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Hassle-free design at scale

The Definitive Guide To Digital Ad Design

For noobs and pros alike. Chock-full of best practices, ideas and examples.

Co-authored by:

Amrita Mathur, VP of Marketing

Ben Myhre, Global Creative Director

Table of contents

What is Advertising Design? A Brief OverviewWe're starting at the very beginning before diving into ad design tips and best practices per channel. If you're already an advertising pro, you can skim this section.
Three Predictions in Ad Design for 2021 and BeyondSee what Superside Co-Founder and CEO, Fredrik Thomassen, has to say about the future of ad design. Hint: creative refresh rate will only continue to increase.
What Makes a Great Ad: An End-to-End FrameworkAn effective ad is the sum of many moving parts—creative is just one slice of the ad pie. Learn about the 7 components of a standard ad campaign cycle in this chapter!
Your Ad Design ChecklistWe love a clean checklist. It's got everything we covered in chapter 3 in a convenient, actionable checklist.
Facebook Advertising Guide w/ Outbrain Case StudyWe cover the 4 things all successful Facebook ads have, paired up with an in-depth case study with Outbrain where they go deep audience targeting.
How to Start Advertising on PinterestIt may just be the underdog of ad platforms, especially for B2C companies. We go over Pinterest ad formats, creative best practices and more.
Instagram Advertising Guide w/ TransferWise Case StudyThough similar to Facebook, we go over how both the creative approach and cost differs on Instagram. We also highlight a creative video ad campaign by Trasferwise that saw huge success.
YouTube Advertising Guide w/ Webflow Case StudyLearn all about YouTube ad types, creative best practices and how Webflow saw massive success on the platform with keyword targeting, language mirroring and feature-focused video ads.
Amazon Display Advertising Guide w/ AXE Case StudyEveryone and your grandma is now on Amazon. We cover Amazon seller basics, priorities and best practices, then dive into a winning Axe Body Spray campaign.
Display Ad Design Tips for Maximum ROIDisplay is one of the OG's of digital advertising. From how to approach display ad design, to banner ad design tips, we cover it all in this chapter!
Advertising on Experimental & Emerging ChannelsSnapchat, TikTok, Quora and Reddit—there are tons of ad platforms and channels that advertisers should look to in order to diversify their ad strategy.
Three Tips for Scaling Your Ad DesignWe wrap this guide up with some quick tips and ideas on how to better scale your ad design strategy.
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CHAPTER ONE

What is Advertising Design? A Brief Overview

Before you dive in, make sure to check out our free on-demand event— it's all around the topic of advertising and design. Ad Designpalooza is packed full of sessions for marketers and creatives alike. Hear from Nir Eyal, author of Hooked and Indistractable, and 14 other speakers from Prime Gaming, Square, Crunchbase, Kiva and more.

Watch on-demand >

We're starting at the very beginning before diving into ad design tips and best practices per channel. If you're not new to advertising design, you can just skim through this section! Otherwise, keep reading to get a solid foundation before diving into this guide.

Advertising design is the intersection of marketing and creative.

The purpose of ad design is to sell products and services. Advertising graphic design is informed by:

  • Company narrative and business objectives
  • Brand guidelines
  • Goal setting
  • Audience research and targeting
  • Key messaging
  • Customer experience flow
  • Ad testing and optimization

...not to mention imagination, originality and the will to invest in new ideas that could fail.

Great ad design delivers on your company’s brand promise

An ad is a mechanism you use to build trust with current and future customers.

No one wakes up in the morning excited to see ads. If you’ve paused your daily tasks to grant your attention to an ad, you should be rewarded with an informative, entertaining, and/or delightful experience.

Here are some questions to ask at the beginning of your ideation process to hold your creative team accountable to your audience:

What is success in advertising design?

There are several ways to define success in advertising design. This will vary from company to company, or from one campaign to the next.

When I build a brand, I want to delight people and evoke emotion. Yes, you have your funnel metrics—leads, MQLs, pipeline—but you can’t forget about brand metrics: unaided recall, aided recall, sentiment, share of voice. My shortcut for gauging the potential success of a video at Slack was shockingly simple: show someone the video, see if they smiled, and if they laughed a little I knew I was on to something.
Bill Macaitis, Growth Advisor & Board Member,
 previous CMO & CRO at Slack

Whatever end goal you're looking to achieve should guide and influence your campaign success metrics. From brand awareness to lead generation to content downloads, make sure to decide on your main KPIs before diving into the creative.

01

Campaign metrics

In digital marketing ad design––the focus of this guide––the success of design is attached to measurable campaign metrics. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • Revenue and customer acquisition
  • Leads and opportunities
  • Clickthrough rates
  • Ad impressions
  • Ad engagement: likes, comments and shares

Depending on whether your business is B2C or B2B, your marketing team may emphasize some metrics over others.

Your success metrics also depend on your campaign goals, such as brand awareness or lead/customer acquisition.

02

Brand recall

But what about the success of the ad design itself? Is there a way to isolate design when evaluating the success of an ad campaign?

The answer is, Maybe. It takes a long time. The results are cumulative.

I think the measure of a successful ad is how it contributes to a full-funnel experience. Let’s say you saw a billboard for a product, then later you’re hit with an ad on Instagram for that same product. You remember the billboard, but now you’ve gone one layer deeper with the campaign—maybe in this layer, they tell you about a new feature the billboard only teased at. Cohesive design and originality lead to brand recall, which can lead to fulfilled business objectives.
Jennifer Chan, designer

When a company grows to a certain size after developing a recognizable brand, they can begin to measure brand recall.

Brand recall is the extent to which your audience is able to recognize your brand within various contexts. If you think “smartphone” and automatically think “Apple”, that’s a result of successful brand recall strategies.

For a brand to achieve high brand recall, they need cumulative levels of high ad breakthrough: the ability for your ad to break through the noise of ad saturation.

Here are three design elements that trigger ad breakthrough for higher rates of brand recall:

ad design elements

For example, this campaign by Mailchimp raised brand awareness by developing several multi-channel campaigns based on names that sound like “Mailchimp”. (Did someone say, “Male Crimp?”). This campaign also made it really tough to forget their brand name!

CHAPTER TWO

Three Predictions in Ad Design for 2021 and Beyond

We’d like to begin by getting ahead of ourselves. We’re steeped in design all day, every day, and we’re excited about the future of digital ad design. Below are three 2021 ad design predictions from our CEO Fredrik Thomassen.

01

Brands will need to increase their creative refresh rate

The pandemic has caused most of us to live a larger slice of our lives online. As a result, we’re spending more time on our phones than we did before COVID –– and we’re more susceptible to ad fatigue at faster rates.

In 2018, AdEspresso analyzed 500 campaigns to understand how ad frequency on Facebook affected clickthrough rates and cost per click. The results were … expensive.


Credit: AdEspresso by Hootsuite


Now, during COVID when people are paying even more attention to their screens, audiences are burning through their maximum ad frequencies in a shorter amount of time––and ad fatigue is achieved much more quickly.

And we’re not just talking about millennials or generation Z, who are both known to be screen obsessed. A Canadian study on the impact of COVID on families reported increased screen time of 74% in mothers and 61% in fathers.

CTR depreciation by frequency isn’t the only thing driving the need to refresh ad creative. Facebook and Google want to own targeting on their own platforms, and their algorithms incentivize refreshed advertising content to ensure their users are engaged.

As competition for online attention continues to grow throughout 2021 and beyond, our prediction is that digital marketers will have no choice but to refresh their ad creative more frequently.

02

Demand for ad illustrations and animations will increase as photoshoots become less necessary and more expensive

With the pressure to refresh creative at a faster rate, large-scale photoshoots as a means of production will wane. Expensive photoshoots don’t scale well to prevent ad fatigue.

We predict that in 2021, illustration- and animation-based advertising will surge and brands will feel the pressure to figure out new ways to scale what can be a more expensive medium.

ad prediction

That’s why we also think that the “less is more” approach to illustration will become even more pronounced. Simple illustrations will win over intricate detail and complex animation. To make illustration and animation more scalable, we predict we’ll also see:

  • Muted color palettes
  • Flat icons
  • Creativity with fonts
  • Sparse detail
  • Bold lettering

03

Artificial intelligence in creative ad design will get better… but won’t deliver on originality for a long time

Some people are ready to call it: artificial intelligence is on its way to making paid ad specialists obsolete.

We’re not ready to make that call. While innovations like GPT-3 are indicating that AI could soon write compelling ad copy, we haven’t seen the same level of innovation in generating visual ad campaigns that achieve the originality required to capture an audience’s attention in today’s competitive environment.

AI ad agencies like Pattern89 can make some solid recommendations on images based on past performance analyses at scale. For example, in a Q4 2020 report, Pattern89 states that in September 2020 images of people working in offices were actually trending up in performance––perhaps a nostalgic longing for a time before the pandemic made people click.

While data on image performance is useful to inform production, we’re still staring down a wide chasm between human-powered originality and AI’s ability to produce original ads at scale.

Credit: Rosebud.ai


Companies like Rosebud.ai are offering AI-generated models as a way to cut costs and time on photoshoots for ads. While AI-generated human photography may be useful for depicting basic actions like wearing clothes, that’s still a far cry from an original ad.

AI may be able to generate a headline with an image of a human performing an action, but designers know ad creative must encompass a lot more to get lasting attention.



CHAPTER THREE

What Makes a Great Ad: An End-to-end Framework

Every ad design needs to start with a solid ad framework.

An effective ad is the sum of many moving parts, and creative is just one slice of the ad pie.

Advertising design is the manifestation of what you know about your:

  1. Audience
  2. Business
  3. Product
  4. Brand
  5. Goals

Ad campaigns run in iteration cycles that teach you about what works and what doesn’t. Every step gives you more information about what your future creative should look like.

These are the components that inform a standard ad campaign cycle:

ad campaign cycle

Every step that happens within your external learning playground will generate information for your next campaign cycle. You’ll use that information to optimize your internal work and ultimately your creative output.

In this chapter, we’ll describe how each step of this process flows back to your ad design.

