Since 2011, the Missouri Knights of Columbus have been placing ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the state as part of its Meet Life campaign.
But in order to lead abortion-minded women to these centers, the Knights have turned to Vitae Foundation to get the message to them. The Jefferson City nonprofit organization uses mass media campaigns to reach women facing unplanned pregnancies and to create a culture of life.
Vitae’s president and CEO Debbie Stokes said that the organization has shifted in recent years from traditional means of marketing — including billboards, bus-stop advertisements and radio ads — to digital efforts, primarily through Google ad campaigns.
In 2018, the Knights donated more than $28,500 in funding to support Google ad campaigns in the St. Louis area market, targeting six pregnancy resource centers: Thrive St. Louis; Hand ‘N Hand in Barnhart; My Life Health Clinic in Park Hills, My Life Medical Center in High Ridge; Options for Women in Ste. Genevieve; and Riverways Pregnancy Resource Center in Salem, Mo. In total, the Knights provide $100,000 annually in funding for Google ad campaigns for pregnancy resource centers across the state.
In the past year, Vitae made 2,257 connections between women and the six centers in the market. There also was an overall 13.2 percent “conversion rate,” which is defined as those who click on an ad and make contact with a center. Additionally, Thrive St. Louis experienced a 15.8 conversion rate in 2018. Stokes noted that the overall St. Louis market rate is above the national combined industry average of 2.7 percent.
“We’re thrilled with the impact that the ads are making,” Stokes said. “Our job is to get that woman in contact with the center, and the center obviously takes over at that point in time.” One of the challenges that pregnancy resource centers face is that they are not attracting women seriously considering abortion within the large populations they serve. Stokes contributed the success of the conversion rate to the research that Vitae does.
“We have really dug into that to determine what is going to most attract a woman that is seriously considering abortion,” she said. “The women we are trying to attract with these ads are women who are really abortion minded. We are not focused on the women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy — those who will continue the pregnancy but are looking for practical assistance.”
Vitae reported several other highlights from campaign efforts in 2018 in the St. Louis market, including a 6.7 percent click-through rate (CTR) for the area, which is well above the national combined industry average of 1.91 percent. The overall cost in 2018 to reach one abortion-minded woman was $11.14. Vitae said that’s roughly half of the cost at the national level, according to Vitae.
Kenney Newville, Vitae’s director of marketing and research application, said that audiences are targeted by dropping a pin on a map and selecting a radius from there. Generally speaking, that’s about a 20-mile radius from each center, or more depending on the center’s location and area it generally serves. “It allows us to be very specific with how we’re reaching these people and where so that we’re not overlapping,” he said. “We don’t want to compete with ourselves.”
Vitae also takes a cost-per-click approach, meaning that Vitae only pays for an ad when it is clicked. Additionally, 100 percent of the funding from the Knights goes directly to the ads. Newville said while it is a more expensive means of marketing compared to other digital ad campaigns, “we have found it to be the most effective when we are targeting conversions, which is our ultimate goal.
“Our goal is to find a woman who needs assistance and connect her to a (center),” Newville said. “But that (center) is the one that claims the victory for converting her to a client. Our goal is to assist a (center) in empowering a woman to choose life.”
Vitae discovered the impact of the ad campaigns in an unintentional way in April 2018, when it stopped running ads for a month as they reassessed the program. Thrive St. Louis’ ads were also scaled back at that time.
“There were several centers that were lamenting the lack of a campaign in April,” Newville said. “It became apparent to us. They were very emphatic. They said, ‘Who do we need to call to get this back on?’”