UK humanitarian development charity Oxfam wanted to share its vision of a world where there is "food for all" and show people how they could help achieve this goal. To connect with its audience, Oxfam chose the standard expandable format of Google's Engagement Ads. Oxfam only paid for users who engaged with the ad. With the help of Google, the charity saw positive lifts on brand awareness and reached a qualified audience of 129k people.


  • Drive brand awareness of Food for All vision
  • Find and educate an engaged audience about Oxfam’s vision
  • Achieve an attitudinal shift in the target audience


  • Launched Google’s standard expandable Engagement Ad format using the Google Display Network in AdWords
  • Used dynamic optimization to reach an audience more likely to engage with its brand message
  • Ran a side-by-side test with an alternative engagement ad provider


  • Positive lift on brand awareness campaign
  • Reached 7.3M people with 129K choosing to engage with the ad
  • Achieved engagement rates 13% higher and cost per engagement 52% lower than the competition
August 2013

Oxfam's experience with Engagement ads

Oxfam is one of the most recognized humanitarian development charities in the UK. Its media agency Jaywing was responsible for developing the digital strategy for Oxfam's recent Food for All branding campaign.

While brand awareness for Oxfam is above 90%, research indicates the charity faces a number of challenges. First, the public lacks factual understanding of the contemporary work that Oxfam delivers on the ground, especially among younger audiences. Second, levels of personal involvement and passion for the brand can be low — due in large part to the fact that target audiences of any international humanitarian charity will never experience the situation faced by the beneficiaries of their donations.

Creating a connection

While planning the campaign, Jaywing decided to include Google Engagement Ads to help form a solution to some of the challenges Oxfam faced. Jaywing and Oxfam believed the branding opportunities of this unique format would allow Oxfam to "connect our audience and the world around them, to better understand the need and therefore better understand the role they can play in creating a world where there is enough food for all, as well as to re-engage through rich, visual and highly targeted communications that aim to shift people's understanding".

Engagement Ads provide advertisers with a rich creative canvas, offering several formats to choose from that can be easily customized to suit the tone and style of a brand. The brand experience comes alive as consumers are able to view the ad in a larger size, stream videos, play games and more. Oxfam opted to use the standard expandable format, so users could choose to engage by hovering over the teaser state of the ad for two continuous seconds, which then prompted the ad to expand. The two-second delay helped eliminate accidental expansions, improving the user experience.

Incorporating the same flexible targeting options available on YouTube and AdWords, the Engagement Ads campaign was easy to set up and run. The ads were dynamically optimized for user engagement in the auction, and the Cost Per Engagement (CPE) pricing structure meant that Oxfam only paid when audiences engaged. In this way, the solution combined the art of branding with the science of performance display.

A core goal of the campaign was "getting people more engaged with our brand creative message," Jaywing's Head of Communications Planning says. But we wanted to achieve this as efficiently as possible, noting that in a traditional CPM buy at least 30% of impressions are never seen. The agency also wanted to be able to use flexible targeting in order to achieve the intended attitudinal shift in the audience. "Our plan was to carve out audience segments and optimize to them, target the multiple audiences and optimize to cost and performance relative to the audience mix — in real time," he explains. In its first use of the format, Jaywing decided to test two methodologies, Google's auction model versus alternative fixed rate card engagement offerings.

Strength in numbers

Google's auction model delivered twice as many engagements as the fixed rate card solution Jaywing ran. The engagement rate of the Google campaign at 1.8% was 13% higher too, while the Google eCPM was 1.8X lower than the fixed-price model alternative. Overall, the campaign CPE at£0.22, was 52% lower than the fixed-price campaign.

"A lot of this is due to the real-time optimization offered by the Google Display Network for target audience segments at the segment level," Jaywing's Head of Communications Planning says. "With other solutions in the market, we don't have this level of transparency at all into optimization. And the fixed rate card pricing model restricted the volume of users we can afford to reach within an equivalent budget. Google Engagement Ads work on the basis on an auction model, hence we could achieve greater volumes of engagements per pound spent."

Post-click performance, which were measured by charity funds received, also revealed interesting outcomes. Google Engagement Ads outperformed the fixed-price approach by fifteen-fold on number of donations and twenty-fold on donation value.

At the same time, Oxfam also conducted a Millward Brown brand uplift study on the campaign, which indicated that Google Engagement Ads delivered positive lifts on brand awareness, in growing love for the brand and increasing knowledge of Oxfam's vision for a world where there is Food for All.

A brighter future

Jaywing reports that both agency and client are pleased with the results from their inaugural use of Google Engagement Ads. "CPE is a really nice format in terms of buying and the user experience," Jaywing's Head of Communications Planning says. "And you only get the people that you are interested in, so performance is better too."