As one of the first member stations to roll out Passport, a PBS streaming service for qualifying donors, WNET needed to prove that the campaign could produce positive results. By tracking ROI (return on investment) and CPA (cost per acquisition) through Facebook’s marketing tools, they forged a successful path for others to follow.


To launch Passport, WNET began planning well in advance. They worked closely with PBS’s IT, Web Development, and Marketing departments to implement Passport into their system by December – just in time to include the first five seasons of Downton Abbey.

After the Passport integration, they set forth to determine how each dollar spent on their campaign translated into revenue. WNET implemented an ROI and CPA tracking system by following Facebook’s Pixel Implementation Guide, which showed them how to place acquisition and tracking pixels on Passport thank you pages. This allowed WNET to track when a user clicked an ad, navigated to the site and donated via the Passport signup process. The pixels also tracked users who potentially moved away from the site for a few days, and then came back to make the donation.

Once they saw the pixels worked as intended, the team began testing their creative and audience targeting, adjusting the campaigns in order to optimize the ad spend.

WNET capitalized on Facebook’s ability to target audiences very specifically by testing many different approaches: audiences based on viewing area, audiences that already follow the station, and audiences that may be interested in particular programs based on their following of similar shows or actors that are characters in shows. This allowed WNET to pare down the ads to the most effective creative and audiences for the best possible results.

“Facebook is relatively easy to use, and there is no minimum spend,“ said Joe Harrell, Senior Director of WNET Digital Strategy. “You get real-time reporting and clear tracking capabilities. It’s allowed us to pivot as needed.”


WNET launched over 100 different versions of the Passport ads and tracked them closely to determine which performed better. It took only 2-3 weeks to discover that the drama-focused ads outperformed the others.

The launch campaign, which ran December 18 – January 2, saw significant results with an ROI of 176% and a CPA of $21.72.

The WNET team also ran a similar campaign when Wolf Hall (available within Passport) won a Golden Globe. The campaign ran January 12-17 and saw an ROI of 158% and CPA of $23.25.

“We acquired an entirely new sustaining audience,” Harrell said. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to attribute revenue directly to an ad spend.”


The results of WNET’s Passport campaign on Facebook provide several opportunities for other member stations to replicate.

WNET recommends giving your team plenty of time to work with different departments and to understand how Facebook pixels work and how and where to implement them. They also recommend following the Facebook for Business guide for tracking conversions.

The team will continue coordinating their campaign efforts (on-air spots, promotions, newsletters, etc.) with Facebook ads.

Special thanks to Joe Harrell, Senior Director of WNET Digital Strategy, for information and content for this post.

Natasha Hilton | Senior Associate | Development Services