Many advertisers have a "set it and forget it" approach to running user acquisition (UA) campaigns — using the same creative for endless months, with only minor adjustments to bidding and segments with the lowest clickthrough rate (CTR). Not changing your Facebook ad creative is a formula for slowly killing CTR; eventually this approach will result in ever-declining return on advertising spend (ROAS).
In today's highly competitive market, the "set it and forget it" approach isn't sustainable beyond a couple of weeks. Viewers get fatigued seeing ad creative frequently and need to be visually attracted with new, fresh images and video constantly in order to capture consumer attention. To achieve and sustain ROAS, advertisers can easily cycle through hundreds of pieces of creative monthly in order to find winners, and then continue to iterate with new variations to keep winners generating positive response.
Generating and improving on creative at scale can seem like a daunting task, but the rise of creative marketplaces automate creative scale. As a result, advertisers can focus more on testing and iterating on key areas of their creative to keep generating fresh imagery that converts:
You’re Not Preparing for Creative Testing. How to Fix It:
As a Facebook advertiser, creative testing of new concepts is imperative (i.e. a high-performing video or images that you can scale while maintaining ROAS). However, creative testing can also produce significant financial waste. To be more deliberate in your creative testing to surface winners, start by brainstorming ideas that will resonate with your audience and form a hypothesis around numerous creative variables. Forming a hypothesis before you start production will guide creative iterations:
- Before Testing: Develop a plan on testing one variable at a time and to avoid data contamination between tests. Ensure your test geo and demos are representative of your audience. Also, establish your key performance metrics (KPIs) upfront — what matters? Is it impressions, conversion rate, install rate or volume, cart visits, checkouts, etc.
- During Testing: If your test is running slow at delivering measurable results or your impressions are under-delivering, increase your bids by a specified percentage. Pause and re-run tests to ensure clean data.
- Post-Testing: Consider lift in multiple KPIs to determine the winner. Test and iterate further through a continuous improvement approach.
While developing a creative brief for designers to generate your ads, set your brand guidelines. Most large companies have a strong brand image accompanied by strict brand guidelines to represent companies in a consistent manner. Brand-driven organizations consider elements such as color palette, font treatment, logo placements, voice and tone to be used in copy and more to develop brand-compliant creatives:
- Brand Assets: Brand guidelines with dos and don’ts, logos, fonts, colors, styling and layout, sounds, etc.
- Who You Are: Brand guidelines with dos and don’ts, logos, fonts, colors, styling and layout, sounds, etc.
- Likes and Dislikes: Preferred color pallets, simple vs. stylized, subtle, elegant vs. dramatic.
- Brand Mode: Elements to recreate your look (backgrounds, textures, icons, graphics…).
- Inspiration: Share videos that worked well, ones you love, some that bombed.
- Campaign References: Examples of successful assets and their results. Why did they work?
You’re Not Employing Facebook’s Best Practices for Videos. How to Fix It:
A group of brand marketers, strategists and creative directors at Facebook’s Creative Shop, reviewed hundreds of top performing ads, identified four different categories in which all of these ads fell into: basic in motion, brand in motion, benefit in motion and demo in motion. These videos can be created with limited assets as they consist of still images and simple animations of different elements. Here’s an overview of each type of video ad:
- Basics in Motion: A simple video or an animation. You can start from a still image and animate 1 – 2 elements of the image such as a character. You can also use music to add excitement.
- Brand In Motion: A video with an emphasis on your brand. Start with a still, and add excitement by animating an aspect of your brand like your logo.
- Benefit in Motion: A video with an emphasis on your products’ benefits. Start with a still, and add excitement by animating your product’s benefits with typography. Use short copy to make your video effective
- Demo In Motion: A video with an emphasis on how your product works. For mobile games, you can screen capture gameplay and place it inside a phone. Not a mobile game? Show a demonstration of your product.
- Basics, Brand, Benefit and Demo In Motion: A combination of your basics, brand, benefits and demo in motion videos.
Additionally, here are some key tips and best practices on how to improve videos to increase your ad’s user value:
- The first three seconds really matter, so open strong with a visually stunning image or graphic.
- Don't rely on sound, but if it is important to delivering your message, be sure to emphasize it.
- Use clear and concise copy. Text overlaid on a video ad can help support your message.
- Shorten the message. Viewers have a short attention span, so only make the message as long as it needs to be.
- Leverage your characters. If you have great characters who are recognizable with your brand, use them fully.
You’re Not Leveraging Existing Winning Creative. How to Fix It:
You can develop new winners from existing creative. Ad creative variations leverage pieces of winning images and ads, and reposition existing elements to ultimately creative something similar, but new. Create variations of your existing creative by changing:
- Image Layout: A simple way to create new concepts is to showcase your product or service in several layouts, like side-by-side, split-screen, grid (2x2, 3x3, 4x4), split screen (½ & ½), split screen variation ⅓ or ¼.
- User-Generated vs. Stock Photos: The vast majority of pictures and videos you see on Facebook are user-generated, shared by family and friends. Professional photos or stock photography can look too perfect and tend to stick out on Facebook. Consider taking your own photos or degrading the quality of the images and videos to make them appear user-generated.
- Colors/Background: Test simple and plain backgrounds with soft or blurred-out colors or gradients. Allow the viewer's eyes to focus on bright, vibrant foreground colors. Test soft background colors vs. bold colors; strong texture vs. muted texture; and simple vs. clean vs. busy and cluttered backgrounds.
You’re Not Writing Powerful Copy/Calls to Action. How to Fix It:
Once you've grabbed the viewer's attention with an eye-catching ad, it’s time to make the ask for the purchase or the download. Consider testing: different calls to action, language, copy and button color, copy placements, buttons, etc. You can also test variations of short vs. long copy, as well as placements of the copy in the upper, middle, lower, left and right corners of the ad.
You’re Not Testing Enough
Constant creative testing — copy, video, images — becomes imperative to an organization's objectives. A large volume of creative is needed not only to achieve and sustain ROAS because creative rapidly fatigues with increased spend and audience reach. Moreover, even when you have a high-performing creative, you need to think about replacing it.
As the market is increasingly crowded, and automation tools continue to optimize how campaigns are run for efficiencies in delivering viewable impressions, targeting audiences, managing bidding and budgets — ultimately, your creative becomes the differentiator for performance and financial success. Adopt and develop a testing plan that utilizes all of the key variables to optimize your creative, and scale your acquisition program with your winning creative results.
Related story: 4 Marketing Image Tips: No. 1 — Monkey Selfie, Yes.