Back to pre-school: hyper-targeting parents in a post-pandemic world

The Bright Horizons logo

Bright Horizons is the UK’s leading childcare provider with 300 nurseries across the country, catering for babies through to pre-schoolers.

The challenge

Bright Horizon’s was hit hard by COVID-19. With dropping demand and rising costs, it furloughed 90% of its marketing team and paused all paid media activity. 

Come January 2021, however, it was ready to use a reduced budget, to create a pipeline of parents ready to enrol, as the world opened up.

Bright Horizons re-enlisted Receptional, its paid search agency of 5 years, with two objectives in mind:

  1. To generate leads for a lower cost per acquisition (CPA)
  2. To move to a model that would enable it to use its tighter budget in the right places – the nurseries that had spare capacity.


The solution

Previously, all nurseries sat under a shared paid search budget. But long-term, Bright Horizons and Receptional sought to move to a more innovative model, where each of the 300 locations had a separate budget.

This would enable them to dial-up activity for under-subscribed nurseries and pause activity for full or over-subscribed ones. To add another level of complexity, each nursery has a set number of spaces for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Moving to their desired long-term model would create a complex account structure with hundreds of ad variants. Before embarking on such an ambitious move, Receptional and Bright Horizons agreed on a creative two-pronged strategy to:

1. Trial Facebook Ads alongside Google Search and Display

Despite the reduced budget, the Receptional team weren’t content to deliver lower results. Based on experience, they recommended diverting some Google spend to Facebook to improve overall efficiencies, and set themselves a goal to reduce CPAs by 20%. 

2. Optimise the message and creative for every segment

The two teams worked together, to split the audience into four groups based on the life stage of their child, then developed the right ad formats for each, depending on where they are in the buying cycle – from initial brand awareness through to ready to enrol. 

Children play at a nursery like one of Bright Horizons'

Receptional provided excellent campaign management, feedback, data and dashboards, to inform how we target and allocate spend.

Benjamin Murray
Marketing and Campaigns Manager, Bright Horizons

The results

Receptional compared 2021’s Google Search and Display performance with 2019’s (there had been no activity during the same period in 2020). This showed:

  • A 35% increase in click-through rate 
  • A 58% increase in conversion rate 
  • A 47% decrease in the cost per acquisition. 

The trial of Facebook had also been successful, reaching 1.6 million people through brand awareness ads and 606,000 parents through the hyper-targeted ones.

When comparing 2021’s multi-channel approach with 2019’s Google-only one, the teams found:

  • A 14% decrease in spend 
  • A 10% increase in leads 
  • A 21% decrease in CPAs – hitting Receptional’s self-imposed goal.


Examples of the ads we created for Bright Horizons

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