Online Advertising

How can we do the most good?
User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:59 am

A few vegetarian organizations have been running ad campaigns on Facebook linking to The Hidden Face of Food. They've been seeing impressive results with regard to the number of people who click through and like the page per dollar. I hope to write more about this particular effort in a later post, but here I wanted to talk about the general idea of using online advertising (Facebook, Google, Bing, etc.) to generate support for campaigns and causes.

In a discussion on the Old Felicifia, Gaverick suggested that fundraising/advertising were massively underfunded by activist organizations. I would hypothesize at least two reasons: (1) Organizations don't want to be seen as wasting precious donor money on advertising, and doing so reduces the fraction of money they spend on program costs. (2) Activists have a general aversion to advertising because it feels like something that is mostly done with commercial intent.

There's another good reason, which is that (3) if your ads will principally pull money or followers away from other groups doing roughly the same thing as you are, then the advertising is zero-sum.

Both (1) and (3) are important caveats to keep in mind. However, those of us on this forum generally think that we do know of some causes which are (much) more cost-effective than others, so even if we pull away supporters from other things, there's still a big net gain.

It is remarkably easy to create an ad campaign, and you don't even need the sponsorship of an organization. Anyone can create a simple ad linking to a web page with less than an hour of setup. You might want to spend a few extra hours learning about the theory of web advertising, reading policies and best practices, etc., but the core steps of creating the ad are just a few pages long.

For example, take a look at Facebook's ads page and click "Create An Ad". I created a fake ad for my essay on wild-animal suffering just to see the process. You can target toward specific countries, ages, genders, Facebook interest categories, languages, etc. I think it's best to aim at young people (say, 13-25 years old) because (a) young minds are most open to new things and (b) they have the longest time ahead of them to donate, not eat meat, choose optimal careers, and participate in our projects.

The costs are pretty decent. For United States, the suggested bid that Facebook gave me was $0.54 per click. $0.44 for UK, $0.22 for India, $0.19 for China, $0.12 for Mexico, $0.12 for Sri Lanka, etc.

I wonder if 80,000 Hours, Global Happiness Organization, Giving What We Can, etc. should try a few online ads, at least as a pilot effort to see how they work. (I may eventually try some for my website, though I'd prefer to wait until later so that I'll be able to handle the increased traffic load and perhaps improve the aesthetics of the pages.)

If you want to use your ads for scientific purposes, you could create several different flavors of descriptions + pictures and see which ones produce highest conversion rates. In fact, you could test the appeal of almost any slogan or meme in this way -- your ads could be your own, personal public-opinion-polling system -- although it could get expensive if only used for this purpose.

Jesper Östman
Posts: 159
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:23 am

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Jesper Östman » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:40 pm

Sounds promising. One way to get it even cheaper might be through google grants: http://www.google.com/grants/ (although I'm not sure if they are as customizable as the facebook-ads).

An even cheaper way of doing the research (although less natural) is mTurk:
http://pyxlin.wordpress.com/2007/06/06/ ... lid-leads/

rehoot
Posts: 160
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:32 pm

Re: Online Advertising

Post by rehoot » Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:22 pm

thx for the Facebook link. Note that the "recommended bid" of $0.54 is much higher than the per-click rate of untargeted advertising (from a .01 to .15 is more typical there), but a targeted audience is sometimes worth the money. I'm not sure of the need for a targeted audience for fundraising unless the ad appeals only to people in specific demographic groups and the cost warrants the difference. For example, if I create an ad that appeals to 30% of the online population and an untargeted ad costs $0.05 per click and the targeted costs $0.54, the untargeted is better. If the costs are per page view, then you have to do some math: (1/.3 * .05) < (1 * .54) meaning that the "cost per view from the target demographic" is less for the $0.05 per view relative to $0.54 per view.

