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National Foundation For Credit Counseling ran a highly successful digital campaign during the uncertain COVID times to reach to the most vulnerable households.

The Challenge

A marketing campaign presupposes that the marketeer has a keen understanding of the customer. With the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment graph in United States inched up. NFCC as per its mandate wished to spread its financial counseling net wide to help those who were going through financial hurdles, struggling with credit card debts or even finding it difficult to make both ends meet.

However with COVID around, the post pandemic assumptions about customer behavior have changed. Also the pandemic has brought an increasing number of households into financial distress and therefore adding a new category of customers facing hardships specific to COVID.

It was under these circumstances that NFCC decided to launch an outreach campaign. Obviously the old marketing methods were not going to work; out of the box approach was needed.


Launching a search campaign in the time of pandemic seemed to be formidable, as Google was skeptical on allowing search campaigns to run with sensitive keyword terms like ‘pandemic, corona, covid etc’. Our attempt to use the relevant pandemic centric key words did not work. We took an alternative route and reached target audience through the Google Display network campaigns, to connect with the households frantically searching for some sort of financial aid or guidance to overcome the financial difficulties.

Diagnosis & Planning

The overarching objective of the campaign was to assure audiences that hand holding during these difficult economic times was available through NFCC accredited financial counselors.

Few things we did before planning the ads & audience targeting strategy of the campaigns:

1) Understanding the needs of target customers during the pandemic: Customer insight was collected through news stories, opinion pieces and interviews published in mainstream newspapers and websites like USA Today, NY Times, NY Post etc. Appreciation of the fast developing situation helped us strategize how to reach out to the potential customers and what message would resonate with them.

2) Planning the ads: As we scoured the news and information through multiple digital channels, we did not find the use of display advertisement for outreach to those impacted by COVID. Display ad approach had much to recommend for itself especially in context of the pandemic. Display ad present flexibility of style and advertising format, and thereby helps in creative dissemination of the core message, the Google Display Network (GDN) gives a huge reach and opportunity for demographic and geo-targeting, the click/impressions/conversions can be tracked for more granular engagement. The campaign was launched with micro-site of NFCC named

Intervention & Implementation

Success of the campaign highly depends on 2 drivers:

1) Audience Targeting:  We decided to go for topic based targeting, and include the major topics which are keenly linked with the ongoing pandemic:

            • People & Society
            • Newspapers
            • Local News
            • Finance
            • Business News
            • Health News
            • Small Business
            • Welfare & Unemployment

2) Ads Creation:  Ads were created in different dimensions and in compliance with the quality guidelines of Google Display Network.


1) Phase I: Campaign was created and ads started being delivered from 30th March with a daily budget was $125. The following is the campaign performance for April 2020 ( w.r.t. key metrics)

Overall Performance Table – Mar 30 – Apr 21

KPI metrics Value
Impressions 4,007,313
Clicks 18,811
Cost $4,600.14
Avg. CPC $0.24
Conversions 1,762.00
Cost/Conversion $2.61

2) Phase II:
A revamped campaign was launched from last week of April, 2020, after incorporating the lessons learnt from the first campaign. The campaign was targeted to audiences who were actively seeking help with financial aids, managing the debts etc. This targeting was in contrast to Phase I, where it was more generic. In phase II, the ads were more personalized. Audience  targeting was thoroughly focused on in-market segment – Credit cards, Financial Planning, Credit & lending, Personal Loans and Student Loans.

Performance Details (Apr 21 – May 6) 

KPI metrics Value
Impressions 1,752,318
Clicks 10,513
Cost $1,912.26
Avg. CPC $0.18
Conversions 379
Cost/Conversion $5.05

Lessons learned:

  • Though a challenge, it is possible to make a campaign yield results even in a crisis market, provided the objectives are well honed and the targeting, meticulous.
  • More personalized the ads become, more attention it grabs.
  • Audience targeting  gets improved with time through incorporating from the insights gained as implementation progresses.