We’d like to take you on a trip back in time to March 2020. We know what you’re thinking: really? But hear us out. When the proverbial you know what hit the fan all those months ago, few people saw it coming. Sure, there were already lockdowns, from China to Italy, but in the UK nobody had any idea of what to expect. We at Viddyoze certainly didn’t.
Fortunately, we were in a pretty good place at the time. Because we’ve always had a progressive and flexible approach to work, when the lockdown was eventually announced, having our staff work exclusively from home was not that big a deal.
After all, a sizable chunk of our team already work remotely, meaning, in many ways, it was business as usual – aside from, of course, having to deal with the emotional and logistical consequences of Covid-19. Everyone else at the business adjusted. We had to.
It’s important to note that as a video animation tech company we specialize in software as a service. Our core offering can largely be managed, delivered and worked on irrespective of where we happen to find ourselves. So while our office shutters were down and padlocked, we weren’t closed for business. There was still plenty to do. We’d also just put the finishing touches to our new Facebook ads team, which would prove to be hugely fortuitous (more on that in a bit).
Still, with Covid-19 spread throughout the UK and lockdown in full effect, we were worried, just like everyone else. Like most businesses, the biggest concern for us was staying profitable. When budgets are stretched, marketing is often one of the first services – unfairly, in our opinion – to go overboard. Looking back now, it looks like those fears were pretty legitimate: UK marketing spend was cut by its highest level in almost 20 years during that first lockdown.
An Opportunity Emerges
Now, at the time, we didn’t know that. However, a similar trend was starting to emerge in the paid traffic space.
“In the world of paid Facebook ads, prices were coming down. There were lots of stories of big advertisers stopping spending as lockdown started – because people weren’t buying the products,” says Nick Fielding, Head of Customer Acquisition at Viddyoze.
And it wasn’t just the big players: the same was happening with businesses of all sizes. The millions of small-scale ecommerce vendors that make up most of Facebook’s ad revenue began to panic, pulling spend out of the platform.
This is where things started to get interesting.
“The result of that is when people stop buying ads, there’s a lot more ad inventory,” explains Nick.
“The whole system is automated and auction based, so once that starts to happen [i.e. a reduction in ad spend], prices start to come down for your advertising. While there were all these reports of businesses stopping, there were also reports from people who were capitalizing on it.”
(Let’s just quickly break that down. Because the first lockdown meant more people than ever before were at home with more time on their hands, Facebook, as well as other online platforms, experienced a considerable spike in activity. Those still spending on ads during this downturn had more people than ever to advertise to – and, because there was less competition, the cost of doing so was markedly cheaper than before the pandemic.)
Murmurs of positivity began to do the rounds across paid search forums. Those still in play were seeing good results: incredible returns for link clicks and customers coming through the funnel and converting. Nick, who, as you might expect, is pretty well plugged into the paid traffic community, began to see the potential for Viddyoze.
He wasn’t the only one. Facebook’s ad sales – which is essentially its main source of revenue – jumped by 10% during the lockdown. Businesses began to switch their focus to ecommerce or double down on their existing efforts. And the potential for our simple-to-use video animation software began to grow.
“I knew we had a product that wouldn’t be adversely affected by the lockdown,” says Nick. “What I didn’t realize is quite how popular it was going to be! It sort of makes sense now that business owners, locked down, would find it a good product to invest in.”
With a full team in place, Nick was able to move quickly with Facebook. We made great creative, set the ads live, and then began to scale, pushing more spend into the platform. The ads were a hit almost instantly.
We Have Lift-Off
And then it took off. Really, took off.
Within the first two to three weeks of lockdown, we were spending £30,000 a day on Facebook ads. For context, our average spend pre-pandemic was between £1,000 to £2,000 a day. Decent, but with plenty of scope for improvement. Now, customers weren’t just coming through the funnel – they were flying down it, like excitable kids at a Spanish waterpark.
In a matter of weeks, Facebook had become extremely profitable to Viddyoze, meaning the paid search team was able switch some of their focus towards YouTube. This was a bit of a learning curve, admittedly. It was our first attempt at YouTube ads, but with Facebook doing so well, we were afforded a little more risk.
“At some point in April and May we were spending heavily on both platforms. I think at one point, we were up to £50,000 a day,” says Nick. Meanwhile, revenue was hitting £80,000 a day, purely through paid advertising.
Things continued like this for most of April and May before dropping off again in June. As we now know, businesses across the UK returned to Facebook, shifting their focus online – some of them potentially using Viddyoze to boost their marketing efforts! – and lowering the margins for profit again. And just like that, things began to return to normal (or a version of normal, at least).
What Senaca Said
So, how did this all happen? Right place? Right time? Right product? Right team? Well, in the words of Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger – by way of Nick – “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.
And that kind of sums things up nicely. At a strange moment in time we were able to capitalize because we had a great product and an awesome team in place. The work had already been done, way before Joe Wicks, Barnard Castle and Zoom forced their way into our lives back in the UK.
And that’s what this series aims to show: not so much how it happened, but how Viddyoze managed to make the most of a bizarre situation, and the things we learned on the way. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful.
This is the first in a series of articles we’ve dubbed What We Learnt Spending $1 Million On Paid Ads Over 30 Days. Other articles include (this list will be updated weekly):