Facebook advertising gets more competitive every year. The social platform now offers a variety of advertising tools (like value bidding) so anybody with decent advertising know-how can compete with big brands.
This means two things:
- More advertisers can use Facebook profitably
- The playing field becomes increasingly level
The improvement of Facebook’s native ad tools has taken away many advertisers’ key competitive advantage: better ad tech. So, advertisers must find a new way to stay ahead of the pack.
The answer lies in their creative.
Using Ad Creative as a Competitive Advantage
You won’t find high-performing results in just 10x ads, but 100x ads; the kind of breakout creative that delivers outsized results. This being said, the majority of new ad creative will fail, which is why we need a systematic approach for finding these breakout, 100x ads.
Recognizing this type of super creative isn’t as simple as just looking at it. It isn’t an issue of “I think this ad will perform better.” Opinions don’t matter, but performance does.
Oftentimes, this breakout creative doesn’t even look like anything special until it’s tested in a live campaign. Then, when you look at the reports, that one humble little ad starts to emerge from the rest.
This is why creative is truly such a competitive edge—but only if you know how to find those high-performing ads.
How to Develop 100x Ad Creative
To find 100x ads, you will need to develop a lot of ads and test them every step of the way. The challenge is, 95% of this new creative will fail to overcome current best-performing ads.
This means you don’t just need one new ad—you need twenty—in order to find something that is going to outperform your current winner. Finding the 5% can be difficult, so you need to create twenty ads to find that one gem.
Another element to consider is ad fatigue. As you know, ads don’t last forever on Facebook. The bigger your budget, the faster these ads will fade. For advertisers who spend $1 million or more each month, ads can fade in as quickly as four to seven days. Taking this into account, you’ll need at least twenty new ads each week.
This may seem impossible, but it’s not. It just requires the ability to scale up creative development and test these ads extensively. We call this process “Quantitative Creative Testing”.
What is Quantitative Creative Testing?
Quantitative Creative Testing isn’t quite a/b split-testing and isn’t quite multivariate testing. It’s specifically designed for creative production of Facebook ads and Google’s Universal App Campaigns (UAC). There are two types of ad creative tests: Concepts and Variations. Here are the key differences:
Concepts: Large Changes & Large Impacts
5emConcepts are brand new, completely different ads. They’re big “outside-of-the-box” approaches that can result in large improvements to revenue (or in some cases, large losses). Concepts are the key drivers for creative success, but must be used in a limited way. When they fail, they tend to fail badly.
Variations: Small Changes & Small impacts
Variations leverage pieces of past, high-performing concepts. So, you reposition existing elements to create something similar but new. Variations don’t have big differences like concepts, but because they’re based on high-performing ads, variations typically generate smaller, more incremental wins and/or losses.
The general idea of is to follow the 80/20 rule—spend about 80% of the time optimizing the best ads and creating new variations. This limits the amount of non-converting ad spend, and allows us to prototype and iterate new ads quickly. The remaining 20% of the time should be spent toying with new concept ideation; big, grand ideas that often fail but sometimes generate a 100x ad.
5 Creative Testing Phases
The Quantitative Creative Testing framework is broken into five phases:
Phase 1: Competitive Analysis
Before new ads are created, it’s important to see which ads competitors are running, and which of these ads seem to be successful.
Set aside an hour or so and identify your top ten Facebook ad competitors. From here, you can conduct a creative audit of their Facebook page by looking under the “Info and Ads” tab. This won’t tell you how the ads are performing, but it shows which ads the company is running. Paid competitive tools can help to provide you with deeper performance analytics.
Take notes and screenshots of what you find during this competitive analysis, and look for ideas to use in your own ads.
Doing this background work is critical. It allows you to optimize your ad spend, since you’re creating ads similar to other companies’ best-performing ones. It also gives you a strong creative framework based on what companies like yours are doing.
Phase 2: Simple Variation Testing
Simple variation testing is where we start to break down ads that are already working and determine which elements of those ads are driving results. This reduces the financial risk in creative testing and gives us advertising best practices to apply to new concepts down the line.
Here are some of the elements we like to test:
- Calls to Actions / Buttons
- Video Length: 6, 10, 15 seconds
- Text Headers: Text placement, text length (4-6 words seem to perform best), text color, font, and more
- Image Format: Square, horizontal, vertical, or in story form
Once you know which ad elements are the primary performance drivers, you have some very valuable information. This can be used moving forward for ad variations and for new ad concepts.
This variation testing basically gives you a “best practices” template to use for future ad creation.
Phase 3: Advanced Variation Testing
Advanced Variation Testing takes everything we’ve learned so far from competitive research and ad element testing. We’ll use this information to start building and testing new ads.
There are a lot of elements to test, but here are some of our favorites:
- Start and End Cards: There are plenty of things to test with cards, aka calls to action. You can try placing them at the beginning, or the end of videos. Test different calls to action and CTA colors.
- Colors: We’ve found that primary colors work best—the bolder the better.
- Ad Copy: You can test different ad copy, the placement of the ad copy, copy color and font, or no ad copy at all.
- Mobile Device: Showing a mobile device in the ad versus not showing one.
- Background Image: Busy, or plain? One color, or a pattern? Note simpler backgrounds tend to perform better.
- Image Layout: Split screen? If so, split it vertically or horizontally? Try a grid of images. Horizontal? Vertical?
- Image Testing: As you know, images matter a lot, so they must get tested a lot. Oftentimes, we test images based on whether they are user-generated or stock photos. User-generated content, or photos that look like they are user-generated, outperform “magazine-like” photos.
- Product Amounts: Testing one product versus multiple products.
- Logos: Include or exclude the App Store logo and/or Google Play Badges. Removing the logo tends to lift performance about 15%.
- Logos and Brand Placement: Top, bottom, left, or right? You can also test no logo—ads often perform better without branding elements.
This may seem like a lot, until you look at real ads and see all the different combinations that are possible:
Phase 4: Benefit & Demo in Motion
These tactics leverage Facebook’s “Create to Convert” feature, which allows advertisers to take still images and convert them into videos.
“Create to Convert” offers multiple ways to create videos ads from still images:
- Basic Motion: Adds one or two moving elements on top of a still image.
- Brand in Motion: Your branding or logo element/s move in front of a still image or stock video footage.
- Benefit in Motion: The benefit of your ad or its primary message is the moving aspect of the video.
- Demo in Motion: This uses video footage of how your app, website, service, product or feature works, and shows it over a static image, so it looks like the ad is showing someone using your app (or website).
Phase 5: Best Practices for Concept Ideation
Concept ideation is where we attempt to produce a breakout, 100x ad. About 95% of ads will fail to outperform existing ads, with some failing hard. To minimize losses, about only 20% of creative work is focused on new concepts.
To develop these new concepts, you’ll need to:
- Leverage your competitive analysis research
- Use your storytelling skills to frame, present, and create new concepts. This means you need someone on your team who can explain what your app does or offers in a concise and compelling way.
- Leverage character animation and assets in new ways. If you have a celebrity or a very well-known brand, try to make them the center of the ad. If you don’t, test using characters to see if they help or hurt performance.
- Create variations of these concepts using insights from your simple variation testing. Integrate the ad elements and combinations that work best.
The full process of Quantitative Creative Testing is quite a lot of work. Not every advertiser has the time and ability to develop this much creative, while also managing so many tests. However, it can be done – and will help you to regain a competitive advantage through Facebook ads.
Want to learn more? We’ve tested 100K Facebook ads to figure out what drives successful creative.