the great Valentine’s Day marketing experiment

Hello, my name’s Sam. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I decided I wanted to do something really special for my other half. But what could I do to show the man I adore that he means so much to me? The perfect idea struck me like Cupid’s arrow: I would let web advertising dictate my Valentine’s Day. After all, what better way to prove my love than with an online marketing-based experiment?

Day one and I was feeling hopeful. My initial forays into the world’s favourite search engine turned up some promising results – we’re talking prime time online shops like Find Me a Gift and Not on the High Street. Surely, I’d end up with a charming, relevant token of my affection? What could possibly go wrong? A few cursory clicks to indicate curiosity and I was done for the day. Worryingly, searches for restaurants and meals returned results in London, Oxford and, er, Sedlescombe, East Sussex. I love my boyfriend, but that’s a lot of petrol.


Three days in and I hit a snag. My job entails visiting a lot of automotive websites, so the appearance of relevant adverts got off to a supremely slow start. LinkedIn seemed particularly set on the idea of selling me an SUV. Again, I would buy anything for love but I won’t buy that.

Finally, after five days I got my first, true Valentine’s advert, served up on the side of Outlook. It was big. It was shiny. It was an OPK stainless steel ‘his and hers’ necklace set. I’m not quite sure why Amazon thought I’d like this item based on my past preferences, but a comment from my colleague said it all: ‘Who knew you could get such a substantial chunk of metal for just £12.99?’ Shortly after, toiletries, cufflinks and fragrances start rearing their romantic heads. Yes, I thought. I’ve broken through the barricades. Valentine’s Day, I’m coming for you.

Two and a half weeks to go and lastminute.com popped up in my inbox, in a more pre-emptive manner than their name suggests. They wanted me to book a visit to a spa (classic), comedy club (couples that laugh together, stay together) or burlesque night. Hang about! We’re in the throes of young love here, I doubt very much my other half would be interested in watching another woman flouncing her bits about. How dare the internet. Next it’ll be suggesting sex toys, I thought. The very next day, I was bombarded by ads for furry handcuffs.

A week later and I was in for a big surprise, with Unique Masonic Gifts making it to the top of my search results. Either I’m sending out secret signals or the movement is way more mainstream than I thought. Nonetheless, I was intrigued and after several minutes browsing signet rings (fancy), leather gloves (luxurious) and books on ‘Masonic After Dinner Speaking’ (practical) I forced myself to click away for fear of being enlisted. It’s got to be said, with their offer of free shipping and a flashy Valentine’s day banner on their site, the Freemasons really nailed this seasonal marketing thing.

With the experiment over, I was forced to splash out on the aforementioned OPK necklace set, which had been hanging about like a bad smell since day five. Well done, Amazon, my boyfriend hates it. As for greetings cards, Moonpig really had the monopoly on ad space and definitely won the greeting cards war. Oh, and we went out for dinner in Oxford in the end – there was no way I was driving to East Sussex on a school night.

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So, thanks to digital advertising I had a fantastic Valentine’s Day, but what are the benefits for brands that pay to promote themselves online? Whether opting for Facebook standard or carousel ad formats, or GDN banners, companies can connect with their most likely customers. Thanks to a healthy dose of technological wizardry, this kind of advertising employs tools like keyword, interest and demographic targeting to ensure the right ads get in front of the right people. Better still, by buying into things like clever pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, the whole process can be incredibly cost efficient too.

To learn more about increasing your company’s online reach, get in touch.









Copywriter, dog lover and arts and crafts fanatic.

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