01

Understand your business growth model

It might seem like ad design sits far away from your business growth model. But the best ad designers are the ones who have a clear understanding of your growth model at a high level.

According to GitLab Director of Growth Hila Qu, “A growth model is an equation that tells you what are the different variables in your business and how they work together and translate into growth.”

Wealthfront VP of Growth Andy Johns expresses a basic growth model like this:

growth model

A and B are, in part, driven by ad design.

Your creative testing process will refine how you generate clicks and conversions.

Your end-to-end ad / landing page / acquisition experience will trigger an emotional response to your brand.

To understand your specific growth model, you need to define your North Star Metric: the one outcome you need to grow your company and/or product.

famous north star metrics

Effective, thoughtful ad design is created with your North Star Metric as a driver. Your creative team—whether internal, external or a combination of the two––should be just as obsessed with this metric as your growth team.


Recommendation:

Deconstruct the growth model for your business and review it with your creative team. Pull past campaign examples and explain how ad design helps fuel your growth model.

02

Know your audience—in words and in data

Growth marketers talk a lot about knowing their audience when running ads. But we’re here to tell you that relying on data alone will only get you so far––you also need to do the work and understand the context within which they live.

You are not competing for eyeballs just within your industry. Your customer is seeing ads from Nike and Casper and The North Face and Whole Foods… and those ads may be at a different standard than yours. To be effective, your ads need to live up to what your target audience sees every day—meaning you need to understand what each audience segment is comparing you against in terms of ad creative.
Zontee Hou, Head of Strategy at Convince & Convert

In his famous article about achieving product-market fit, Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra shared four questions he asked users to determine how they felt about his product:

  • How would you feel if you could no longer use Superhuman?
    • Very disappointed
    • Somewhat disappointed
    • Not disappointed
  • What type of people do you think would most benefit from Superhuman?
  • What is the main benefit you receive from Superhuman?
  • How can we improve Superhuman for you?

While the goal of the survey was to find out whether or not Superhuman solved a real problem for its users, it also provided a framework for one of the most important tactics in audience targeting: segmentation.

Superhuman discovered that 22% of its users would feel “very disappointed” if they could no longer use the product.

While not an ideal number, the data allowed Superhuman to understand who made up that 22% of superfans so they could target more people like them.

From there, Superhuman developed personas based on job title––their first targeting parameter for audience growth. The segmentation allowed them to focus on founders, managers, executives and business development : the superfans whose problems they could now focus on solving.

Defining your audiences

But before you hop onto Facebook Ads Manager or Google Ads and begin building audiences, do this first:

  • Talk to your customers and/or potential customers. Don’t just send out surveys. Have conversations with people. Learn their struggles. Find out how they talk about those struggles. Pick up their vocabulary.
    What you’ll get: The right words for ad copy. Creative concept ideas.
  • Send customer surveys. Make them short and thematic. Send one that asks about their interests. Send others that ask where they spend their time online. Be curious, but don’t harass.
    What you’ll get: Audience targeting parameters for your digital ads.
  • Assess how much your audience knows about the problem you’re trying to solve. If they don’t know much, that means your ads should focus on education.
    What you’ll get: Information on whether your ads should educate or convert.

When defining an audience, master growth marketer Julian Shapiro starts with the “Ladder of Product Awareness”. The LPA lets you assess an audience based on awareness and need for your product.

To start, you’ll want to focus on audiences that sit at the top end of the ladder. They take the least amount of work to convert.

A rule of thumb, especially for B2B, is an audience size of 200,000. Any smaller and the channel may not be a primary driver of growth for your business. But you can still:

  • Retarget website visitors
  • Target sales leads with content
  • Run brand awareness campaigns to encourage word of mouth
  • Build lookalike audiences with high-value customer lists

And how you slice the data is up to you. Ehud Basis, head of growth marketing at Outbrain, recommends seeding lookalike audiences based on high-value customers:

We’re creating lookalike audiences based on our high-value audiences of advertisers who spend a certain amount. Then we’re slicing those audiences with interest targeting based on our creative. Let’s say our ad shows an image of a basketball. We’re slicing those high-value lookalike audiences with a basketball interest parameter so we’re narrowing the audience even further.
Ehud Basis, Head of Growth Marketing

Recommendations:

  1. Share audience conversation transcripts and survey data with your design team
  2. Show how past creative addressed audience pain points
  3. Walk your creative team through your audience targeting strategies per channel
  4. Build a visual landscape of the ads your segmented audiences see every day
03

Align your concept, copy and creative with your audience targeting

Designers, cover your eyes: a great ad isn’t necessarily about stellar graphic design.

Depending on your goals, audience and concept, a polished ad with by-the-book design aesthetic may not even be an optimal approach.

Your ad concept, copy and design should instead focus on demonstrating your value propositions.

Your value prop is the benefit your customer receives when they use your product or service. Successful ad campaigns are laser focused on how they can best demonstrate benefits to their audiences.

B2B copy tip

Wealthsimple, for example, mentions their value prop of simplicity three times within this ad: in the description text, the image itself and the headline. Why? Because crypto (or cryptocurrency) can seem intimidating to many. But if you use Wealthsimple, purchasing crypto can be simple.

wealthsimple ad


Asana positions their product as a way to prepare teams for an uncertain future, and they reinforce the message in two ways: “prepare your team for what comes next” and “Make plans your team can count on.”

Asana advertisement

Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Gannett, describes the importance of creative and messaging perfectly in this post:

How to brainstorm ad concepts based on value props:

  1. List all the benefits of your product or service
  2. Map an audience pain point to each benefit
  3. Write a sentence that addresses the concern and highlights the benefit. Example: “Even if your team isn’t in the same place, your work can be. Where there’s Asana, there’s a way to stay organized.”
  4. Repeat steps 1–3 with all benefits. Write three versions for each benefit
  5. For each sentence, identify an emotion you would like to trigger with an image or video
  6. With your design team, brainstorm images or video concepts that map to each sentence’s content and desired emotion

When you reach the design stage of this process, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Use stock images thoughtfully. Choose an image that evokes emotion and shows the benefit.

I think your hero image is ten times more important than the copy. Can you explain what you do via a visual versus writing it out? Your ads and website should be able to pass the five-second test: someone should know exactly what you do after seeing your offer for just five seconds.
Bill Macaitis, Growth Advisor & Board Member,
previous CMO & CRO at Slack

While authentic imagery or emotive illustrations are always preferred, we understand that resources often require the use of stock images.

If you’re using stock photos, alter them with design to make the photos unique to your brand, either with color filters or other design elements specific to your brand guidelines.

But if you have the resources, invest in producing original images that best demonstrate the benefits of your product or service.

Focus on imagery that:

  • Amplifies the emotion you identified for each benefit
  • Depicts the desired outcome of your product’s benefit
  • Shows your audience enjoying the benefits of your product

Note that humans respond better to images when they contain faces. But depending on your brand, the image may be an illustration with a bold tagline or a photo that speaks for itself. Here are some examples:


glossier and openooor advertising examples

Large type and punchy taglines get attention

When you’re designing for mobile, you need to assume no one will read text that is long or text that is small. According to Facebook, people spend, on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use text as part of your ad––you just need to make sure it’s bold, creative and has purpose.

Great copy that gets attention demonstrates a clear value prop and keeps it simple—no one wants to read a wall of copy in a banner ad. Avoid all caps and don't use thin or cursive fonts. The copy will get lost otherwise!
Ben Myhre, VP of Design

For example, this ad by shoe brand Avia uses text to demonstrate one of its benefits: leaving behind stress to carve out personal time to run.


Credit: Avia


Map color to emotions and make use of color contrast


Color and contrast can make or break an effective ad and an effective landing page (more on landing pages later).

Your brain associates certain colors with certain emotions. Warm colors like red and yellow are more likely to inspire action while cool colors like green, blue and purple make people feel calm. In one survey, 85% of people cite color as a main reason for a purchase.

Through a lot of A/B testing, we discovered that proper contrast is so important to an ad. If you use a white background, you need a stroke around the banner or it'll blend into the background and get lost.
Ben Myhre, VP of Design

Color contrast can also help draw the eye to a particular section of a page or ad. Check out this Ritual ad for vitamins: bright yellow everywhere, except for the blue CTA button.


Ritual vitamin ad


Design for accessibility

In the U.S., one in four people live with a disability. If you’re not designing with accessibility in mind, you may be alienating a large portion of your audience.

Accessible design benefits everyone. For example, when you’re releasing a video ad, you can assume most people are watching without sound. Always use closed captioning when releasing a video ad.

For people who are visually impaired, color contrast can make or break their ability to see the ad. To check the viability of your color contrast for text against background, use the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker.


Recommendations:

  • Align your ad concept and creative to your value props
  • Use authentic images that show the benefits of your product
  • Create a five-second test for your ad
  • Limit taglines to three words and use large fonts within your creative
  • Map colors to desired emotional triggers and use contrast to draw attention
  • Use closed captioning on all video ads
  • Use a color contrast checker when designing ads using several colors
04

Test your ad creative

Always develop several versions of your ad creative. You won’t know what works until you test it. When you’re testing ad creative, you’re running experiments to determine the right combination of:

  • Imagery
  • Headlines
  • Ad copy
  • Calls to action
  • Placements

For clean results, you’ll want to start by testing one variable at a time. That means, for example, testing several images against each other, but keeping all copy the same. When you have a clear winner, you can move on to testing headlines, then ad copy, then CTAs, then placements.

Imagery is the most important component of an ad, so we recommend testing your visual components first.

For faster results, you also have the option to run multivariate tests that test ad components in various combinations. Multivariate tests look something like this:

  • Text A + Image A
  • Text B + Image A
  • Text A + Image B
  • Text B + Image B

Here are three tips for your first round of testing.

1. Test cold audiences against warmer audiences

“Cold” audiences are ones who are fresh to your brand––they haven’t interacted with you, but you’re targeting them based on their profile.

“Warm” audiences are retargeting pools you’ve built based on interactions with past ads or lookalike audiences based on existing high-value customers.


