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January 10, 2020

Improvements in algorithms and machine learning systems are continuing to ease and improve the advertisers’ job on major networks like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and even Snapchat. Those platforms have created and encouraged advertising strategies, such as broader targeting, that rely on an automated delivery system to serve up certain ads to the people most likely to respond to them.

Many of these mainstay platforms recommend leaning on machine learning as it’s a great way to achieve your growth goals. But, it does put extra emphasis and pressure on ad creative since it’s one of the last 100% customizable elements advertisers can control. That’s why, as ad networks continue to put more stock in automation, creating and delivering the best creative possible is more important than ever.

How creative quality plays into ad auctions

All of the major online networks use a sophisticated bidding and auction system to determine the best ad to show someone at a certain time. The winning ad is meant to maximize value for the potential customer and the advertiser. For example, Facebook uses a formula that takes into account “estimated action rate” + “user value” when pitting ads head to head in an auction. The ad’s creative can affect estimated action rate by +/- 50% and user value by +/- 10%. So even if Facebook’s algorithms have done a perfect job of finding someone who would be super interested in your product or service, sub-par creative may have reduced delivery and can kill conversions per impressions and drive up costs unnecessarily.

So what does good creative look like?

There’s no one-size-fits-all template for creating the best ad, but there are some tips and best practices you can follow to get your ads in a solid place before you start testing.

Lead with mobile-first video

According to a Facebook-commissioned study from market research company MetrixLab, mobile-first video is almost guaranteed to get you good results. When creating your videos, you should also:

  • Optimize content for :15 or less.
    • This allows your video to run on all placements. But it’s always good to test both long and short form creative.
  • Mention brand and key messages at the beginning of the ad.
    • You often only have a few short seconds to capture the attention of the consumer. Make sure your brand identity and key message are shown upfront.
  • Shoot video vertically so it fills more of the screen
    • We recommend utilizing asset customization in Facebook to optimize the size of your asset to each placement. When selecting sizes for each placement try to choose the one that takes up the most screen space.
  • Use text overlay to show and tell
    • Most users have their sound off so it’s important to include text overlays in your video to drive home your message. This can be in the form of captions, text overlays, calls-to-action, etc.

Source user-generated content (UGC)

Every ad doesn’t have to be made from scratch. In fact, because users don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches in their feeds, ads that look like they might be a friend’s post are more effective. If your brand doesn’t have a ton of user-generated content available, make your own. Instead of an expensive, staged photoshoot, capture a few natural shots of your product using a high-quality phone.

Follow creative best practice by utilizing Asset Placement Customization

Facebook provides a tool called Asset Placement Customization that lets you tailor creative assets to certain placements on Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger. Without the tool, advertisers must create multiple ad sets to satisfy the requirements of each placement. The Asset Placement Customization tool lets you build creative variations that are all contained within a single ad. Using the tool, you can also separate ad creative by placement within the same ad to get a better idea of top-performers.

Nail down a repeatable system

You should be adding new creative to the mix as often as possible, we recommend around two new creatives per week depending on your spend levels. To do that efficiently, establish a system that allows you to replicate creative efficiently. Your approach might include a modular system of start and end cards that have proven to be top performers. Utilizing a modular system allows you to test small variables of new creative without changing your winning formula too much.

Get the most out of testing, iterating, and testing again

Testing might not be an advertiser’s favorite task, but it’s absolutely essential. We won’t go into the benefits of testing because, well, you already know, but there are a few strategies that can help you streamline your process.

First, determine what you want to get out of the testing. Instead of pitting a bunch of ads against each other to weed out low-performers, isolate one variable so that you’re not testing too many things at one time. It’s also best practice to formulate a more defined hypothesis and identify the data you need to prove or disprove it. This approach will yield results that are more actionable and help you determine the best means of testing. Once you isolate your variable and identify your hypothesis, you can choose which format is best to test with. We primarily use A/B testing, creative-only testing, and dynamic creative testing depending on what we want to get out of the test.

Once you have your test results, iterate on your ads depending on what your original hypothesis was, or perhaps it’s shifted as a result of the test. Whichever it may be, make changes according to your hypothesis, and test again.


Here at Bamboo, we use a data-driven creative production and testing approach that relies on hundreds of micro-insights and hypotheses we’ve acquired over thousands of hours of work. If you’re interested, use the form below to get in touch.

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