skip to Main Content
Paid Media Strategy for the Holidays - Blog

Refining Your Paid Media Strategy for the Holidays


Paid media campaigns are an essential part of your brand’s holiday success. Worldwide holiday online sales grew from $94.4B in 2016 to $108.15B in 2017, according to This year the haul will be even bigger. While buyers still love to shop in stores, almost everyone does some part of their shopping online. A recent Deloitte holiday study showed that 57 percent of total spend is expected to be online compared with 36 percent in stores, a drop of 10 percentage points for stores in the last four years.

So are your online paid media campaigns ready? You can wrap your holidays in success this year, even if you start planning right now, but move quickly. Preparation begins around August and concludes with last minute tweaks through early November. So what are you waiting for? Get started today refining your paid media strategy.

Past is Prologue

For paid media, consider what you learned earlier in the year. The past will guide you into the future. It’s a lens on what worked and what didn’t  So in the case of paid media look at top performing keywords, ad copy with good click-through rates, and site links that drive strong performance. For paid social, identify what audiences drive the best performance and assess what works for them — static, carousel, video, collection, etc. In almost all cases, what works is brand-dependent. Video works for health and beauty brands, for instance, whereas static, carousel and collection ads may work better for apparel retailers. Similarly, for display media, make sure you are taking note of the type of creative that works best for your campaign and model your holiday ads after these. This, too, is dependent on your brand.

Pay attention to what worked last year, too. This includes knowing what campaigns did not perform along with what promos worked well and what failed. Don’t just replicate the same holiday strategy as the year before. Anything you do should be supported by your data, so take a granular look at your data. Remember, browsers, and buyers leave online clues, so be sure you are a sleuth. Apply the insights you uncover to holiday tactics. Often this is easier said than done. So don’t rule out teaming with an agency trained to tease out insights. Don’t have good data? Well, that’s another blog.

Invest in the Right Places

Spread your investment in different areas. eMarketer reports that social gets the highest share of digital ad budgets. But align your investment with the “channel” that works for you and where you see the most action.

Paid Media Strategy blog graph

Be prepared for higher media costs and budget accordingly. You should be planning for an increase of between 20 to 40 percent. This may seem steep, but paid media gets more competitive each year – because it works. Be agile, too. Be prepared to move budget between channels. If performance is high in one channel and low in another, you need to respond.

Make sure your promotions are compelling. For instance, offering a percentage off an order or item is typically more effective than providing a specific amount off – say, $20. People are more motivated to buy when they receive a discount expressed as a percentage unless a large dollar amount is being subtracted from the price.

Maximize your exposure time for each promotion. You can do this with ad and campaign schedulers. Make sure your promotions are accurate, and your ad scheduling is working correctly. Remember, too, you can’t set it and forget it. Be prepared to watch performance daily. Variables like time of day and weekday matter. Watch and learn if you need to push budgets or pull back in one area that is underperforming to spend more in another.

Questions to Ask – and Answer

What promotions you are planning this year and how will they stack up compared to your competition? Do some online recon and find out what your competition may be offering and match that offer. Go back and look at what competitors offered last year.

What campaigns worked well and what did perform last year? Let history be your guide for this year. Don’t repeat mistakes, but also don’t be afraid to try something new this holiday season.

What channels are you investing in this year and how are you allocating budgets? Why are you investing in these choices? Is data driving the decision?

Are you ready? A week before your holiday promotions kick off, all creative and ad copy for the promotions should be scheduled and ready to go.

If you are new to the wild world of the online holiday shopping season and are late to the game this year, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, plan some compelling promotions, create your ads and start spending. This is the most competitive time of year, and everyone is chasing the same shoppers, who will spend an average of $1,007.24 this year.

Remember, as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it.

Bobby Janss

Bobby Janss is senior manager of Digital Media & CRO at LiveArea. He is a paid media professional with digital marketing experience dating back to 2010. He specializes in direct response paid search, paid social and display campaigns for retailers small and large and other various clients. His focus is also on on CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) optimizing sites through extensive test plans to lift overall site conversion rates.