Putting Creative to the Test

by Common Thread Collective Collaborator

May. 02 2018

How and why you should be putting budget toward testing ad creative.


“Test it!” That should be the rallying cry for any paid social advertiser. Not sure what landing page to send the customer to? Test it. Not sure which audience will work best for a given product? Test it. Not sure what subject line will light up the inbox? You guessed it. Test it.


Obviously, that goes for ad creative as well. The issue is that testing creative on Facebook is more complex than a simple A/B test—Facebook is algorithmically set up to determine which creative is performing better; and it’ll often make that call too quickly, and for reasons known only to the shadowy figures at Facebook HQ.


Fortunately, we’ve set up a process that’ll help you find what creative choices your audience will love, and how to game Facebook to make sure you get a clean, clear test.


Step 1: Brainstorm.


Say you’re selling shoes. What kind of creative is going to draw the most eyes? If you’re just starting out, you won’t yet know what ad format is going to work best.


Is it a still image of shoes on a white background? Is it a carousel ad of different shoes? Is it a stop-motion animation of the shoes taking themselves for a stroll through the big city? The possibilities are endless. Cast a wide net and let your mind go wild.


Step 2: Form a Hypothesis.


Once you’ve determined what your ad creatives are going to be (we recommend 3-5 per test), you need to determine why you think each given piece of creative will win. Maybe the shoes on a white background really pop. Maybe the walking shoe animation conveys the playfulness of your brand well. Whatever you’re testing, determine what results you expect and why.


Step 3: Build your ads.


In Ad Manager, create a separate campaign for Creative Testing, set up to look identical to your prospecting campaign.


Then build separate ad sets for each ad. Using separate ad sets means that Facebook won’t automatically choose how to allocate budget, and all three ads will get full delivery.


Schedule each ad set to deliver over the weekend (peak buying time!), and allocate identical budget to each set (we recommend a $100 minimum lifetime budget).


Set each ad set to deliver to the same audience. We recommend a 2-5% lookalike audience, with relevant existing custom audiences excluded. We like this audience because it won’t overlap with audiences in your performance campaigns.


Then, create ads with identical copy. This ensures that the only variable in your test is the image or video.


Step 4: Run it.


With your test set to go, enjoy your weekend. Have a margarita. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Go for a hike and contemplate nature’s splendor. Resist the urge to peek at your test’s performance (or don’t. It’s hard not to answer the siren call of Ads Manager).


Step 5: Break down the results.


On Monday, determine which ad performed best. Which one had the highest click-through rate? Which one returned the most purchases? The key performance metric of your test should be set beforehand. If your product requires a lot of education or has a high price point, click-through rate may be your KPI. If your product is easy for the customer to grasp or has a lower price point, return on ad spend is your best bet.


Step 6: Iterate on your test, and then do it all over again.


Say one of your ads won handily. Take that ad and continue to explore it for your next test—if the shoe on the white background won, try putting that same product on different color backgrounds. Or try different headlines with the winning ad. If your test returned no conclusive result, it’s back to the ol’ drawing board.



Creative makes a huge difference in the world of paid social. Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on a random flash of inspiration or wait for ideas to come to you in a dream—the power of data and smart, strategic testing will help inspiration come to you like a bolt right out of the Facebook blue.

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