No one RSVP’d to my dog’s birthday: a story of geofencing, ad bidding strategies, & Montreal construction

April 16, 2024

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I have a puppy golden retriever named Apex that was turning 1 year old this summer and, since I don’t have real children, I decided to celebrate with a birthday party for him. So I invited my parents (Apex’s grandparents) and family to the event by email. I was expecting them to reply immediately but was disappointed with the response. A few days after the invite, I was still waiting for replies. Maybe my family missed the invite message, maybe they just forgot to respond, whatever their reason, I wasn’t going to let my dog’s birthday go unacknowledged. I took action to get their attention.

As a data scientist, I’m often collaborating with a team of digital marketers at DS, notably on designing custom audiences, automating the deployment of ads, and analyzing digital marketing performance. This collaboration is what prompted my idea. As ridiculous as it sounds, I decided to send my parents and sister targeted ads on Meta hoping to hype the event a bit and get their RSVP.

Screenshot of Meta advertisement titled “Fête Apex” with a photo of a golden retriever wearing an orange collar with pixelated sunglasses superimposed over the dog’s eyes

I used geofencing, a technique used to specify geographic inclusion and exclusion areas when creating audiences. With 5 radius targeting rules, I was able to more or less target only my parents’ house where my sister was also living. I thought it was an ingenious idea and got a little carried away with my ad creative.

After the first day, I didn’t receive the result I anticipated as my audience was too narrow and I was probably competing against legitimate advertisers. I only had about 1 impression (which was most likely myself). So I decided to use a digital marketing strategy I’d learned about and increased the daily budget to $20 to help increase the chances that my family would see the ad.

Then something I didn’t anticipate happened. 

The main and only road that leads to the highway closed and traffic was rerouted onto a nearby residential street… 

Which happened to also be the street where my parents’ house is located…

Because of the volume of traffic, cars were slowly driving past my parents’ house. Which kept them inside the geofence for longer and had time to be targeted.

The result was that I invited a total of 1,853 people, including my family, over 3 days to my dog’s birthday. My ad was displayed 2,371 times and I topped my daily budgets 3 days in a row. The one metric that I was interested in, the conversion, was lower than I wanted, which I guess is better than higher in this case. In the end, Apex’s birthday party was a success as he was surrounded and celebrated by his loving family.

Apart from being a little intense regarding my dog’s birthday, there are few things that I’ve learned. As a data scientist, it’s important to understand the domain I’m working in but also to acknowledge that I’ll never have the same level of expertise as someone who’s been working in the digital marketing field for years. Optimizing and getting the right people to convert/engage is hard and requires active monitoring and adjustment. In the future, I’ll stick to data and leave the advertising to the digital marketers at DS.