As we move towards a future of less focused, privacy-focused growth marketing, the greatest leverage will become creative on paid social channels such as Facebook’s around the world. The loss of attribution of our good friend iOS 14.5 has accelerated this trend, but channels have increasingly made efforts to automate their advertising platforms.
For this reason, I believe that every growth marketing engine should have an appropriate creative testing framework, whether it’s a start-up startup or a giant like Google.
After three years at Postmates, consulting for various startups, and most recently at Uber, I have seen the marketing landscape change in multiple ways. However, what we are seeing now is orchestrated by factors beyond our control, causing a dawn of change unlike anything I have seen. Creative then became the most powerful lever of a paid social account.
If you’re looking to harness the power of creativity and be successful with paid social marketing, you think so. What you need is a Creative Testing Framework: a structured, cohesive way to test new creative elements.
Here’s a breakdown of the things a creative testing framework needs to be successful:
- A defined test schedule.
- A structured thematic approach.
- A channel-specific strategy.
Creative has become the most powerful lever of a paid social account.
Creative testing should be a constant, iterative process that follows a defined testing schedule. A goal and structure can be as simple as testing five new creative elements a week. Conversely, it can be as complex as testing 60 new assets made up of multiple themes and copy variants.
For a lower expense account the creative test should be lighter due to the limited event signal and vice versa with a higher expense account. The most important aspect is that the tests keep moving the needle as you search for your next “champion” asset.
After you’ve established a testing schedule, define the core themes of your business and industry rather than testing out a plethora of random ideas. This applies to the creative asset as well as the copy and value of key props for your product or service. As you begin to analyze creative data, it will be easier for you to decide what to duplicate or delete tests with this structure. Think of it as a wireframe that you develop or crop out throughout test sprints.
For a fitness app like MyFitnessPal, it can be structured as follows:
- Themes (product screenshots, images of people using it, UGC testimonials, before / after images).
- Messaging (segmented value accessories, promotion, FUD).
It’s critical to make sure you have a specific approach to each channel, as each will differ in creative best practices as well as testing capabilities. What works on Facebook may not work on Snapchat or the many other paid social channels. Don’t be discouraged if cross-channel creatives work differently, although I recommend parity testing. If you already have the creative element for one string, it doesn’t hurt to resize and format the other strings.
Equally important to creation are the appropriate selection of events and a statistically significant threshold to be observed throughout testing. When selecting an event to use for creative testing, it may not always be possible to use your North Star metric based on the height of your CACs. For example, if you are selling an expensive item and CACs number in the hundreds, it would take a huge expense to achieve the stat signature on each creative item. Instead, choose an event that is more in the upper funnel and a strong indicator of how likely a user is to convert.
It is important to select a percentage that remains consistent across all creative tests when deciding which statistically significant percentage to use. As a general rule, I like to use 80% + certainty, as this allows for sufficient confirmation as well as the ability to make decisions faster. A great (and free) online calculator is Neil Patel’s A / B Test Significance Calculator.
Hit or miss
You’re scrolling through a social feed, an elegant gold pendant catches your eye, but all in the messaging is the brand name and product specifications. It caught your eye, but what did it do to get you? Think about it: what are you doing not only to hook, but also to attract people with “creativity” – the deciding factor in paid social growth marketing?
Bypass iOS 14.5 Data Loss
Creative testing is getting harder and harder for mobile campaigns as iOS 14.5 obscures user data, but that’s not impossible and just means we need to get smarter. There are a variety of hacks that can be implemented to help get a clear picture of creation performance – some may not last forever and others may be timeless.
Amidst all the privacy restrictions, we still have access to a huge population of Android users that we should be taking advantage of. Instead of running all the creative tests on iOS, Android can be used as a clear way to gather information, as privacy restrictions have yet to be rolled out on these devices. Data collected from Android tests can then be taken into account and applied to iOS campaigns. It’s only a matter of time until Android data is also at the mercy of data restrictions, so use this workaround to notify iOS campaigns now.
If running Android campaigns is not a viable option, another quick and easy solution is to create a lead form on the website to assess the conversion rate of the creative asset to a completed form. The user experience certainly won’t be as amazing as it was in evergreen, but it can be used to gain insight for a short time (and a small percentage of the budget).
When developing the main form, think about questions that are both qualifying and would indicate someone is finishing your North Star event on the evergreen experience. After getting people through the lead form, communications can be sent to convert them so that the advertising dollars are put to good use.
Placement of efforts by account step
Testing efforts for creative element types should differ significantly by count stage and can be broken down into three I’s: imitation, iteration, innovation.
The earlier an account stage, the more your creative direction should rely on what has been proven successful by other advertisers. These other advertisers have spent thousands of dollars to prove the performance of their assets, and you can get a good look at that. Over time, you can slow down the drift of other advertisers slightly while focusing on iteration on the top performers. If I had to place a percentage, 80% of the effort would have to be on imitation from the start. The iteration will naturally gain momentum as the winners are chosen, and innovation will be the last lag behind.
That’s not to say that innovation can’t be attempted early on if there are good ideas, but generally a more mature company can afford to spend heaps to validate its innovative ideas. Whether you have an in-house design team or work with freelancers, it will also be much easier to create 50 variations than it is to think and design 50 different innovative assets. Imitation and iteration will make your first tests exponentially more efficient.
Leverage information about competitors
Thinking about and trying to imagine the most beautiful, eye-catching, and eye-catching creation doesn’t always happen in seconds, let alone minutes or hours. This is where the use of competitor information comes in.
The most abundant resource is the Facebook Ads Library, as it contains all of the creative assets that every advertiser uses on the platform. It always amazes me how few people know about this free and powerful tool.
When browsing through top notch competitors or advertisers in this library, the sign of a high performing creative is how long an advertiser is using specific items. How do you find that? The date an advertiser started showing their creation is conveniently stamped on each item – it’s more than powerful. I can spend hours browsing through the creative elements, and each advertiser provides even more information and inspiration.
Creative should be at the top of the list when thinking about where to invest your efforts in your paid social growth marketing. We have to have a hacky mindset because the data gets more obscure, but with that mindset comes the winners from the losers. The types of strategies implemented will vary over time, but what will not vary is the importance of strong creativity, the factor for success or success.