Butlin’s and MEC: Real-Time Ad Personalisation Makes Light Weather of Google Search

Butlin’s and MEC use an innovative weather-based bidding system to increase return-on-investment and show holidaymakers that rain never stops play!

Butlin’s have been synonymous with British seaside breaks since the brand launched in 1936. However, as anyone who has experienced a UK holiday knows, the weather doesn’t always play along. In 2016, as part of a push to increase year-on-year revenue by 5%, Butlin’s tasked their media agency MEC with finding ways to stretch their Google search budgets even further. Taking the famously uncooperative British weather as their inspiration, MEC came up with a highly innovative approach that ultimately led to significant increases in campaign performance.

The core insight behind MEC’s strategy was simple - in the UK, the weather has a huge bearing on whether people book a Butlin’s break or look abroad. MEC were able to quantify this effect by looking at their search conversion rates, which they could see dropping by up to 18% when it rains. With eighty years of experience behind them, Butlin’s already have weatherproof ‘Skyline Pavilions’ full of activities and entertainment for families to enjoy when it rains, so a campaign was designed around these offerings with the strapline: ‘Rain Never Stops Play’.

To bring the reality of Butlin’s rain-or-shine experience to life for potential guests, MEC decided to build a bespoke technical solution that would allow them to integrate real-time weather data into their search bidding. This enabled them to show the ‘Rain Never Stops Play’ message exclusively to users in regions that were experiencing bad weather. An impressive technical feat, the integration involved three stages - sourcing real-time local weather data, building an algorithm that adjusted their bidding in response to rain reports, and then pushing those signals to Google AdWords using AdWords Scripts. Finally, all that remained was to wait for the rain!

The Results

With a combination of highly innovative targeting and an ultra-relevant message, the campaign achieved some radiant results. Click-through-rate increased by 28%, while click-to-quote conversion rate increased by 7%. All in all this led to a reduction in cost-per-quote of 14%, which made a sizeable contribution towards MEC exceeding Butlin’s revenue target by 124%. “Rainy weather on holiday is a huge concern for families taking a break in the UK,” observes Ian Parrish, Acquisition Marketing Manager at Butlin’s, “so our ‘Rain Never Stops Play’ proposition is the perfect remedy. By aligning our search strategy with this message, and only serving these ads to users in locations where we know it is raining, we’ve been able to ensure we serve a hyper relevant ad to the right user, at the right time, in a bid to reassure them that ‘rain never stops play’ at Butlin’s.”

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