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The Wild World of Ad Buying in 2023

The Wild World of Ad Buying in 2023

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024
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Ad buying is already a circus, and when the bar keeps changing, it might be hard to keep up. Nobody knows this better than Tony Christensen, a media buyer and expert in Facebook and Google Ads and managing partner of Brick Social. Tony spent some time with Rabah and Ash on an episode of Adspend outlining how he goes about media buying in this changing landscape, including the importance of research, reviewing discrepancies in data, ad testing and iteration, and finding the creative angles for ads that land with the right audience. If you love hearing bros talk about ad buying, have a listen at the link below! If you’re more of a “let me read the important bits” kind of person, then check out the important nuggets we lay out in the article ahead.

Setting the Stage For a Client’s Media Buying Strategy

The number one thing Tony does when starting with a new client, is heavy, heavy research up front. He’ll dive into cyclographic details, the store’s Shopify stats, Google Analytics, and more. But, more interestingly, he dives into how people are talking about the products themselves. He’ll scour social media, customer reviews, customer feedback, and dive into all of the really important information hidden away in these comments, and fish out anything that can be useful for the company.

For example, he’ll read 100 or 200 custom reviews and look for nuances in the data to sift out the pattern. For example, if someone is selling a handbag and several reviews mention the cross-body strap isn’t long enough, the client will know what the next iteration of the bag can focus on (a new-and-improved strap), as well as what future ads can address - the benefit of a longer strap. 

Tony is sure to take into account the bias of data based on what the customer reads on the website itself. For example, a carbonated water brand describes its product as “refreshing”, and suddenly that word is plastered all over the customer reviews. He takes the time to evaluate the discrepancies to guide the creative strategies for media buying, but this information will also help the company with changing copy on the website to see how people respond. 

Using this data, Tony builds a clear view of the target customer avatar by reverse-engineering the data. 

An Avatar of the Ideal Customer

When it comes to media buying, an avatar is a detailed profile of the customer you’re planning to target with the ads you create. Without a target, you’re just slinging ads in the dark! 

What makes up an avatar? It’s more than just demographics these days. It should include details like:

Psychographic information: a person’s interests, values, and behaviors are at the forefront. For example, maybe your target customer is a fitness enthusiast that also values eating organic foods. 

Pain Points: What problems does your avatar face that your product or service can solve? For example, if your fitness enthusiast target customer is also a busy professional who has a hard time finding healthy food on-the-go, a product like organic protein powder packets would be a problem your product can fix!

Benefits: What benefits is your avatar searching for in the products they use? With the fitness and organic product enthusiast, if you present a high-quality organic protein they can use anytime, it’s checking off a lot of benefit boxes. 

Communication: How does your avatar talk about the products they use? Make sure you’re using the same terminology as your target customer. The fitness enthusiast might love to see packaging and promotions with plain, clear benefits presented. Less jargon, more gym time. 

By defining the avatar of your ideal customer at the beginning, a business can build their marketing strategies to meet these specific needs and preferences. If this is done correctly, it can lead to more effective advertising campaigns, which equals more sales and return customers.

Create the Advertising Angles and Value Propositions

Once all of the data is collected, Tony has built a gigantic spreadsheet that has a ton of different tabs to organize all of the data. Then, he presents it to the client in a much prettier slide deck. The data informs the next step, which is to draft the creative angles they plan to utilize as well as the value propositions of the product(s) they plan to focus on. 

For example, in a brand that sells apparel, he will present different bundling opportunities to increase average order value (AOV). A way to use the value proposition could be to present the top 3 reasons why someone might like that product. He prefers to build out the product pages themselves so they have all of the relevant information for the customer versus building separate landing pages.

5 More Ways to Increase AOV

Yearly Analysis and Opportunity to Iterate on Ad Buying Strategies

The avatar is set, the media is bought, and all the ads have been run. After a year of ads, there’s a gigantic opportunity to evaluate which ones performed the best. At the end of the year, Tony loves to do a month-by-month analysis to determine which types of creatives won. Then, he takes those creatives to iterate on for the following year. It’s a great time to evaluate how small changes made a big difference, or how trends in search can push your creatives a certain way. 

An example from Ashvin Melwani, CEO of Obvi, shows how global trends can influence marketing. Since Obvi sells collagen protein powder, Ashvin noticed that there were a lot of customer reviews that mentioned they purchased the product after losing hair due to COVID-19. Their positive experience with hair growth by using Obvi helped inform where their next ad should focus: target their advertising around people experiencing post-COVID hair loss. 

How Triple Whale helped Obvi scale.

Small Changes in Ad Copy Can Make a Big Difference

Is it the ad copy or the ad creative that drives the most clicks on an ad? Ads with mediocre headlines can also perform really well, but more often creative is what drives performance. Tony outlined some ways to maximize your creative by adjusting the headline and keeping the image the same. For example, one image can be used with six different headlines which can focus on six different angles. He believes this tactic is not used enough and is entirely underrated. However, the winning combination is great copy and great creative, which can’t be beat. If he had to choose, he’d optimize creative over the headline, but ultimately we want these both to be really great. 

Test the Forest, Test the Trees, Test the Branches, Test the Leaves

Tony suggests a more scientific approach to ad testing, but the type of testing you do will depend on the client you’re serving and how many SKUs they have. For example, are they willing to be super aggressive up front and lose money while testing, or do they need to be more conservative with that budget? 

At the beginning, he likes to lean on the review research they collected and evaluate the unique selling proposition for each product. With clear USPs outlined and specific avatars targeted, it’s much easier to do comparison tests to see which ads work better and what to focus on in the future.

Quick Predictions for the Future of Ad Buying

Tony believes Reels will gain traction and that Meta will bounce back. AI will continue to be huge for ad copy and building out landing pages. At the moment, there’s an abundance of similar-looking creative on TikTok (mostly the user-generated content angle). Brands will need to pivot on what their ads look like, otherwise they’ll get lost in the UGC creative as everyone’s doing the same thing. 

Finally, Tony touches on the possibility of augmented advertising, which you can do in Triple Whale. By creating ads using The Rules Engine, you’re already 80-90% of the way to creating an ad, and you just need a human to come in and refine it so it matches your target audience. So if you’re a marketer looking to save time, save energy, and make more money a lot quicker, then The Rules Engine is the place to make that happen.

Will AI take over? Not completely, according to Tony. He thinks that the best scenario is when AI and an advertiser come together to build the creative. He refers to this phenomenon as the Bionic Advertiser: a human comes in to augment the data compiled by AI. When it comes to AI, a person and a computer together will always beat the computer. So never fear, you still have a ton of work to do! 

In conclusion, ad buying is certainly wild and will remain so well into the future as the landscape continues to change. Tony’s advice is to stay ahead of the game by completing thorough research, testing and iterating your ad creative, and utilizing AI tools that can help take your ads to the next level. 

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