LinkedIn Ads for Events

Elite Exhibitions growth story

Increase in clicks
70 %
increase in conversions
45 %
decrease in CPC
535 %
decrease in CPL
250 %

Today, Elite Exhibitions are a 30+ person team who have just secured investment from one of the world’s largest event management companies. But 5 years ago, they were a small events business with a vision to grow and they wanted paid media marketing to help them get there. Elite Exhibitions are an event company known predominantly for their London and Miami cruise design industry shows – Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe & Americas. And, this is a part of their growth journey.

In this post

Elite Exhibitions & Vixen Digital’s First Campaign

We have been working together since 2019 and what a journey it has been! Despite the challenges brought by Covid-19 to the events and hospitality industry, Elite Exhibitions and Vixen Digital have still been able to deliver incredible results from the paid media marketing channels.

When we first started, Elite Exhibitions had just had their first successful expo in Miami, USA and were planning their new European expo in Barcelona. The Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe eventually moved to London where it has stayed for the last few years, but back then, we were creating paid media strategies to make their first European expo match and surpass the success of the American expo in Miami.

After meeting Toby Walters and the team at their old offices on Old Shoreham Road in Hove, UK, we knew we needed to work fast. We met at the start of September and the show was at the beginning of December. We operated quickly and within 2 weeks were up and running with their campaigns. The strategy focused on the main channel of LinkedIn Ads, but this was to be supplemented by Google Ads, and Facebook and Instagram paid social.

We fought with cross-domain tracking issues and troubleshooting the issues of working with a third-party ticketing software. We completed some quick-fire A/B split-testing on LinkedIn Ads and leveraged the existing remarketing audiences to build new similar audiences as well test this against our other prospecting audience targeting.

Results from Cruise Ship Interiors Europe in 2019

In 2019, we got some excellent results using LinkedIn Advertising:

Channel Impressions Clicks Conv. CPC CPL Spend
LinkedIn 438,400 25,000 394 £0.43 £26 £10,000 +

We had a healthy budget of just over £10,000 which we utilised on remarketing and prospecting campaigns using single image ads, InMail (now conversation ads in Europe) with personal invitations and spotlight ads as our main ad types. We didn’t have video at the time so we couldn’t test video ads at that point. The Cruise Ship Interiors Expos also have a great offer in the fact that they are free to attend, so this really gave us an incentive and CTA (call-to-action) we could focus on to drive event registrations.

Low cost-per-conversion on LinkedIn Ads

The big success here was that we were able to achieve a CPL (Cost-per-lead/Cost-per-conversion) of £26 on LinkedIn Ads. This indicated to us that our audience targeting has been well thought out and we were reaching the right people with our ads.

The last minute bookings: “Delayed Deciders”

We also found that in the last 2 weeks before the event is where we received a spike in event registrations.

So although we received a consistency during the campaigns in event registration conversions, the campaigns really became effective in the last 2-3 weeks. This was a key learning to take which has informed how we pace our budget and how we plan our ad strategies ever since with all CS Interiors shows and event marketing campaigns. There’s always the last minute attendees or as we like to call them; the “delayed deciders”, who make a decision spontaneously or closer to the event date. But it’s important to remember here that this doesn’t mean you should just leave all of your advertising until the two final weeks, it’s actually the opposite. You should anticipate that your early advertising impacts the performance of your last minute bookings by increasing remarketing audiences and building more awareness of your event.

The Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe 2019 went on to be a big success.

Growth & Investment

After such a successful event, this was the start of great collaboration between the Elite Exhibitions marketing team and Vixen Digital. Having now worked together for 5 years, we’ve helped develop efficient paid media marketing strategies for their events that deliver proven results. This has helped to increase attendees of the Cruise Ship Interiors Expos (and sister events) which has helped to establish these shows as the best in their industry. This is also one of the reasons why Elite Exhibitions was such an attractive acquisition for CloserStill Media as they take a majority stake in the company.

Paid Media Marketing Collaboration

For us at Vixen Digital, this means a great deal. To watch a company who we’ve worked closely with grow to the point where they’ve secured investment is a fantastic moment. We’re so grateful to have been a part of that journey so far as Elite Exhibitions move on to their next chapter.

