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Cancer Research UK

Driving awareness for Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s largest independent funder of cancer research with the vision to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. They appointed Impression in early 2019 and we’ve been working together since to manage their paid search activity and to work collaboratively with their internal marketing teams and external agencies responsible for the management of other marketing channels.

  • DARK_UK-PMA_Charity-Campaign-of-the-Year-2022
  • DARK_EPM_Charity-Campaign-of-the-Year-2022

The Challenge

There are multiple CRUK PPC accounts all with different aims and objectives. Each marketing team has varying KPIs that change year-on-year, from lead generation to donations and ecommerce purchasing.

Throughout the COVID period, we worked with all of the marketing teams at Cancer Research UK to meet the changing audience need –  marketing the right message and the right product to the right audiences. Impression was tasked with ensuring CRUK audiences could find the health information that they needed as well as developing a contingency plan. This contingency plan allowed CRUK to reduce spend in lower performing areas, focus on maximising higher performing products, and align the strategy with the messaging and timing of ATL ‘appeal’ activity.

In-house marketing teams and various agencies work together to achieve wider business goals:

  • Donation revenue
  • Fundraising pack downloads
  • Legacies referrals and Will Guide Downloads
  • Weekly Lottery Revenue
  • Stand Up to Cancer Revenue and Sign Ups
  • Online Shop (eCommerce) Revenue
  • Hero product sign-ups eg. Walk All Over Cancer
  • Race for Life Sign Ups
  • Sport Sign-Ups eg. Half Marathons
  • Volunteer Sign-Ups
  • Donate in Memory Tribute Pages

The Strategy

Our first step was to restructure campaigns to be more data-dense and consolidated to allow for easier management when there are so many other things to consider as well as more efficient management through SA360 bidding strategies.

New account structures allowed for more control over ad messaging and keywords being prioritised. This was crucial for our alignment with TV, radio and social as it ensured consistent messaging for those interacting with “Above the Line” targeting, activity ran on TV, Radio, VOD, Digital Audio and upper-funnel marketing on Social and Display.

Integrating with CRUK’s media agencies was also important when ensuring budgets and bidding are weighted when strong brand messaging is conveyed through a burst of ATL activity, including weeks and months of TV, social and radio bursts.

Working with the CRUK accounts team, a plan was drawn up to suggest which products had lower intent or soon to be cancelled events and could therefore be cut or dropped, to allow an increase spend in top of mind, more urgent products.


Implemented new account structures and consolidated campaigns 


Integrated with ATL activity and considered budget 


Reallocated spend to provide income through higher-performing channels

The Results

We helped CRUK to reduce overall spend by 17.4% whilst maintaining YoY and MoM growth by focusing on key priorities. Overall, we drove an increase in revenue of 10% despite the challenging context.

We launched the very first Microsoft Ads EMEA advertising grant account supporting charities with Cancer Research UK. This grant allowed us to drive higher awareness through the account, specifically:


increase in impressions


increase in clicks


increase in cost

Working in true partnership

Whilst we’re pleased to have had a positive impact on CRUK’s performance, it’s not all about the numbers.

Since 2019, our relationship has gone from strength to strength and our two-way feedback loop allows us to have honest conversations on a regular basis. These regular check-ins have led to changes in requirements for the number of meetings and  honest communication about hours and priorities to  ensure we always meet expectations. We are proud to work as an extension of Cancer Research UK’s team and integrating with their other agencies.

Working in true partnership, a member of the CRUK team has appeared as a guest speaker on an Impression podcast and we’ve also helped their internal marketing teams by delivering various virtual training sessions which are saved to their learning hub for new starters.

Our work has also been recognised and shortlisted for awards. In 2020, our campaigns were shortlisted for the ‘most effective use of paid search’ (DADI Awards, 2020), for ‘best use of search – not for profit’ (UK Search Awards, 2020) and for the ‘community response award’ (Microsoft Advertising Partner Awards, 2020).

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