2. Test geo-specific targeting

At Slack we would run campaigns in specific target cities, and we would measure those campaigns against cities that didn’t get the campaign. Then we would look at brand lift and baseline lead growth in the control city compared to the target city that received the campaign. If we saw that the campaign city got 20% more leads and a lift in unaided brand recall, we could feel more confident about attributing success to the campaign.
Bill Macaitis, Growth Advisor & Board Member,
previous CMO & CRO at Slack

3. Test 4–5 ads against each other and monitor impression benchmarks

Let CPA creep up, but monitor results during the test. When the test is over, assess the results based on clickthrough rate and CPA, cross-referencing results between audiences and placements.

Remember: Never stop tweaking your ad creative. Fresh creative is your best bet to avoiding ad fatigue, which causes clickthrough rates to decrease and cost per acquisition (CPA) to increase.


Recommendation:

  • Test one variable at a time: imagery, headline, copy, CTA, placements.
  • Allocate a significant portion of your total advertising budget to testing creative.
  • Test 4–5 visuals against each other and monitor for high impressions for concrete results.
  • Cross-check results against Google Analytics.
  • Use dynamic creative only if all creative components make sense together.
05

Optimize your landing page

Your ad creative isn’t only about the ad itself––it’s also about the experience on the other side of the click. Your landing page is where you seal the deal and turn a click into a conversion. Optimizing your landing pages is just as important, if not more so, than optimizing your ad design.

The difference between a landing page and a web page is singularity. You want people to browse a website, so you offer them several places to click. You offer choice.

Landing pages limit those choices to one: converting on a call-to-action button.

Here are the basic components of a landing page:

  • Headline: Describe your value proposition
  • Image: Show your product and/or trigger an emotional reaction
  • Copy: Explain features and your offer
  • Social proof: Testimonials, logos, awards, etc.
  • Lead capture form: Only include fields that are necessary for the offer
  • CTA button: Personal, actionable and visible with color contrast

Here’s what this looks like for Slack on mobile:

Slack mobile ad


According to Bill Macaitis, Slack’s previous CMO, Slack tested approximately 40 versions of their homepage before settling on the correct headline, CTA and creative elements. They also tested whether or not to include video, in addition to homepage length.

So don’t be discouraged if your landing pages don’t perform well out of the gate: the most established and successful brands are relentless about testing each foundational design element of their landing pages until they hit the jackpot.

Design tactics for landing pages

While every landing page is different, designers and growth marketers follow a set of best practices that have been proven to improve conversion rates. Here’s what we recommend:

Use thoughtful CTA button color contrast

Your CTA button is the action point on your landing page. It should stand out like a sore thumb.

Draw the eye to your CTA button with high color contrast. Your CTA button’s color should be the most appealing of your brand color palette.

Check out this example from Shopify: almost everything on the page is black and white, but they’ve chosen a neon green CTA button that you couldn’t ignore if you tried.

Shopify Plus mobile advertisement

Commit to above-the-fold simplicity

Commit to simplicity when you’re building your landing pages.

Your audience may need more information to convert, but challenge yourself not to provide so much that your page looks too complex. The space above the fold should entice people to scroll and digest more information if they want to.

Shorten your copy. Minimize form fields. Make sure your headline is specific and powerful.

This example by Grammarly is bare bones but effective: all they need is a headline, product shot, short description copy, and social proof to get their message across.

Landing page example from Grammarly

Use scarcity techniques

Create perceived value by tweaking your offer so that it’s limited in some way.

Instapage creates scarcity by adding a countdown timer to their webinar signup landing page, but there are many ways to create a sense of urgency:

  • “while supplies last”
  • “limited time offer”
  • “open for one week only”
  • “special offer”
ad urgency tactic by Instapage


Test multiple form types

You may want to collect a lot of information about a person when they convert on a landing page. But do you need that much information? And do you need it right away?

Your goal may be to collect high-quality leads who are ready to purchase. In that case, a longer form may weed out people who aren’t ready to buy.

But if your goal is to collect a higher number of leads you can nurture down the funnel, consider limiting your form fields to only what’s necessary to move the prospect forward.

Consider testing two methods:

  1. Progressive profiling: Use progressive profiling to collect information on your leads in stages. You may only ask for an email address to start, but tracking pixels on your landing page can then surface additional form fields when a prospect interacts with your site again.
  2. Multi-step forms: Unbounce recommends using multi-step forms to reduce friction. When you start with one field and build your form like a quiz, people may be more likely to provide more information because they’ve already completed a first step.
Credit: Unbounce


Use directional cues

Let’s say you’re walking down the street. You see a group of people gathered on the sidewalk, looking in one direction. Your gaze will follow theirs because you’ll want to see what all the fuss is about.

Our brains are hard-wired to follow lines of sight. You can replicate this on a landing page with an image.

Square’s landing page draws your eye to the product because someone is physically holding it:

directional cue header image by Square

Show your product at its best

If you’re in e-commerce, you understand the importance of the product page. We think more landing pages could look like product pages by showing the benefits of the core product with interesting design.

Bellroy created a slider that shows its unique value proposition: a slim wallet that doesn’t take up a ton of room in your pocket.

creative landing page design

Optimize for mobile

Your conversion metrics by device will determine how important it is for your landing pages to be optimized for mobile, but cross-device purchasing behavior is becoming more prevalent among consumers.

People often browse on mobile, then convert on desktop. But as mobile experiences are improving, more people are converting on mobile.

Criteo found that cross-device purchasers are 20% more likely to buy on mobile than other platforms. So make sure you test your landing page experience on mobile before launch.

Country Chic Paint optimized for mobile with a clear headline, clean CTA and product shot that shows the user exactly what they’re getting when they convert. The best mobile landing pages are the simplest––they commit to a bare-bones approach to showing benefits and enticing the user to click on what matters.

Advertising inspiration



CHAPTER FOUR

Your Ad Design Checklist

We love a clean checklist. Below is everything we covered in the previous chapter in a convenient, actionable checklist.

You can also download this checklist as a PDF!

Business objectives and growth model

Understand your company’s growth model
Identify magic moments within growth model to trigger emotional responses
Identify your company’s North Star Metric
Review your growth model and North Star Metric with your creative team
Tear down past ad campaigns and explain how they fed your company’s growth model



Audience targeting

Audience research

Schedule conversations with your superfan customers.
Record customer interviews and share them with your team.
Make a list of recurrent words from your customers about their pain points and goals.
Formulate hypotheses about your customers and develop surveys for them.
Assess your core audience’s awareness of your product and need for your product.
Build a visual landscape of the ads your segmented audiences see every day.
Determine your strategy: educational ads or conversion ads.


Audience discovery

Choose 3-4 channels to test for your business.
Perform keyword research for SEO and SEM strategies.
Use Facebook Audience Insights to assess targeting parameters and audience size.
Share your audience targeting strategies with your creative team.


Audience building

Build custom audiences based on interest, demographics and lifestyle
Build lookalike audiences based on high-value customers, high-quality leads and/or website visitors



Ad creative

Concept

Create a database of competitor ads.
List the benefits highlighted in your competitor ads.
List your audience’s main pain points.
List all the benefits of your product or service that address audience pain points.
Pull out the benefits that differentiate your company from its competitors.

Copy

Write three headlines for each product differentiator.
Edit each headline for specificity.
Edit each headline for an emotional trigger.
Edit each headline for brevity.
Identify a desired emotion for each headline.

Imagery

Present each headline and its corresponding emotion to your design team.
Brainstorm imagery that maps to each headline emotion.
Stay away from stock photos and prioritize images with faces.
Choose bold, chunky font for text included within ad imagery.
Map ad colors to desired emotional triggers.
Check ad accessibility with the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker.
Develop 3–4 concepts for each product benefit.
Create a five-second test for your ad.


Ad testing

Allocate a significant portion of your total advertising budget to testing creative.
Test 4–5 images against each other and monitor for impressions.
Test winning image with two different headlines.
Test winning image and winning headlines with two different ad copies
Test winning image, headline and ad copy with two different CTAs.
Test winning ad in several placements.
Test winning ad placements with different audiences.
Assess results against goals: clickthrough or conversion rates.
Cross-check results against Google Analytics for deeper insights and possible discrepancies.
Test various media against each other: video, images, carousels.
Try dynamic creative for faster results.


Landing pages

Create three versions of your landing page: headline, image, copy, social proof, lead capture form, CTA.
Implement a heatmap tool like Hotjar to track landing page performance.
Use high color contrast for your CTA button.
Simplify the space above the fold to include the bare necessities: headline, image, CTA button.
Use scarcity techniques to improve conversion through urgency.
Test multiple form types: straightforward, progressive profiling and multi-step forms.
Use directional cues to draw the eye to your CTA button.
Show your product benefit through a strong image.
Optimize and test your landing page for mobile performance and conversion.




CHAPTER FIVE

Facebook Advertising Guide w/ Outbrain Case Study

Facebook is one of the most effective digital ad channels available to marketers. B2C and B2B businesses alike advertise on Facebook for their advanced targeting features, dynamic creative optimization and placement options.

The Success of a Facebook Ad is a Result of Four Things:

  1. Laser-focused audience targeting
  2. Smart, creative design process
  3. Creative asset testing and optimization
  4. High creative refresh rate

Data-driven marketing expert Jeff Sauer analyzed 10,103 Facebook ads from top advertisers and discovered:

  • Using words like new, now, free, more, and up work because they provoke urgency
  • Successful Facebook ads run for a median of 11 days––and large companies benefit from the resources to refresh their content more than SMBs
  • Short headlines (1-3 words) and description copy lead to more successful ads
  • Video is a must to keep up with top advertisers

And just last year, Facebook released their Breakthrough Brands 2020: Six Creative Behaviors for Driving Business Impact report, concluding that brands that saw high levels of success on Facebook created ads that:

  • Open a dialogue: Ideas people can see, touch, try on and identify with
  • Cultivate culture: Ideas and cultural artifacts that weave into the zeitgeist
  • Serve others: Ideas that voice advocacy on behalf of others
  • Astound communities: Ideas built to connect deeply and resonate broadly
  • Break the mold: Ideas that smash category stereotypes and trope
  • Push the purpose: Ideas that throw the brand’s objectives into sharp relief

But here’s what we know without a shadow of a doubt: what works for one brand may not work for yours. What resonates with someone else’s audience may not resonate with yours.

