Five ways to add value to paid social campaigns for European Institutions

European Institutions face a unique communication challenge: how to communicate effectively across a whole continent in 27 member states and almost as many languages, in times of increasing fragmentation and disinformation.

As stated by the European Commission, “Communicating about the EU is a responsibility shared by EU institutions and Member States at all levels – at national, regional and local level. It cannot be taken lightly or treated as an afterthought. At its essence, it is about enabling citizens to make informed choices and participate fully in European democracy. That is why communicating about Europe must be in the languages its citizens understand. Multilingual communication is a hallmark of the EU and its cultural diversity.”

With COVID Recovery at the centre of everyone’s preoccupations, the challenge becomes even more serious for the European Institutions.

They can rely on a variety of own channels, such as their websites and social media accounts, or their representatives such as press officers and spokespersons, politicians and representation offices in the member states. Yet reaching out to and engaging over 500 million citizens in a meaningful way requires more — especially in today’s very crowded communication landscape.

In recent years, all institutions have taken an interest in the use of paid social media (and more broadly, digital) solutions to broaden reach and engagement with citizens. Since 2014, WPP’s Ogilvy Social Lab team has partnered with several institutions to determine the most effective choices for the use of paid social for political (non-partisan) ads.

Unlike the organic use of social media, which is a great way to build relationships, paid social enables public sector communicators to break through algorithms and connect with citizens that are unlikely to engage with them otherwise. It allows communicators to expand their audiences and drive reach at scale.

Nowadays, after a series of scandals and issues related to data use, most platforms allow political and cause based ads with restriction. It’s important for organisations to enquire about platform limitations & data privacy when it comes to political and cause-based ads: it’s important to know what is accepted / not accepted for a given platform before envisaging it for a campaign. For example, while well intended and aiming to address data privacy issues, Facebook’s new terms and services introduced in spring 2019 caught many organisations by surprise as they were planning the last sprint before the European Elections. It is therefore crucial to closely monitor the evolutions in platform limitations and data privacy as the sector is becomes more regulated.

Five tips to add value to paid social campaigns

  1. Timing and context

    The social media context is extremely volatile, and interests tend to shift rapidly. Therefore, it is important to stay on top of what’s trending to determine the right timing for any given campaign. A well-timed campaign touching on key topics at the right time can make the difference between a successful or an average campaign.

  2. Age and content

    We also noted a huge difference between age groups, with ‘older’ groups (>65) tending to have a much higher view-through and click-through rate. Younger audiences are engaging significantly less with political and cause-based content in comparison with the mature and senior age group. This means that successfully engaging this very valuable group will be much harder, and we need to think carefully about ‘talking their language’ and using their codes (in words and in images).

  3. Think beyond Social

    Having a strong cross-channel strategy invites better response rates for all activation channels of a campaign. We call it Social +, and it consists of combining social platforms with other media that have high affinity with social, such as Youtube, Vice, Buzzfeed, Spotify… Social media and Social+ act in synergy, each enhancing the other.

  4. Use Social Intelligence

    When preparing a campaign, several disciplines can be leveraged to analyse the presence of an organisation on social platforms from various perspectives. We use Social Intelligence to define audiences, identify trends in keyword searches, analyse competitors, map out influencers, and plan and understand the conversations around any given topic.

  5. Leverage the power of data

    Not just any, or ‘big’ data, but relevant sets of raw data that serve a purpose and are refined into actionable insights which can trigger improvements for a campaign. One of the beautiful things about digital advertising is that it’s much more susceptible for optimisation along the way and we should use this possibility to always aim for improved impact and cost-effectiveness, especially for public sector clients, who are indeed spending public money.


Laure VanHauwaert, Managing Director, EU Institutions