I explored advertising for a related purpose (getting people from known groups to participate in online studies), and some of the big special-interest web sites (environmentalism) won't talk to you unless you plan to spend many thousands of dollars. Same with the big search engines. I also found an amazing degree of neglect from nonprofit organizations--they don't want people pestering their members. Reddit offers easy-to-use advertising bidding similar to Facebook, and many people use Mechanical Turk. In the case of Mechanical Turk, people who register are asked to click on an advertisement and answer a stupid question about it and get paid $0.01 as if there is a scientific study being conducted, but the intent is to get people to read the advertisement. I'm not sure how influential that type of advertising is to a poor person who clicks thousands of advertisements per week to make a few $$.

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:37 pm

Great info, Jesper and rehoot!

rehoot, where did you learn about the difference in prices for targeted vs. untargeted? Is there a good document that explains the how-to of doing web ads most efficiently?

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Feb 05, 2012 6:49 am

I wanted to include some follow-up comments based on an email conversation with Nick Cooney. All of his observations are anecdotal, based on personal experience managing $50K in Facebook veg ads, so it's possible that the "official" recommendations are somewhat different.
Just wanted to point out that the CPC they [Facebook] recommend is sometimes what you need to bid, but sometimes you can bid much lower and still get your ad shown. (For example, when we started running US ads they recommend about .35 cents per click as a minimum, we did about .15, and had no problem getting the ad shown). [...]

We have indeed tried less than .15 [for US ads]. VERY occasionally we've gotten ads sub-10 cents, but that's very rare. Right now we have one ad doing well at .13. But mostly they're in the upper teens to .21. If we were spending less money per month, we could lower the CPC a bit. Of course, CPC is only one factor - the ultimate question is $ per new vegetarians(etc) etc., so for example our .13 CPC is not the best ad we have right now because some of our .18 to .20 CPC ads have a higher conversion-to-vegetarian(etc) rate. [...]

[It's not necessarily true that a] lower price comes from untargetted ads. Perhaps not targeting your ad can lead to lower prices. But you can also get lower prices by targeting certain demographics. ALL of our ads are targeted to specific demographics (age, sometimes gender) AND specific interests. Our audience for each add is between .5 and 4 million people. If you go lower then .5 million audience, CPC often starts to go up significantly. And yes, you are right - depending on the suggested bid FB gives you, a lot of times you can bid lower and still get signficant click throughs. It seems that FB [gives new advertisers] higher-than-necessary CPC estimates. The CPC estimates they give me now are pretty accurate. The CPC estimates they gave me when we started advertising where twice as high as necessary.

Re: Google Grants, yup, they seem great, and we actually applied for them a couple months back. I've been in touch with Google but apparently it's a painfully slow process to get approved, so we're still waiting on approval. But any group that can get approval should definitely use them - [...] in theory (if your ad gets shown/clicked enough) [they] are up to $10,000 in advertising per month I believe.

User avatar
tog
Posts: 76
Joined: Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:58 am

Re: Online Advertising

Post by tog » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:14 pm

I wonder if 80,000 Hours, Global Happiness Organization, Giving What We Can, etc. should try a few online ads, at least as a pilot effort to see how they work.
I've considered doing this for Giving What We Can - we've got a free ad going on http://philosophybites.com/ which'll be an interesting experiment, and if the results are promising we'll consider paying...
In the case of Mechanical Turk, people who register are asked to click on an advertisement and answer a stupid question about it and get paid $0.01 as if there is a scientific study being conducted, but the intent is to get people to read the advertisement. I'm not sure how influential that type of advertising is to a poor person who clicks thousands of advertisements per week to make a few $$.
Maybe I'm over-optimistic, but I have enough confidence in the power of GWWC's information about cost-effectiveness that I think $0.01 spent conveying it even like this would generate donations > $0.01! Is this really about how much we'd pay, and could we restrict participants to those in 'rich' countries?

On Facebook, I've done some non-GWWC advertising and found some segments I wanted to target weren't much more expensive than being untargeted.

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:46 pm

Thanks, tog! Let us know how the Philosophy Bites and other ads go.

