a standard display unit, and eliminated nearly all accidental engagements through a two-second hover delay qualification. SpotCo also complemented its Hover-to-Play campaign with TrueView ads on YouTube, driving engagement and captivating audiences across platforms.


  • Build brand awareness for the Broadway show "Once"
  • Reach new audiences and niche groups at scale
  • Give users the opportunity to experience and connect with "Once"


  • Used the Google Display Network to achieve scaled, targeted reach
  • Implemented Hover-to-Play ads to engage qualified users
  • Paid on a cost-per-engagement basis, only paying for deep engagements


  • Achieved a 3.78% engagement rate, paying on a cost-per-engagement basis
  • Generated 162K engagements
  • 4.3 million impressions at no additional cost
November 2013

With more than 250 clients worldwide since its start in 1996, SpotCo is a full-service ad agency serving Broadway, live entertainment, museums, film studios, and TV networks. Having a reputation for memorable ad campaigns like those of Broadway’s Rent and Chicago, SpotCo relies on Google to integrate search and display ads into its marketing mix.

To build awareness for the hit Broadway show “Once,” SpotCo needed to reach new audiences at scale, along with niche groups like theatergoers and music fans. Looking to provide a unique brand experience that would reflect the show, SpotCo decided to implement Engagement Ads in its campaign.


Captivating Audiences with Hover-to-Play ads

To effectively convey to audiences what “Once” is all about, SpotCo used the Hover-to-Play ad format. Part of the Engagement Ads suite, Hover-to-Play ads allow users to interact with the brand and play a video without having to click or leave the page. The ad starts as a static image, and after a two-second hover delay, the video portion starts to play. Because of this hover delay, nearly all accidental engagements are eliminated, providing a better user experience and more accurate reporting for SpotCo.

Hover-to-Play ads help give audiences a taste of 'Once.' To be able to demonstrate the emotionality and theatricality of the show is huge.

Bringing the full sight, sound, and motion power of video to a standard 300 x 250 display unit, the agency was able to successfully demonstrate the Broadway experience to users. This innovative format deeply engaged and educated a variety of audiences – people familiar with the show, and those new to Broadway – driving an engagement rate of 3.78% over a 10 week period.

Tuned to user engagement rather than clicks, Engagement Ads are priced on a cost-per-engagement basis, meaning SpotCo only paid for qualified users who chose to interact with its Hover-to-Play ads. As the campaign runs, Google’s adaptive algorithm works to increase engagement rates by optimizing the placement of the ads, showing them to users most likely to interact. In just 10 weeks, the campaign achieved 162K engagements at a CPE of $0.18 and 4.3M impressions at no additional cost.

Creative Digital Marketing Takes Center Stage

Reinforcing its Hover-to-Play campaign across Google Display properties, the agency ran TrueView video ads on YouTube. By targeting a niche audience on YouTube – folk music fans – the agency was able to reach viewers who would likely be interested in the folk-inspired “Once,” paying only for viewers chose to watch the video.

Impressed by the results, SpotCo is looking to expand its success using mobile and Google’s new Affinity Segments to reach target markets for “Once” and its other shows. SpotCo’s vice president of digital strategy, Kyle Young, says, “In our industry, we’re at a point where it’s no longer just planned traditional media. Online platforms are now part of the initial conversation – we might even see them overshadow traditional media.”