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9 Critical Facebook Ad Creative Fundamentals

9 Critical Facebook Ad Creative Fundamentals

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

Imagine you are building a brand. You are performance and growth minded, understanding that you need cash today but you also need to grow long term. You throw up an image ad on Facebook. The image you choose features a product flatlay, a brightly-colored background, and a short CTA calling out the same phrase you placed on your website home-banner. You set up a broad audience, fuel it with a few hundred dollars, and conversions start rolling in.

Did you just get a bit of nostalgia for 2018-2020? Ah, the good old days.

It’s hard to believe that just a short few years ago some of the most well known e-commerce brands were built using basic creative and tactical strategies. Brands today would have a better chance of hitting the lottery than making these strategies work on meta.

The importance of strong ad creative on Facebook

Why, though? When Apple released iOS14, Meta’s ability to see how the frequency of views and clicks over time impacted user behavior was severely deprecated. Without this transparency Meta lost the path to turning even the softest direct response creative into a performance powerhouse.

The result? Across Facebook and Instagram ads, creative has become the leading cause of any given brand’s success or failure, its growth or decline. To make sure your brand thrives for years to come, you’ll need to focus your marketing team’s energy on developing a creative strategy founded on nine direct response principles.

Here are 9 fundamentals to focus on when developing and optimizing your Facebook ad creative.

1. Develop your Creative Strategy.

From a high-level, creative strategy is about understanding the competitive landscape, analyzing opportunities and threats, developing testing strategies, executing, and iterating on what worked and what didn’t work to drive your business towards your goals. A key component of creative strategy is about defining who your core audience is, who your conquesting audiences are, and how you need to talk to them.

2. Stay on Brand, But Lead With Native Creative.

If you show a bunch of ads to the c-suite and ask them which one they like, most will point to the ones that look like they were designed to sit in a designers portfolio, only to be called up during a job interview. The problem? Ads with heavy brand elements are predictable, and social media users know how to scroll right past them. This means your CTR goes down, your CAC goes up, and you underperform. Your ads need to feel like they belong in the feed. Call them “ugly ads”, “native creative”, whatever you want, you just need to make your ads feel like they belong in your audience’s organic feed. Here are a few examples of how you can use native creative across different ad formats,

  1. Meme style ads.
  2. “Ask me anything” ads.
  3. User or creator generated ads.
  4. Top performing video thumbnail as a static image.
  5. Image with a native text overlay.
  6. Screenshot of a checkout page with a discounted total natively highlighted or underlined or with a text layover.

3. Create Assets in an Order of Importance.

People are not lazy by nature, we actively seek challenges and new experiences. But our brains are wired to look for simplicity first. When we are presented with messaging, we pursue the easiest way of understanding new information. In our Meta ads, we need to first focus our energy on 4 specific elements,

  • Images or video: Our eyes will naturally scan the image or video first. As most consumers are all averse to advertising, when we are marketing on social platforms we want our assets to feel native to the platform. “Ugly” ads - assets that are not overly produced but still high-quality - will improve thumb stop and hold rates, and drive stronger engagement with less aware audiences. You should also maximize the format. If you are using a static image, make sure you test text overlays that highlight what you want your viewer to know.
  • Headline: The ad headline offers limited text so you need to get to the point fast. Create a clear and attention-grabbing headline that summarizes the main benefit of the product or service being advertised.
  • Description: The ad description has more space than the headline but is still limited in how much it can communicate. The description should amplify the image or video and headline, and should be focused on the direct response tactics outlined in number 5.
  • Call-to-action: People need to be told what to do next. Your creative should include a clear and specific call-to-action, such as "Shop Now" or "Sign Up," that tells the viewer what to do. Your call to action should also be unambiguous, and tied to where the person is in your funnel. Perfect your ad elements.

4. Core Tactics of Direct Response Marketing.

When you start developing your assets you need to focus on 5 core socio-psychological tenets to drive action closer to the click.

  • Urgency: Performance marketing is all about getting a viewer to respond and to take action. Create a sense of urgency by highlighting new releases, limited time offers, or exclusivity to encourage viewers to take action immediately.
  • Scarcity: Creating a feeling of scarcity by highlighting low inventory or limited availability of a product or service to encourage users to take action before it's too late. Scarcity can also feel like the fear of missing out on something. This can be complemented by social proof.
  • Social proof: Use customer testimonials or reviews to build trust and credibility, and to show that other people have found value in the product or service being advertised.
  • Benefits-driven messaging: Highlight the benefits and advantages of your product or service, not just its features, to show users how it can improve their life. People need to understand why they should care, not just what something does, to take action fast.
  • Relevancy: Targeting the ad to the right audience, with the right message, to ensure that it's seen by users who are most likely to be interested in the product or service. The wrong audience

5. Understand the Metrics that Matter.

To know if you are moving in the right direction you need to know how to read and understand performance and growth metrics.

  • General Metrics
  1. CPM - Cost per 1,000 impressions
  2. CPC - Cost per Click
  3. CTR - Click Through Rate
  4. CVR - Conversion Rate
  5. CAC/CPA - Customer Acquisition Cost
  6. ROAS - Return on Ad Spend
  7. MER - Marketing Efficiency Ratio
  • Video Specific Metrics
  1. Thumb Stop (Hook) Rate - The percentage of people who watch 3 seconds of your video ad.
  2. Hold Rate - The percentage of people who watch 15 seconds of your video ad.
  3. Completion Rate - The percentage of people who watch your entire video ad.

6. Maximize the Format.

If you are promoting a video ad, use sound, text, and visuals to make your ad stickier. If you are promoting a static ad use text overlays in the image to help magnify the message.

7. Earn the Click.

Social users have gravitated toward video as their preferred medium for years, so if you are running a static ad you have to work really hard to get attention, keep attention, and get the click. Videos have a different problem. You need to develop a story arc that takes your customer from awareness to action. You do this through a series of earned views. Earn the viewers attention in your hook (first 3 seconds) where they learn about your product. Keep their attention in the ad body (5-10 seconds) by showing the value of the product. Then drive them to action with the right CTA.

8. Test Relentlessly.

To find sustainable, long-term success you need to test everything, from assumptions and biases to previous confirmations. The only constant in direct to consumer marketing is that it is constantly changing. Test assets, images, copy, messaging, frameworks, mediums. Test everything you can to iterate and scale.

9. Use a Creative Analytics Tool.

To test correctly and understand how your creative assets are impacting performance, you need to use a creative analytics tool. Tools like Triple Whale’s Creative Cockpit provide you with the ability to compare performance across different ads, ad groups, or asset types. Creative Cockpit also gives the ability to make annotations in your creative to help strategy and production teams collaborate more seamlessly.

Master the fundamentals, master Facebook ad creative.

Achieving success using Meta ads is complex and the game is ever changing, however these nine fundamentals will not change. Deploy them in your strategy to make sure your brand reaches its potential.

And be sure to check out Creative Cockpit if you want to measure and optimize how your ads are performing in real time.

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