Paid media marketing is a small part in a comprehensive story, but we’re proud to have been able to collaborate and integrate ourselves within the Elite Exhibitions marketing team, in order to achieve some excellent results in the last 5 years of working together.

Strategies & Results

Over the last 5 years our strategy has evolved but the core approach hasn’t changed that much. We use targeted paid media marketing campaigns to generate event registrations for the Cruise Ship Interiors Expos. Our two main channels are LinkedIn Ads and Google Ads, supplemented by Facebook and Instagram paid social media. Our audiences are classified into two main categories:

This audience consists of previous website visitors, custom audiences based on website behaviour, previous event attendees and other marketing lists informed by Hubspot, the CRM system that is used in Elite’s case.

This audience consists of people who are currently “unaware” or in an awareness stage of the sales funnel. These are people who have not been to a CSI expo yet but they are people who have similar interests or work within industries that are relevant to the category of shows.

Further to this, they’re then further classified and split within their main audience groups.
For example, within prospecting you would split them by the characteristics of your audiences. In CSI Expo’s case, we have audiences for attendees but we classify them differently. We may have one prospecting audience for “Interior Designers” as they are a group of people who might be interested in attending and networking at the event, but also an audience for “Cruise Industry” to target people who are currently working within the industry that’s relevant to the expo.

Once you know who you are targeting, you can then look at how to advertise the event to them.


Our main CTA and call-to-action has always featured around the main USP of the event. That being that the event is free to attend. So we would use CTAs like “Register for Free” or “Get your FREE ticket”. It’s important to include a clear CTA and try to keep this consistent across your campaign.
We’d then deliver the people who click on the ads directly to the registration page on the main CSI website, creating a streamlined user experience that looks to encourage conversion rate and avoid any needless barriers of distraction, confusion or delay.

LinkedIn Ad Types

We’ve always worked mostly with single image ads on LinkedIn, especially with the early expos as we didn’t have as much video content available back then. However single image ads were supplemented with additional ad types such as InMail ads and spotlight ads. We were previously able to run InMail ads in the EU but more recently, we’re no longer permitted to use this ad type due to changes in legislation. Therefore, InMail ads are only used in locations where we are able to run them but over the years we have found them to be a key driver of event registrations with a much lower CPL compared to other ad types.

Working together through Covid-19

As we all know the events industry was one of the areas most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic due to lockdowns and restriction on travel. This did delay some of the shows but thankfully Elite Exhibitions were able to adapt and move to new and innovative online events. These were much smaller in scale but still had the same goals and ambitions in mind, we wanted to increase registrations. Whether that be to webinars or the new CSI Plus platform, we were still focusing our efforts on driving registrations to the events online.

When restrictions were lifted and travel became possible again, we needed to adapt our messaging for the first events post-covid-19. Copy and messaging became more focused on health and covid policies but it also propelled the industry into a new direction. All businesses had to adapt and adjust with new products & services introduced into the travel and events industry. From health and safety to connectivity and networking, new priorities emerged and we had to adapt in our marketing strategy to people’s changing requirements. One example of this is trying to reassure your audience in your copy that all necessary precautions are being taken and all health and safety standards have been and are continually reviewed. We had to build confidence and trust again especially in encouraging people to attend a physical event after the pandemic.

Working with third-party fulfilment providers

One of our main challenges with each show was the change of fulfilment providers that Elite Exhibitions used for their events. It took some time to find a partner who integrated well with the requirements of the expos. This meant that each year, the purchase journey changed and we were always having to complete new conversion tracking and measurement setups. The main challenge was that of cross-domain tracking as we were sending traffic from the main website to the registration form on a third party fulfilment platform. These third party platforms would then have a complete system in place to manage the registrations and attendees tickets for the event. But because the completed registration did not occur on our own website, we were often faced with cross-domain tracking challenges which we had to overcome each year. Now, more recently cross-domain tracking has become slightly easier with GA4, but before then we were having to work with Google Tag Manager and Universal Analytics to set up conversion tracking that we could use to measure the results of our campaigns.

Summary of results

Since the return of the expos after the covid-19 pandemic, we’ve achieved:

73.48% increase in clicks despite a -71.50% decrease in overall impressions.

51.92% increase in conversions while reducing overall spend by -71.41%

This was helped by bringing our overall CPC down by -542.86% and we saw our CPL (cost/conv.) decrease by -256.57%