How did you learn that Philosophy Bites would give you free advertising?

User avatar
tog
Posts: 76
Joined: Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:58 am

Re: Online Advertising

Post by tog » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:19 pm

How did you learn that Philosophy Bites would give you free advertising?
Fortuitous networking :) I met Nigel Warburton at a Christmas party, and bought up GWWC (something I'm normally too hesitant about doing) - it turned out he knew of it and was sympathetic.

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:32 am

Awesome! Philosophy Bites is one podcast series where I've listened to almost every show. :)

User avatar
Ruairi
Posts: 385
Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 12:39 pm
Location: Ireland

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Ruairi » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:39 pm

I was talking to a guy today who was out fundraising, looking for people to get a direct debit with barnardos (a popular irish childrens charity). He was with 2 others, all wearing bright green t-shirts with the organizations logo on them.

I talked to him about how much money they manage to bring in, he said that that on average each person they get to sign up to a direct debit stays with the charity for 5 years with a total donation of over €1,000 (he spoke quite fast but I think he may have said over €1,700).
He is employed by this company http://www.totalfundraising.ie/ .
He said that each person has to get at least 3 direct debits per day (I don't know what he means by "has", presumably otherwise you dont keep your job?).
He said that last year he had raised over €1,000,000 for charity, I presume he means that when each of those people stays with their respective charities for 5 years and donates the average amount that that will equal over 1 million, which seems quite possible.
He said total fundraising take a cut and he gets paid, I wonder how much this is?

This all seems rediculously good, do 80k, GHO, etc do fundraising?

anyone how do online ads compare per donation?

EDIT: just thinking about this if your goal is to be a professional philanthropist to pay for ads/fundraisers/leafletters/etc it could actually be better to be a fundraiser.... anyone any thoughts on this?

EDIT EDIT: oops just realised it doesnt matter what you want the charity to do with the money! I wonder if pro. phils should be considering this? maybe there is an argument that you could be a pro. phil. and a fundraiser on your days off? or inspire people in your high-earning-workplace to donate?

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:32 am

Ruairi wrote: He said that last year he had raised over €1,000,000 for charity, I presume he means that when each of those people stays with their respective charities for 5 years and donates the average amount that that will equal over 1 million, which seems quite possible.
Wow! I've heard from another friend that good fundraisers can bring in millions of dollars per year, and I guess it's true. I decided not to go that route because (a) I don't think I would be a good fundraiser, and I can try to argue that I would be better off paying someone else to do it, but also because (b) the job really does not sound fun, so I'm selfishly avoiding it.
Ruairi wrote: EDIT: just thinking about this if your goal is to be a professional philanthropist to pay for ads/fundraisers/leafletters/etc it could actually be better to be a fundraiser.... anyone any thoughts on this?
Yeah, maybe, depending on how cheap fundraisers are to buy. I've often wondered why charities don't do more fundraising (including direct mail and ads), because on the Old Felicifia, Gaverick pointed to numbers indicating ridiculously high returns from fundraising campaigns. My best guess is that charities don't want to incur a long-term negative public image as an organization that's just out to make money, but I don't really know. You can also search the word "fundraising" in this thread for more discussion of the topic.

We should definitely ask 80K Hours to research this -- both as a career directly and as something that donors can seek to fund.

This is great stuff, Ruairi. I would love to hear more about fundraising if you learn further info from friends or online.

P.S., If you Google "masters fundraising" you'll see tons of programs devoted to this topic, like this. Apparently there's a huge field of study devoted to it.

User avatar
Ruairi
Posts: 385
Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 12:39 pm
Location: Ireland

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Ruairi » Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:31 am

Alan Dawrst wrote: I decided not to go that route because (a) I don't think I would be a good fundraiser, and I can try to argue that I would be better off paying someone else to do it, but also because (b) the job really does not sound fun, so I'm selfishly avoiding it.
oh, I think I would be a great fundraiser! much better than how I'd be in law or finance! I love people and talking with people, especially about things I'm passioante about:D! I think it sounds really fun!:D! I'd say after a while it would get less fun, but still I think much better than I banking! and if it would result in more total donations that would be so motivating:D!
I work on a fun fair during the summer and I really love meeting loads of people:)!