That’s why Facebook ad creative will always be an art and a science. And the only way you’ll know what works for your brand is through testing and optimization.

When you’re testing several ads against each other, here are the results you’ll want to see for one ad to be declared the winner:

  • Two ads: 65%+
  • Three ads: 40%+
  • Four ads: 35%+
  • Five ads: 30%+

In this section, we’ll show you what success looks like on Facebook so you can replicate elements for your own ads.

For some more Facebook ad best practices, see the audience targeting and ad testing sections in chapter 3.



Outbrain’s Winning Lookalike Audience Slice and Dice


Industry: B2B — Advertising technology

Mission: Outbrain helps brands and agencies connect with one-third of the world's consumers engaging with content on the open web. Outbrain develops the feed technology that makes the act of exploring and discovering new things on the open web possible.

Target audience: Performance marketers

Size of creative team: 4


The goal

North Star Metric: User acquisition and low CPA

Phase 1 goal: Hit CTR benchmark of 2% within first few hours of campaign

Phase 2 goal: Maintain target conversion benchmarks for registrations to self-serve ad platform


The creative concept

Outbrain’s unique value proposition is its deep audience targeting functionality.

While social media ad platforms target audiences based on the interests they make public, Outbrain’s proprietary audience targeting algorithm reaches beyond what people share to serve hyper-relevant ads based on online behavior.

Outbrain’s “Shadow Campaign” uses strong imagery to communicate that each of us is more than what we share––we each have a shadow that represents our true interests, motivations and pain points.


Outbrain Facebook Ad


Facebook Ad Example by Outbrain


Clever Facebook Ad Design


Performing Facebook ad by Outbrain


How Outbrain succeeds on Facebook

Outbrain’s recipe for Facebook success is more science than art––unsurprising for a business that specializes in granular audience targeting.

Here’s what they got right:


1. Outbrain superimposes interest targeting with matching imagery on top of high-value lookalike audiences.

Outbrain designs creative assets based on their audience interest targeting parameters. Then they import high-value lookalike audiences––a list of customers who spend high amounts on Outbrain ads––and slice that audience with interest parameters to narrow its focus.

For example, if the ad image is a surfboard, Outbrain will include “surfing” as an audience interest parameter. While the interest is broad, it cuts their lookalike audience from 2 million to 1 million and produces a higher CTR. The end result is a larger retargeting pool that produces higher quality leads.


2. Outbrain uses dynamic creative optimization for a phased ad testing approach.

Outbrain doesn’t have a massive budget to spend on ad testing. So they’ve opted to use Facebook’s dynamic creative optimization feature to test the following ad components:

  • Light vs. dark background
  • Headlines
  • Rectangle or square size
  • Static image vs. animated

They limit their testing phase to four creative assets to see results faster.

I never use a white background for ads anymore. White backgrounds blend too well in Facebook’s feed, and this isn’t what we want for our creative. Assets should stand out amongst all the feed noise.
Ben Hazan, Senior UX Designer


3. Outbrain uses motion to create animated ads with less resources.

Outbrain has discovered that animated videos win approximately 75% of ad tests, with lower CPMs and higher CTRs. But, since more resources are needed to create a full fledged animation, Outbrain “cheats” by layering motion elements on top of static images to catch the user’s eye. The result is higher engagement with not much more effort.

Animated advertisement


Benchmark targets

Clickthrough rate: 2%+

Retargeting clickthrough rate: 6%–7%

My most important tip for designers is to be open to feedback. If the campaign manager feels the creative isn't fulfilling its goal, ask thoughtful questions to optimize the campaign. Design on social is not an accurate science, so you should always be A/B testing and following results.
Ben Hazan, Senior UX Designer



Facebook Benchmarks


Wondering if your Facebook ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from the end of 2019.

Source: Q4 2019 Paid Media Benchmark Report

CHAPTER SIX

Pinterest Advertising Guide

Pinterest: it may just be the underdog of ad platforms. Especially for B2C companies, Pinterest ads are an opportunity to show your product to people who are ready to buy.

The Pinterest audience––otherwise known as “pinners”—are looking for items and ideas that can solve a problem and/or make their lives better or easier.

Buying intent is built into the Pinterest ethos.

Pinterest shopping behaviours

Source: KPCB


While men do spend time on Pinterest, more than two-thirds of Pinterest users are women. According to a study by ComScore, 8 out of 10 moms are Pinterest users.

Naturally, B2C companies see the most success on Pinterest. According to Hootsuite, Pinterest saw increased search volume in 2020 for:

  • Outdoor bars: +2,795%
  • Indian living rooms: +2,080%
  • Indoor water fountains: +917%
  • Audio room: +803%
  • Australian landscaping: +784%
  • Home coffee stations: +751%
  • Japanese soaking tubs: +563%
  • French antiques: +384%
  • Home theaters: +368%
  • Spanish bathrooms: +309%
  • Microgreens growing indoors: +223%


On the tailwinds of B2C brands, some B2B companies are also starting to use Pinterest ads. Due to the visual nature of the platform, most of what you need to advertise successfully on Pinterest lies in the quality of your visuals.

Pinterest’s core value is its conduit to the aspirational “how” of life: how to decorate your home in a way that will make people talk at a party, how to dress in a way that will make you feel good inside your skin, how to live an environmentally sustainable life.

If you can showcase your product or service with imagery that clearly communicates how you can solve a problem for prospects, you may want to consider using Pinterest for brand awareness, or even conversions.

Here’s what you need to know about ad design to see success on Pinterest.

Pinterest Ad Formats

1. Shopping Pin ads


According to Hootsuite, shopping is the second most frequent activity for Pinterest users after viewing a Pin. Compared to Facebook, where shopping is the seventh most popular activity, Pinterest blows the platform out of the water when it comes to buying intent.

Similar to Instagram, Pinterest introduced Shopping features to its feed so that direct-to-consumer brands could take advantage of one-click purchasing behaviour. Shopping Pin ads are perhaps the most conducive to conversions because they create a mini-product page inside the app.

Check out this example from Fabletics. They created a mini-website experience within Pinterest to encourage browsing, just like you would encounter on their main site.

Fabletics Pinterest shopping pin ad


Floor & Decor tripled their sales performance in nine months with Shopping Pin ads by testing a wide array of products, then adding product details to the ones that performed the best.


2. Standard Pins


According to Omnicore, more than 83% of weekly Pinterest users in the U.S. buy products based on Pins they see from brands.

A Standard Pin ad is the simplest way to get attention on Pinterest. The success of this ad format lies in whether or not you can communicate a solution to a problem with a single image and some eye-catching text.

The Keg, while using imagery to entice users, still includes bold text that speaks directly to a timely pain point: the lack of access to fine dining experiences during the pandemic. It's clear and to the point, while exciting the viewer with a nice visual.

standard pin ad example


As users save your Standard Pin ad to their board, the “Promoted by” label disappears and becomes an organic part of their board. So make sure your ad design fits the aesthetic of a typical board: beautiful, aspirational and actionable.


3. Carousel ads


Carousel ads on Pinterest are great for when you need to expand on a “how”: how a product solves a problem or how a product can create something delightful for the customer.

Tanqueray used carousel ads to serve up recipes to pinners who love cocktails. This is perfect for pinning because the user has a reason to refer back to the ad later.

That’s what makes an ad successful on Pinterest: its potential for more views on someone’s board, triggered by the need for information that offers real value.

carousel pin ad example



Carousel ad specs:

  • Image count: 2-5
  • Maximum file size: 32 MB per image
  • Aspect ratio: 1:1 or 2:3


4. Video Pin ads


According to Pinterest, 53% of pinners are more likely to purchase a product after seeing a video ad.

Video Pin ads don’t need to be fancy, but they do need to be silent. The user experience on Pinterest is decidedly bite-sized and meant to mimic a scrapbook––think of your video as a small scrap of information that could be pinned in a notebook or on a piece of Bristol board.

Check out this example from Brita. They use bright colours and chunky text to draw the user in, then hit hard with a contrasting clip of a plastic water bottle polluting the ocean.

Within six seconds, Brita is able to communicate an existential problem while positioning itself as a potential solution to that problem.

video pin ad on Pinterest


Video Pin ad specs

  • File type: .mp4, .mov or .m4v
  • Maximum file size: Up to 2 G
  • Video length: Minimum four seconds, maximum 15 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: Shorter than 1:2 (width:height), taller than 1.91:1



Pinterest Ad Design Tips

More than other ad platforms, Pinterest’s core value is to inspire people to live their best life. Unlike Instagram, where people curate their own life through photos, Pinterest encourages content curation for a concrete purpose: to help them achieve a goal or create tangible change.

With this in mind, here are some design tips to help you lean into the platform’s purpose, so that you’re creating ads people want to pin.


1. Show an aspirational outcome


Beautiful product shots will only get you so far on Pinterest. While high production quality does seem to matter on Pinterest, the real key to success is an eye-catching photo or video that shows what life is like with your product in it. Think lifestyle photography versus a standard headshot—Pinterest visuals need to tell a story.

advertising design rule

And the proof is in the data: pins that show a product in action are 67% more likely to drive sales. Even more, promoted pins that align with life moments and holidays trigger a 22% lift in sales overall.


Silk Pinterest advertisement


2. Be useful


On Facebook, people want to connect with their friends. On Instagram, people want to show how they live. On Pinterest, people want tips on how to solve a problem or live a better life.

Pinterest is similar to Google search in that users are engaging in seeking behaviour. That’s why people develop SEO strategies for Pinterest: users are searching for solutions in the form of visuals they can refer back to and build on.

Consider your Pinterest ads like visual Google search ads––they should be optimized to draw the user in with a solution to a problem.

Check out this example from Squarespace. While Squarespace’s ad is text only, the copy is large against a solid colour background, and promises the viewer a solution to a problem. Users have an incentive to pin the post to their own board so they can refer back to it later––and if they do, the “Promoted by” tag disappears and becomes an organic post.

