Published by AdAge on June 5, 2023.
Girl Scouts of the USA is using artificial intelligence to help it ramp up membership as it heads into its fall recruiting season.
The youth organization saw a 40% reduction in the cost per acquisition, or the aggregate cost to acquire one dues-paying Girl Scout, and drove membership signups after using AI in a Google Ads search campaign, according to Jordan Ruden, the co-founder of Craft & Commerce, which is the media agency of record for the Girls Scouts.
In just under a week, AI made thousands of adjustments to the search campaign, constantly tweaking it to make it more efficient. That’s compared to the hundreds of adjustments made during a year’s worth of manual search optimization strategies. The Google Ads search campaign allows a marketer to place ads across the platform’s network of search results.
“We’ve been doing this evergreen recruitment search for a while,” Ruden said, noting the agency has been running it since it won the Girl Scouts account in 2019. “We got acquisition costs in a pretty good place. The client was happy and we were happy with that. But then we started to think, ‘OK how much better can this do?’ To see that 40% drop was incredible.”
Girl Scouts Chief Marketing Officer Jocelyn Johnson said the organization will be assessing how else to incorporate AI into its business operations and programming.
“We were happy to see that the early AI-powered search results prove it’s an incredibly effective tool,” Johnson said. “It contributed to our pacing ahead of our paid media-driven membership goals, allowing us to increase our acquisition forecast … AI allows us to more efficiently move prospective members from consideration through the registration process by lowering the cost per acquisition.”
Johnson declined to provide the organization’s membership goals, but said AI is helping the Girl Scouts leverage search “with a lean acquisition budget.”
Behind the campaign
Ruden said Craft & Commerce used Stockholm-based Amanda AI, an AI-powered advertising service that helps marketing teams optimize ads across Google, Meta and Bing. The agency said the service was so successful, that it signed a deal to be its exclusive ad agency partner for nonprofit marketers in the U.S.
For the search campaign to be successful with the AI, however, the marketer needs to input enough signals, essentially first-party data that drives outcomes. “The key is to ensure the click and conversion tracking is in place. We look to make sure there are at least 30 conversions/signals per month. This can be as simple as a click for traffic acquisition or a lower funnel membership acquisition,” Ruden said.
Craft & Commerce works with several nonprofit companies including Habitat for Humanity and Feeding America, but it will also roll out Amanda AI for its commercial clients, as well, as it sees fit.
“We liked the way it plugs into Google,” as well as how it keeps a log of the changes it’s making, which other platforms including Google’s built-in AI does not, Ruden said. “The optimization it makes is all transparent to you versus if you just use the platform AI or you don’t know what it’s doing.”
Ruden said it would be impossible to manually make all of the slight adjustments Amanda AI made to the Girl Scouts campaign (hundreds in one day)—including tweaks to audiences, devices and day parts (meaning when ads are scheduled to run). He said the platform also does ad copy adjustments, though the agency didn’t use that tool for this campaign.
“This tool takes a lot of the manual labor of managing search campaigns out,” Ruden said. “It’s driven great results for the client and allowed our team to get out of the weeds. With search campaigns, there are so many knobs and levers; it’s always great to be able to trust some of that to machines.”