How do you argue that you're better off paying someone else to do it? If we say a fundraiser ( after we take away his pay and deducting for people not donating to other similar charities) brings in donations of, say, 200,000/year they can then pay for several more fundraisers, more than I imagine most professional philanthropists will be able to.

I can't believe I hadn't thought of this as a possible really good idea before, I'm worried there are other very obvious excellent careers I'm missing.

I've heard that Nintendo employ people from modelling angencies to promote their products in public, I think basically showing people how the games work, lol
Alan Dawrst wrote: We should definitely ask 80K Hours to research this -- both as a career directly and as something that donors can seek to fund.
totally, we could post on the google group?

maybe 80k arn't keen on it because some of them seem to be into singularity type stuff, I imagine it's much harder to fundraise on these issues so maybe pro. phil. could be better here? luckily I think painless insecticides and intervention in nature are definitely conventional enough (esp. painless insecticides) to talk about while fundraising. esp. tying it all in with veg/veganism.

The only thing I see against it is that maybe ads are even better, do you know how the hidden face of food ones have been going in terms of donations, etc?

User avatar
Arepo
Site Admin
Posts: 1097
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:49 am

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Arepo » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:01 am

Alan Dawrst wrote:We should definitely ask 80K Hours to research this -- both as a career directly and as something that donors can seek to fund.
Did you sign up for the 80K Google group, Alan? There's just been some discussion on what sort of research to prioritise...
"These were my only good shoes."
"You ought to have put on an old pair, if you wished to go a-diving," said Professor Graham, who had not studied moral philosophy in vain.

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:46 am

Arepo wrote:Did you sign up for the 80K Google group, Alan? There's just been some discussion on what sort of research to prioritise...
Was just writing a reply to that thread when I saw your note here. :)

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:00 am

Ruairi wrote: oh, I think I would be a great fundraiser! much better than how I'd be in law or finance! I love people and talking with people, especially about things I'm passioante about:D! I think it sounds really fun!:D!
Awesome! Then this is definitely something to research more. Of course, it may be that the richest donors are more intimidating to talk to than visitors to the fun fair, but "people skills" help in either case. And there's probably lots of room for creativity and enjoyment as part of the job, if you take that angle on it. (Putting the "fun" back in "fundraising.")
Ruairi wrote: How do you argue that you're better off paying someone else to do it? If we say a fundraiser ( after we take away his pay and deducting for people not donating to other similar charities) brings in donations of, say, 200,000/year they can then pay for several more fundraisers, more than I imagine most professional philanthropists will be able to.
Very interesting. I was thinking the professional philanthropist would work at a normal job and then pay the $100K or whatever it takes to buy a fundraiser, but you're right: If the charity would make more from hiring the fundraiser than the fundraiser costs, then it should hire the fundraiser on its own. This gets back to the basic question of why charities don't do more fundraising. If we lived in a simple Econ 101 world, then charities would buy fundraising until the cost of an additional fundraiser was higher than the expected returns from hiring her. I assume this is nowhere near the case in practice.

Given that charities hire only so many fundraisers, the "good done" by becoming a fundraiser might be primarily the amount by which you're better than the next guy. But if fundraisers each bring in $1 million per year, then even if you're only 10% better than the next guy would have been, that's still ~$100K per year directly to the charity. Also, maybe the number of fundraisers isn't fixed: If you come along and persuade a charity to let you fundraise for them with no up-front cost, maybe they'd let you do it. (I have no idea; this is a new field for me.)
Ruairi wrote: The only thing I see against it is that maybe ads are even better, do you know how the hidden face of food ones have been going in terms of donations, etc?
Well, ads aren't a career. :) (Unless you work as a fundraiser who does fundraising through ads.) I'm not sure of the return on fundraising ads, because the Hidden Face of Food ads are for advertising the video on the landing page, rather than for soliciting donations. It may be the case that the video creates more vegetarians, some of whom become interested in animal activism and go on to donate to animal organizations like The Humane League, but this is a very delayed and diffused process.