Squarespace ad example


3. Beg to be curated


Aspirational and useful content leads to the ultimate Pinterest compliment: curation.

Pinterest users curate their boards like they would a notebook: as a collection of their best ideas and inspiration.

Lean into that reality for your ad design. When you’re designing an ad campaign for Pinterest, your North Star goal may be conversions––but don’t forget that a pin is a loud precursor to success.

Check out this example from Crown Royal. The brand knows people are looking for seasonal cocktail recipes for the holidays, so they’re running recipe ads that can easily be curated on someone’s “ideal Christmas holiday food & bev” board.

Pinterest good ad example



Pinterest Benchmarks


Wondering if your Pinterest ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from the end of 2019.

CPC: $1.28
CPM: $6.85
CTR: 0.59%

Source: Q4 2019 Paid Media Benchmark Report

CHAPTER SEVEN

Instagram Advertising Guide w/ TransferWise Case Study

Instagram is arguably the world’s most powerful social media ad platform.

According to a recent study from Impact, 72% of Instagram users report buying a product after seeing it on Instagram.

If you know how to run a Facebook ad, you know how to set up an Instagram ad––Instagram ads are run through Facebook Ads Manager.

Creative: Facebook vs. Instagram

When you’re running Instagram ads, you’ll need to understand some basics about ad design that are fundamentally different from Facebook.

  1. Instagram Story animation graphics: If you’re advertising with Instagram Stories, movement matters. Keep it simple by animating text, making a gif or filming a simple boomerang.
  2. Test one image vs. a carousel: If you’re advertising through Instagram’s main feed, consider testing one image against a carousel. Carousels are great for products with multiple value props, and Instagram will automatically place each image in the most successful order.
  3. Instagram Shopping: If you’re running ads for a B2C, Instagram introduced new Shopping features to make it easier for people to buy direct from the platform. They even made a whole tab for it in 2020! Make sure your account is set up as a Business account, and connect your product catalogue to Instagram to take full advantage of new features.

Cost: Facebook vs. Instagram

According to Tinuiti, Instagram ads see about 10 times the engagement of a Facebook ad. As a result, Instagram ads are slightly more expensive.

If you’re looking for a cost benchmark, the average CPC on Instagram is approximately $0.70 to $1. But if you’re operating within a particularly competitive space, you could see a CPC of up to $5!

In this section, we’ll show you what success looks like on Instagram so you can replicate elements for your own ads––and hopefully keep costs low as you learn what works for your brand.

For more Instagram ad best practices, see the audience targeting and ad testing sections in chapter 3.



How TransferWise’s Clever Recipe Video Adaptation Generated 9,000 Registrations


Industry: Payments

Mission: A cheaper, faster way to send money abroad.

Target audience: SMBs—"For people and businesses without borders."

Size of creative team: ~7


The goal

North star metric: New registrations

Additional success indicator: Impressions and CTR


The creative concept

TransferWise’s unique value proposition is the simplicity of its money transfer app––a breath of fresh air in an industry known for its muddy fine print.

To demonstrate how simple it is to use TransferWise, the creative team borrowed from a tried-and-true format already beloved on Instagram: recipe videos.

The concept was simple: if someone could run through an entire recipe in 30 seconds, TransferWise should be able to show the entire experience of sending money on their app in the same amount of time.

Combined with a travel theme that spoke to their core audience of digital nomads, the campaign was a hit with 9,000 people who clicked through to sign up.

How TransferWise succeeds on Instagram

1. TransferWise plays by Instagram’s creative rules—and wins.

TransferWise’s unique value proposition is the simplicity of its money transfer app—a breath of fresh air in an industry known for its muddy fine print.

To demonstrate how simple it is to use TransferWise, the creative team borrowed from a tried-and-true format already beloved on Instagram: recipe videos.

The concept was simple: if someone could run through an entire recipe in 30 seconds, TransferWise should be able to show the entire experience of sending money on their app in the same amount of time.

Combined with a travel theme that spoke to their core audience of digital nomads, the campaign was a hit with 9,000 people who clicked through to sign up.


2. TransferWise commits to creative simplicity.

TransferWise has a clear unique value proposition: they make the process of transferring money across currencies simple and cheap.

The ad is:

  • Playful and easy to digest in 15 seconds
  • Uses large text and sparse language
  • Features a complete product demo that demonstrates its core value prop

The Instagram campaign mirrors its PR strategy: the company’s messaging is so simple compared to the hidden fine print of banks that the viewer is encouraged to take mental shortcuts. They choose TransferWise because they’ve built a reputation of being fast, cheap and convenient.

3. TransferWise features their customers.

The TransferWise target audience is “people and businesses without borders”.

The ad features its same target audience from the perspective of the user, so that viewers can envision themselves as traveling and using the app in a restaurant while they’re on the go.


The results

New registrations: 9,000

Reach: 50+ million viewers

Instagram Stories has been a game-changer in how TransferWise has run its paid social efforts in the last 15 months, scaling bespoke creative production for Stories from 0 to over 150. It has given us the opportunity to push our creative boundaries to unprecedented heights, allowing us to reach over 50 million people globally in a new, exciting and engaging format.
Vittorio Boccanera, Paid Social Operational Lead


Instagram Benchmarks


Wondering if your Instagram ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from the end of 2019.

Instagram Stories

CPC: $1.84
CPM: $7.99
CTR: 0.41%

Instagram Feed

CPC: $1.53
CPM: $6.81
CTR: $0.44

CHAPTER EIGHT

YouTube Advertising Guide w/ Webflow Case Study

YouTube ads may feel daunting because video requires a higher investment than other ad formats.

But with more than 2 billion monthly active users, YouTube’s user base is almost as large as Facebook’s––and your company may be missing out on a large opportunity by not advertising on the platform.

You can think of YouTube as a video search engine. When you advertise on YouTube, you have access to keyword targeting features across Google properties, including search history outside of YouTube. Marketers can then use this data to target in market and custom-intent audiences on the video platform.

YouTube offers several ad types to advertisers. Here’s what you need to know about YouTube ad formats:


Skippable in-stream ads

  • Video length recommendation: 12 seconds minimum, 3 minutes maximum
  • Placement: Before, during, and after a video plays on YouTube

The most common types of bidding for this ad type are:

  • CPV bidding: You only pay for 30-second+ views or clicks
  • CPM bidding: You pay for impressions


Bumper ads

  • Video length recommendation: 6 seconds maximum
  • Placement: Before, during and after a video plays on YouTube
  • CPM bidding: You pay for impressions
  • Ad extension option: Add URLs to help with user navigation to your website


Credit: AdEspresso


Non-skippable in-stream ads

  • Video length recommendation: 15 seconds maximum
  • Placement: Before, during and after a video plays on YouTube
  • CPM bidding: You pay for impressions
  • Ad extension option: Add URLs to help with user navigation to your website


TrueView Video Discovery ads

  • Video length recommendation: 12 seconds maximum
  • Placement: YouTube app feed or on the YouTube desktop home page
  • CPM bidding: 100 Characters
  • Ad extension option: 2x 35 Characters


YouTube Masthead ads

  • Placement: Autoplaying video header at the top of the YouTube app feed or on the desktop homepage
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or higher
  • Headline: 23 characters
  • Description: Up to 62 characters
  • CTA button: 10 characters or less
  • Buying models: Cost-per-day (CPD) or CPM (reserve with Google representative)



YouTube Creative Best Practices


Is there a magic formula for making sure viewers will watch your entire ad and click through to your website?

No, but we can offer some solid best practices that will increase the likelihood that your ad will be compelling enough to watch.

Here are some creative best practices for producing the best YouTube ad you can make.


1. Use a story arc.


You’re probably familiar with the classic story arc:

Story arc


Great YouTube ads follow a similar narrative arc, but repurposed to showcase your product or service:

YouTube advertising tip


The formula may appear dry at first glance, but it doesn’t have to be. This ad by Progressive Insurance plays with this formula in the best of ways: with humor.


Some people take a shortcut and lop off the first step: establishing the problem. Only do this if the problem you’re solving is well-known among your audience. If you’re still educating your audience about the problem your product is solving, we don’t recommend taking this shortcut.

This TurboTax ad ranked fifth in YouTube’s 2020 leaderboard for most watched ads of the year. They don’t need to establish the problem they’re solving––people already think doing their taxes is a nuisance.



2. Quicken the pace.


A YouTube ad is different from a short film: you don’t have the luxury of lingering on a beautiful shot, no matter how visually appealing it is.

Successful YouTube ads move quickly. Consider including two or more shots within the first five seconds to keep viewers pulled in and visually engaged.


3. Use tight framing to focus on faces and objects.


Again, you won’t have time for sweeping wide shots in your YouTube ads. While beautiful, wide shots aren’t conducive to showcasing your product.

You’ll want to use as many closeup shots as possible to amplify your solution.

Want more YouTube creative best practices? Learn Google’s recommendations here.




How Webflow Scales High-Quality, Feature-Focused Videos on YouTube


Industry: Content management system

Mission: Webflow empowers designers to build professional, custom websites in a completely visual canvas.

Target audience: Web designers

Size of creative team: 10+


The goal


North star metric: Signups

Additional signals: Plan upgrades and retention rates


The creative concept


Webflow knows their audience: technical web designers who live by terms like “visual CMS”, “custom content structure”, and “semantic HTML, CSS and JavaScript”. They also know web designers are focused on “the how”, and that the experience of creating is almost as important as the end result.

Through keyword targeting, language mirroring and feature-focused video ads, Webflow achieved product-channel fit on YouTube by overwhelming their audience with feature-rich screens that show exactly how work is done on the platform.


Feature overview: “Meet the design tool from the future”



Feature drill down: Interactions

How Webflow succeeds on YouTube

Webflow tested ads on multiple platforms, including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and more. YouTube created the highest amount of signups for Webflow because of the technical nature of Webflow’s audience and the platform’s search keyword targeting ability.

But how do you create high-quality YouTube ads that scale? Here’s how they did it:


1. Webflow builds custom audiences based on technical keywords.


The growth team at Webflow has studied the technical language of its core audience. They use common web design terms to drive two tactics:

  1. Build custom YouTube audiences based on technical search keywords
  2. Write ad video scripts using technical language that speaks to their core audience

Through language mirroring, Webflow’s audience targeting is laser focused on middle-of-funnel product awareness and readiness to buy. Technical keywords are then further reinforced within the ad creative itself, so the audience feels understood and confident in Webflow as a solution.


2. Webflow runs ads within an environment that encourages exploration.


Beyond ad design itself, Webflow creates an environment conducive to product research in two ways:

  1. An investment in an organic YouTube channel that creates some of the best website design tutorials on the platform
  2. An ad clickthrough experience that leads to their homepage instead of a dedicated landing page


Webflow tested sending users to a dedicated landing page versus a homepage, and they were surprised to discover that their homepage consistently outperforms landing pages for signups.

Also, when users are given the opportunity to explore the homepage, Webflow sees higher retention rates after a signup from a YouTube ad.


3. Webflow uses in-product metrics to determine ad creative.


Webflow’s growth team and product team work together to determine the company’s next set of ads using in-product metrics.

With in-product metrics, Webflow discovered designers love their interactions feature, so they replicated their original product feature ad as a template and repurposed it for an ad on interactions.

From there, they tested variables like background color (black won) to no voiceover versus voiceover (voiceover won) to finetune the ad template for scale.

The Results

Views: 9 million+

YouTube as a channel is about showing people how to accomplish a task to make their lives easier. On YouTube, you need to overwhelm people with visuals of all the amazing things your product can do.
Bruno Estrella, Manager, Growth Marketing



YouTube Benchmarks


Wondering if your YouTube ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from the end of 2019.


CPC: $2.96
CPM: $9.61
CTR: 0.31%

Source: Q4 2019 Paid Media Benchmark Report

CHAPTER NINE

Amazon Display Advertising Guide w/ AXE Case Study

Amazon’s purpose is to be the earth’s most customer-obsessed company. So rather than think of Amazon as a retailer, think of them as a customer experience company. They built a phenomenal retail experience and layered advertising on top. As a result Amazon’s ad product line is extraordinary, and I expect it to just keep growing.
Anthony Reeves, former Executive Creative Director 
at Amazon

Anthony Reeves

In 2019 alone, Amazon saw roughly $14.1 billion in ad revenue, up 39% from $10.1 billion in 2018. In Q3 2020, ad revenue was up 51% to $5.4 billion. With so many advertising options for retailers, from display ads to livestream video, it’s no wonder brands are obsessed with cracking the code to a solid Amazon ad campaign.

Like Google and Pinterest, Amazon operates as a discovery platform––although it’s safe to say that buying intent is the most pronounced on Amazon.

For any B2C retailer, the decision to list and advertise on Amazon is rife with tradeoffs: while brands stand to gain unparalleled amounts of exposure to buyers on Amazon, the platform also comes with a strict set of rules that retailers must abide by if they want to participate.

Before You Begin Advertising: Amazon Seller Basics

Before we dive into priorities and best practices in Amazon ad design, here are some things you should know about listing on Amazon:


1. You may be competing against hundreds of resellers.

There’s no limit to the amount of third-party retailers who can sell on Amazon. If your product category is relatively saturated, you could be competing against hundreds of resellers.


2. Amazon Retail will always win the Buy Box.

Amazon’s Buy Box is everything: it’s the space on the right side of the screen where people click to add a product to their cart.

The Buy Box is run by Amazon’s proprietary algorithm that ranks retailers based on seller rankings by customers. If you’re competing with Amazon Retail on a product, you’re not likely to win that all-important real estate on the page.

Learn more about the Buy Box here.

Chapstick Amazon ad example


3. You don’t own your customer relationships on Amazon.

When a customer buys your product through Amazon, you don’t own that customer relationship––therefore you can’t remarket to them after the sale, except through Amazon remarketing display ads.

Amazon Seller Priorities: Where to Invest Time and Energy

Anthony Reeves, former executive creative director at Amazon, recommends focusing on the following priorities when you list on Amazon:


1. Product detail page SEO

Just like for Google, your Amazon product detail page (PDP) requires keyword optimization for discoverability. Amazon’s A9 algorithm, responsible for delivering product search results, ranks products based on the likelihood that a customer will buy them.

While keywords are important for discoverability, they’re also important for clickthrough rate––and the A9 algorithm places high importance on CTR when determining likelihood to buy.

The more descriptive and specific your product title, the more likely someone will click on it because of features they want. That’s why you see product titles like this:

Amazon SEO example


Find out more about Amazon SEO here.


2. Customer comments

Before running a single ad, Amazon retailers should become obsessed with gathering positive customer reviews on their products. Sales depend on them.

According to a consumer trend study by Jungle Scout, most people say high product ratings on Amazon are just as important as price.

While Amazon does own the customer relationship upon purchase, the platform offers several services for generating customer reviews, such as an automated follow-up service, a request a review button, and their Early Reviewer Program to incentivize buyers to leave reviews.

At KANE, we say, 'Use the voice of the customer to be the choice of the customer.' We use keyword analysis and strategic search terms for the messaging framework, and then fill in that narrative with sentiments mined from 5-star reviews while addressing concerns expressed in 1- to 4-star reviews. The customer points us to what we need to emphasize and where to improve.
Steve Susi, Partner at KANE
Steve Susi

3. Display ads

After your product detail page is optimized and you’ve generated a decent amount of positive customer reviews, that’s when you’re ready to start benefiting from ads.

Anthony Reeves recommends spending no more than 25% of your cost of goods sold (CoGS) on display ads.

Here are your basic options for Amazon advertising products:

  • Sponsored products: Cost-per-click (CPC) ads that promote your product listings in search results on Amazon. These ads are similar to Google ads in that you can pay for visibility at the top of search results.
  • Sponsored brands: Cost-per-click (CPC) ads that feature your brand logo, a custom headline and multiple products. These are enhanced search ads that feature your brand more prominently as a banner at the top of a search results page.
  • Sponsored display: Cost-per-click (CPC) programmatic display ads that appear on and off Amazon to target users who demonstrate certain buying signals for your product.

Sponsored display ads look like a custom ad or shopping search result, but they may appear on websites other than Amazon through their programmatic demand-side platform (DSP).

Here’s how you can target audiences with sponsored display ads:

  • Product targeting: Your ad shows in Amazon search results when someone searches for similar products to yours.
  • Audience remarketing: Your ad shows on Amazon and on other websites when someone has viewed your product or products similar to yours.
  • Audience interests: Your ad shows on Amazon when someone has viewed product details that fall within a certain interest segment within 90 days of viewing.


Advertisers use sponsored display ads to:

Amazon Sponsored Ads tips


Learn more about advertising on Amazon here.

Amazon Sponsored Display Ads: Best Practices for Ad Design

Amazon is obsessed with the customer experience and sets strict guidelines as to how products can be displayed in sponsored ads. Nowhere else is customer-centric, product-focused design more important than on Amazon.

While brands may be limited in what they can do with imagery in sponsored ads, marketers who advertise with display ads can access a little more creative leeway. While product shots and feature-focused descriptions are still key to success, display ads allow for more customizable brand experiences.


Here are several best practices for successful Amazon display ads.


1. Just show your product.

Advertising on Amazon doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, but don’t confuse creativity with abstraction. Amazon shoppers just want to see your product, and you’ll want to keep the copy to a minimum so they can.

White backgrounds are recommended for product photography, and you’ll want to make sure your product takes up about 85% of the space in your ad.

Most traditional ad rules apply to Amazon: mention your product features as a means to show your product’s benefits. But on Amazon, feature-focused ads win because the specificity and feature differentiation are what can make or break sales in such a competitive environment.

Where you can get creative, however, is through context. Mike Kazantzis, former creative director at Amazon, recommends switching up the environment of the product to show different features. If, for example, you want to communicate that your protein powder is sourced from all natural, organic ingredients, display the product in a plant-like environment to amplify this specific feature.

Casper Amazon display ad


2. If you have a great Amazon rating, make it part of your ad.

Ratings and reviews are everything on Amazon. The higher your overall user rating, the higher your CTR will be on your product’s search result. So why not apply that same principle to your display ads?

If your Amazon rating is four or higher, you may want to consider ditching a high-production, branded display experience for a more literal one. Your user rating is one of the best indicators of social proof you have; if you can, show it off as part of your ad.

Amazon ratings


3. Run campaigns that bundle complementary items.

Consumers enjoy a one-stop shop experience––that’s why Amazon’s “Frequently bought together” suggesting selling feature is so powerful. According to MarTech Advisor, “35% of all sales are estimated to be generated by the recommendation engine.”

As part of National Laundry Day, Anthony Reeves worked with Tide to create a full-funnel marketing campaign on Amazon that bundled several products together. With the headline, “Rally your laundry day dream team”, the ad created a branded experience that featured three popular laundry items: detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softener.

As a result, the time period during which the ad ran drove more sales than the previous time period. During that same time period, Tide also saw higher category growth in general.


4. Use Amazon and product category “tent poles” as a trigger for a creative refresh.

While Amazon campaigns tend to have a longer shelf life than creative on Instagram or Facebook––six months, to be specific––advertisers should use what Amazon calls “tent poles” to refresh their creative.

Some basic Amazon-specific tent poles include:

  • Amazon Prime Day
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday

But product categories have their own tent poles, too. For example, beauty products should use Mother’s Day as a tent pole to trigger a creative refresh. Always be aware of your product categories seasonal events, and use that as a guideline for your ad content calendar.

Amazon advertising fact


5. Amplify your awareness campaigns with a savings message.

If you’ve never run ads on Amazon before, your first order of business should be to attract the customer.

Amazon advertising depends on a solid communication hierarchy. When I was at Amazon, we introduced the three As: attraction, amplification, and action. It’s not a new idea, but it takes a classic retail tactic and translates it for a digital world.
Michael Kazantzis, Principal at KANE

Mike says there’s no better way to amplify an awareness message than to hint at cost savings when they buy your product. You may also consider using a lifestyle image at the awareness stage, then show a more literal product shot as you’re looking to convert customers down the line.




How Amazon Audience Data Created a Winning Axe Body Spray Campaign


Industry: Men’s fragrances

Target audience: Mothers and teen boys


The goal


North star metric: Sales and unit sold

Additional signals: Plan upgrades and retention rates


The creative concept


Axe wanted to reach an audience of college-aged men, but the team noticed something about their Amazon audience data: the people buying Axe Body Spray were frequently buying diapers and laundry pods at the same time. They were moms of high school boys, not college-aged males.

The Avoid Awkward campaign is the essence of working backwards on Amazon. Every Amazon campaign needs to start with customer data and the voice of the customer.
Michael Kazantzis, Principal at KANE

The audience data gave the creative team exactly what they needed to launch a subscribe and save model for the brand. And that’s how Axe’s Avoid Awkward Amazon microsite was born: a campaign dedicated to avoiding awkward conversations about body odor between mothers and sons.



How Axe Body Spray succeeds on Amazon


1. Mike worked with the Amazon team to sift through audience data and myriad customer reviews to generate the concept and messaging for the campaign.

When KANE is generating a concept for an Amazon campaign, they always start with audience insights. Then they’ll cross-reference audience data and customer reviews with the brand itself––and that’s how Amazon’s customer-first creative concepts are born.

First work backwards from the audience, then work forwards with what the brand is doing—that sweet spot in the middle is where your creative concept lives.
Michael Kazantzis, Principal at KANE

While customer data helped determine the campaign’s target audience, reviews are what fed the creative team the messaging for the campaign. Many reviews from mothers revealed that they didn’t want to have awkward conversations with their sons about hygiene and body odor.

So, in the end, the campaign reflected the language customers were already using to describe the benefits of the product!


2. Axe invested in a branded landing page to cater to two audiences: mothers and sons.

Avoid Awkward display ads targeted two key audiences: mothers and their teenage sons.

A multi-destination brand landing page was built with targeted media driving customers to either one destination for Moms or another for teen boys. Both sections looked similar but used relevant messaging to capture each audience segment.


3. Axe used remarketing strategies outside of Amazon to drive traffic to Amazon’s branded landing page.

While Amazon holds on to audience data for remarketing purposes, there’s no rule that says brands can’t use other channels to retarget users and drive them to an Amazon landing page.

In addition to Amazon display ads, Axe used Facebook retargeting to lead people to the Amazon landing page––which helped boost their ranking within Amazon’s ecosystem.

CHAPTER TEN

Display Ad Design Tips for Maximum ROI

Display ads, most commonly delivered through Google’s Display Network, are a divisive topic among marketers.

Some marketers are ready to do away with display ads, while others have seen success with them. So what do we recommend? Well, as with most recommendations, it depends on your product and how you use the channel.

We won’t go into too much detail about how display ads are served––WordStream has written an excellent resource on this if you need it––but we will stress a few key points to help you approach display ads if you’re curious about adding them to your repertoire.


How to Approach Display Ad Design


Display ads are banner images that show up, or display, when you’re ingesting other content. Unlike Google search ads, they aren’t attached to direct intent to buy or inform.

Most importantly, a reader’s eye has been trained to navigate websites with the expectation that they’ll encounter display ads. According to Instapage, the average American sees about 63 display ads per day.

That’s why your design will really need to stand out if your display ads are going to perform.

Here are four key points that will set you up for success with display ads:


1. Don’t rely on display ads to produce a high number of quality customers. Rely on them to reinforce your brand instead.

Display ads see some of the lowest CTRs in digital marketing, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

Let’s say you operate within an increasingly competitive space, like website CRMs. You may be competing with products that are so similar to yours that audiences have a difficult time differentiating between your solution and the next one over.

In that case, you may want to use display ads as part of an omnichannel approach to keep your brand top of mind for consumers. They may not click on the ad, but if they see your ad enough times, you may just be the first solution they think about when it’s time to make a buying decision.

banner ad example by Squarespace


2. Prioritize remarketing display ads over other types.

Within the Google Display Network, at least, you have the option to target colder audiences based on demographics or interests. We recommend deprioritizing these targeting measures and shifting your display ad budget to remarketing efforts.

Remarketing display ads target people who have visited your website, so they’re already familiar with your brand. When paired with an offer, like HelloFresh’s ad below, you’re more likely to see a higher CTR on the ad because you’re targeting people with at least some buying intent.

Hello Fresh banner advertisement



3. Responsive display ads may not be enough to capture attention.

Google’s responsive ad solution addresses the problem of size and scalability: there are almost 20 standard banner sizes on the ad network, and design teams were required to re-size the same ad for each format, for every new campaign.

As an alternative, Google introduced responsive ads. With responsive ads, marketers need only feed Google with a few standard images and headlines, and the ad network takes care of the rest.

But what you gain in scale, you may sacrifice on creativity. You may want to test different creative for different sizes, and a standard image may not be the best visual to represent your brand. If you want to stand out, consider testing animation vs. a static image.


4. Display ads are cheaper than search ads… but you can bank on lower CTRs.

Google search ads have an average CTR of 2.5%, whereas display ads see CTRs of about 0.69% (see below for additional benchmarks). But the average cost per click (CPC) for a display ad is $0.40, compared to $1.18.

No one is arguing that display ads are more effective than search ads. But if you have a relatively large remarketing pool to play with, display ads are a cheaper option that is at least worth testing for your brand.


Banner Ad Design Tips

More than any other digital channel, display ads are often the most ignored among audiences. Display ads are the oldest form of digital advertising, and people have been desensitized to them. They are also some of the least disruptive ads, meaning you can work around them to consume the content on a page.

So you need some spectacular creative assets to encourage audiences to pay attention to your display ads. Here are some tips to stand out against the noise.


1. Bright colors and contrast are your friends.

Don’t try to be subtle. Don’t aim for understated elegance. While muted color palettes and flat icons may work on other channels, display ads require more of a bang.

This beautiful set of display ads by Mailchimp uses bright, banana yellow to pull you in, then uses further color contrast to demonstrate their value proposition. Their CTA button stands out on all formats, while the yellow background acts as a hook for smaller ad formats that can’t support their supporting visual. Color and contrast covers the ad on all fronts.

banner ad sizes

Tip: Check with each publisher to ensure you're following their creative rules. From the use of copy, to color, to imagery, each platform will have their own set of guidelines. For example, when advertising on Amazon, your ads need to comply with their Chroma Policy. The use of bright colors as a solid background are actually not allowed to run on Amazon. You can take a peak at their creative acceptance policies here.


2. Remove as many non-essential elements as possible, but keep your logo.

Remember: display ads are a solid mechanism for making sure your brand stays top of mind. While it may not be advisable to slap your logo on every digital ad, display ads are where your logo should shine.

But when you include your logo, that means you need to think sparingly about all other design elements in your ad. If you can demonstrate your value prop with a clear image instead of text, go for it. But if you have a strong statement meant to pull an audience in, you may not need a ton of imagery at all.

Check out this side-by-side example by DocuSign. The ad consists of three components: a compelling headline promising tangible value, a CTA, and their logo. And sometimes that’s all you need to get the job done.

simple banner ad example



3. Yes, oftentimes you need an offer to get clicks.

Nothing incentivizes people to click more than a discount or offer. If you’re remarketing to warmer audiences who are familiar with your brand, an offer may be the one thing that entices them to click on your display ad.

Bonus points if your offer coincides with seasonality. This display ad by Intuit during tax season definitely drew attention with its steep discount offer to address the pain point of … doing your taxes at all.

banner ad offer



Display Ad Benchmarks

Wondering if your display ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from the end of 2019.


CPC: $0.40
CPM: $2.81
CTR: 0.69%


Source: Q4 2019 Paid Media Benchmark Report

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Advertising on Experimental & Emerging Channels

We’d like to add an extension to one of our 2021 predictions: the need to refresh your creative at a faster rate on emerging and experimental channels.

After all the A/B testing and the investment in creative that works for your brand, you may find yourself in a groove that’s yielding results. That groove may live on Instagram or YouTube or Facebook. With some consistency and a solid creative refresh rate, you will likely see some successes you can be proud of.

This is a great outcome… but it’s also one that can lead to complacency, and eventually decline.

The reality is that digital channels aren’t static. Just as everyone was beginning to think no one could beat Instagram at capturing the world’s attention with bite-sized video, TikTok emerged and offered a younger audience something different.

It’s your job as a growth marketer to keep up with new (or less explored) channels that best serve your target audience. Keep in mind that may not mean scrambling to develop a TikTok strategy, no matter how much pressure you’re facing from leadership who want to have a presence on the platform.

If your audience is younger, then yes, you may want to start testing ad creative on TikTok or Snapchat. But if your audience is a bit older and you’ve discovered they are a particularly inquisitive bunch, you may want to forge a new path on a platform like Quora instead––especially if your marketing strategy is focused on educating audiences.

If your audience is particularly fond of uncovering the obscurities of the internet, Reddit may be your new testing ground instead.

Here are just a few of many channels you may want to consider for your 2021 ad strategy:

  • Outbrain and Taboola
  • AdRoll (for e-commerce)
  • BuySellAds (for developers, designers and niche tech audiences)
  • Tumblr
  • Gmail
  • IAB
  • BookBub (to reach new readers)
  • Foursquare (for brick and mortar businesses)
  • Revcontent

There are so many emerging channels to test and explore. So, don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket. Allocate some spend to testing new ad strategies—you might just strike gold in a place you’d never considered before.

primary advertising purpose

How to Shift Ad Design from Established Platforms to Emerging Platforms

We’re going to give you some guidance on four of the most popular emerging channels among advertisers:

  1. TikTok
  2. Snapchat
  3. Reddit
  4. Quora

Here’s a great way to think about posting content from established platforms on emerging platforms such as TikTok or Snapchat: don’t.

“The medium is the message”––and different platforms require different creative approaches. We encourage you to think carefully and take the time to understand each platform before copy and pasting the same creative you’ve found success with on major channels.

My one piece of advice to marketers is to apply an element of fearlessness to your work. Sometimes you won’t know if something is going to work, because it’s the first time it’s been done. Encourage your creative team to push the boundaries. If you’re always running the tried and true path, you may be limiting your success.
Cameron Frantz, Design Manager at Snap Inc.

How to Create an Ad Design Feedback Loop Between Channels

TikTok and Snapchat

While you may not be able to port your existing creative to new channels and see success, that doesn’t mean you need to disregard the audience insights you gained from traditional channels.

If you’re looking for the basis of a TikTok or Snapchat strategy, for example, here’s where we recommend you begin your ad creative analysis for inspiration:

  1. Isolate your top five most successful ads on existing channels.
  2. Within those ad sets, check results within your youngest segment. We recommend segmenting by 13–15, 16–18, then 18–21. (A 13-year-old and a 16-year-old, for instance, will be interested in very different things!) Keep in mind you may not be able to isolate younger age groups on some channels, such as YouTube.
  3. Compare each segment to your overall average clickthrough rate. Note whether or not any segments outperformed or came close to your baseline CTR.
  4. If all your CTRs within these age groups underperformed, you’ll want to consider starting from scratch with your creative. But if you did see some success within a certain age group, you have a foundation from which to adapt your creative for TikTok or Snapchat.

Once you’ve created a feedback loop between channels and have perhaps seen some success on TikTok or Snapchat, you can reverse the process and apply new insights from emerging channels to your traditional ones.

Reddit

If you want to test ads on Reddit, remember two things:

  1. You’ll need to perform extensive research on relevant subreddits for your brand. Reddit lacks naming conventions for subreddits, meaning titles could seem to indicate one thing only to be about something completely different. Don’t try to take shortcuts. If you do, your ad could end up in a subreddit about marijuana when you meant to target people interested in plants.
  2. The Reddit community isn’t “sales ready”. In fact, the community is notoriously resistant to advertising. Focus on providing value through education over selling products. Reddit is best used for a top of funnel strategy.

Great design that’s customized for a new platform starts with one thing: exhaustive research on the platform’s audience, behavioral quirks and code of conduct for advertisers. So you’re not going in blind when you start to design your creative, here’s where we recommend you begin your research:

  1. Spend time on Reddit for at least a month before you decide to advertise. Make a list of relevant topics and become a valuable contributor to those subreddits. Learn the rules of conduct and respect the etiquette of the community. You can use a tool like Redditlist to help you uncover relevant subreddits.
  2. Use a tool like SEMrush to find out what other advertisers are doing on Reddit. Make note of common indicators of success, such as CTA wording or headline copy.
  3. Map your most successful Facebook and/or LinkedIn posts to educational content. For example, if one of your most successful Facebook ads encouraged people to sign up for a free trial of a chatbot service, your educational topic may be “how to write conversational copy for chatbots”.
  4. Find subreddits for each educational topic. You’ll want to make sure each subreddit is large enough for significant reach, but niche enough to target users who are interested in your offer.
  5. Now, and only now, are you ready to start testing ad creative on Reddit. The ad design and copy will depend on the information you gathered, but check out this ad by AARP as an example.

AARP chooses commonly used language on Reddit as the basis of its ad, and it doesn’t get cute about the company’s value: their benefits are listed in one short list within a sentence. Reddit users want advertisers to get to the point, so be as direct as possible within your design and copy.

Every step after your initial research should be to test, test, test. Reddit is the wild west of social media platforms on purpose, and your ads won’t find their groove without a lot of trial and error. Wear your Reddit ad failures like a badge of honor.

Quora

Quora is one of the largest Q&A sites on the internet. It’s also where some thought leaders found their audiences in the early days of the platform as expert sources of information. Ask Google a question, and sometimes Quora is where you’ll end up for the answer.

But what does this mean for advertisers? Well, if your marketing strategy is focused on education and you’re wanting to expand beyond LinkedIn ads, Quora is where you may want to go next.

Similar to Reddit, however, we recommend learning the rules of the road before you take your ads out for a test drive. Here’s where you can start with your experimentation:

  1. Craft your personal Quora bio carefully. Every time you answer a question on Quora, readers can see the first 50 characters of your bio. Take the opportunity to describe your value proposition through a lens of education rather than lead generation.
  2. Follow relevant topics for your brand and note which questions receive the most traction within each topic.
  3. Follow thought leaders in your field and note their most successful posts.
  4. Build organic authority by setting aside time every week to answer questions within your area of expertise. You’ll want to generate reactions to get a sense of how an ad would perform, and the language most commonly used by readers.
  5. Make a list of your most successful LinkedIn ads. Note any overlap in topics and subjects for which your Quora audience requires an education.

After you run through steps one to five, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to test your Quora ads against your LinkedIn and/or Facebook ads.

Keep in mind, however, that on mobile your ad image will come second to your headline, description copy, and your CTA. This is how a Quora ad differs greatly from other platforms — your copy comes before your chosen image.

Recommendation:

Quora is a Q&A channel, so make sure your copy answers a question for your audience.

Finally, here are some performance benchmarks for Quora from HubSpot’s Q4 2019 Paid Media Benchmark Report, to give you a sense of what you can expect:

  • CPC: $1.24
  • CPM: $7.63
  • CTR: 0.59%

How Platform-Specific Design Elements Influence Ad Creative on Emerging Channels

If you thought attention spans were limited on Instagram, you’ll need to apply an even more rigorous version of this thinking to TikTok or Snapchat. Both platforms were designed to create content with the following elements in mind:

  • Multiple clips that transition quickly
  • Unique filters and lenses
  • Fun stickers and icons
  • Music that amplifies each clip
  • Speedy or slow motion clips
  • Text animation
  • Augmented reality (AR)

Many of the elements on TikTok and Snapchat don’t even exist on Instagram or YouTube.

Recommendation:

Shoot your TikTok and Snapchat ads as a vertical video! Audiences on emerging platforms can smell it if you’ve cropped your videos to try to fit the vertical parameters.

Experimental or emerging channels often use new technology, such as AR and VR, to differentiate themselves from standard channels. We recommend leveraging these technologies to maximize your ad spend on these channels. Otherwise, your creative risks falling flat with audiences who have come to expect a certain standard of creativity on these platforms.

At Snap, we’ve seen campaigns be successful due to the use of new technology. Game of Thrones, for example, used landmarker technology to develop a lens that mapped a dragon to the top of New York’s Flatiron Building. It was a great example of a successful campaign that marries a cool concept with new technology.
Cameron Frantz, Design Manager at Snap Inc.

Credit: Variety

Our last piece of advice on creative adaptation is to lean in and try new things on these channels. Be prepared to use experimental channels as your creative testing ground, and think of ad spend as that part of your budget devoted to discovering new things about new audiences.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Three Tips for Scaling Your Ad Creative


If you’ve read this guide in its entirety, you know the number one key to success in digital advertising is a near-perfect testing and scaling process, both on traditional digital channels and emerging channels.

Due to the shifting nature of audience appetites on digital platforms, we need to reinforce one thing: your testing process should never end, particularly when it comes to creative testing.

Growth marketers know, more than anyone else, that testing isn’t something you do once and congratulate yourself when it’s “over”. After you test one campaign and refine it, your next round of testing on new ad creative should be ramping up just behind your last campaign.

You may feel exhausted at the prospect of constantly refreshing your ad creative to feed the digital ad platform beasts. But there are some ways to make ad design creative faster and more cost effective, so you don’t burn yourself out.

Here are some of our best tips.


1. Create content based on themes.

New creative doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. Yes, sometimes you’ll need to scrap ideas and start anew, but quarterly content planning by theme can help you avoid this fate. For example, maybe in Q2 you want to test more animated illustrations, which are producing great results for brands. You can use concepts and creative from one ad design to create multiple variations to test throughout the quarter.

In chapter three of this guide, we mentioned the importance of understanding your business model as a foundation of your ad design. Your business model is your North Star, guiding your foundational key messaging––and it’s up to marketers to discover compelling themes within these parameters that resonate with various audiences.

When you hit on an ad creative that works, run a brainstorming session with your creative team that uses your most successful ideas as seeds for even more success.

To clarify: You should still challenge your team to think outside the box when you need to take a risk and try something new. But to scale your creative process, it’s necessary to review and learn from your existing ad designs.

Identify themes that are tangential to your core idea, and identify beats or milestones within the narrative that can map to other ideas.


2. Adapt campaigns for geographic markets.

We mentioned in chapter three of this guide that Slack saw success in digital ads through testing ideas in different geographic markets. If you have the resources, we encourage you to do the same. People love seeing content that lives close to them, with all the linguistic and visual nuances that come with living in a specific city or neighborhood.

During 2020, when video production was limited during the pandemic, Buzzfeed filmed a series of quick first-person POV videos that show people what street foods are like from around the world. The result is nothing fancy, but it is addictive: the viewer is drawn to the quick pace of the videos, while perhaps on the lookout for places they’ve either lived or traveled to, or places they’d like to visit.

You can take this idea of location based creative and then run hyper targeted ads to your core demographics and cities. This strategy has worked well for many brands, and for good reason. Heck, you've probably been targeted by ads like this yourself!


3. Develop a flexible design process.

Your in-house design team is likely working on a variety of company requests, product designs and key campaigns. But what happens when you finally start to ramp up and scale your digital advertising strategy? You're going to need a lot of design support, and your core design team likely won’t have the bandwidth or the desire to pump out all the versions you need to keep up with the demands of your testing strategy.

That’s where a flexible design team comes in. Superside was built on this premise—flexible, scalable design for enterprises and scale ups. Need to start testing ads tomorrow? No problem, we can turn things around in as quick as 12 hours. How about adding in motion, or custom illustration? We have over 100+ designers from top global agencies with varying design specialties. Or, are you looking for a creative mind to help shape your ad design concepts? We have design directors and creative directors on the team for when our customers need a hands on approach.

From creating 100+ different banner ad variations, to developing a full fledged multi-channel campaign, we've got your design needs covered. Book a call today to learn more about how Superside works.

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