User avatar
Ruairi
Posts: 385
Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 12:39 pm
Location: Ireland

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Ruairi » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:00 pm

yes exactly!
Alan Dawrst wrote:
Ruairi wrote: The only thing I see against it is that maybe ads are even better, do you know how the hidden face of food ones have been going in terms of donations, etc?
Well, ads aren't a career. :)
I think maybe I'm making some stupidly obvious mistake here but if we consider 2 situations;

1: charity x uses $100 on online ads, as a result they take in $1,000 in donations

2: charity x pays $100 for a fundraiser, as a result they take in $500 in donations

(I'm just making up these figures)

It would seem like the charity should spend all the money they're going to use for fundraising on ads, so then there's no need for me to be a fundraiser so maybe i should be a pro. phil. or something.

but if i go out and fundraise, take my salary from that money, the rest goes to the charity, and if this does turn out to be more than as a pro phil then is this not the better option?

I get the feeling this has something to do with returns and whether you have to put the money in in the first place or not??? :?:

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:38 am

:) Seems circular, but I think it isn't.
  1. The best option is for the charity to put its money entirely into ads. You're free to work as a pro phil and donate your extra income.
  2. If the charity won't do ads, but it will hire a person to fundraise, then it's better if you work for them.
  3. If the charity won't accept either type of fundraising, then you should again be a pro phil because, by assumption, you can't be a fundraiser for them.

User avatar
Ruairi
Posts: 385
Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 12:39 pm
Location: Ireland

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Ruairi » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:18 am

thanks:) but the best kind of pro. phil. is a fundrasiser (possibly),

supposing I fundraise $1,000 in one day, my wage is $100, the gain to the charity is $900.

as a pro. phil. my donations are less,

but if the charity has to pay my wage before I go and fundraise, then they should put it into ads instead, but if I raise my wage and donations this works out better???

maybe its more usefull of thinking of the situation as my entire salary belonging to the charity and then them having to pay me from that?

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:44 pm

Ruairi wrote: but if the charity has to pay my wage before I go and fundraise, then they should put it into ads instead, but if I raise my wage and donations this works out better???
In reality, I don't think there are charities that are growing so quickly that they need money right now in order to put it into ads. If there are, then they could find lots of people who would be willing to do fundraising without pay for the year and then get paid extra at the end, so that they could get the cash in the mean time to do online ads. Or maybe they could take out a loan, or get angel investors, or do something else to get cash now. Needless to say, I doubt this ever happens for charities. :)

I think the main reason to consider fundraising is that you like it and you might be better than average. As we discussed, being just a little better than the next guy can make a huge difference in this realm.

User avatar
Brian Tomasik
Posts: 1107
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:10 am
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Online Advertising

Post by Brian Tomasik » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:01 pm

P.S., Mathematically, if we assume
  • $100 of ads buys $1000 of donations in 1 year
  • $100 of people fundraising buys $500 of donations now
then the charity should do both of these in unlimited quantities, because both provide way-positive net income. The charity should take out an infinitely large loan and invest in ads, but at the same time, it should welcome as many people as it can find to do fundraising now also.

Of course, donations to a single charity are limited, so having more fundraisers might sometimes compete with the ads. In a model where the total amount of donations the charity can get is fixed (say, at $10,000), then the charity should just use whichever revenue method is cheaper, i.e., all ads paid for by loans. (This assumes the interest rate on the loans is <100% per annum.)

Of course, these assumptions are completely bogus. :| Don't treat these conclusions as having relevance to your own situation. I just thought this toy model would just help clarify things.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest