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It's easy to get caught up targeting when it comes to Facebook Ads. It's easy to think that if you get the targeting 100% right, then everything else will follow.
No matter how good your targeting though, at the end of the day you still need to convince people to buy what you're selling. If your ad copy and creatives aren't up to scratch, then people aren't going to engage with your ads.
In this article we're going to look at an approach to designing ads that resonate with people. In order for your ads to resonate, they need to do three things. They need to give people a reason to look at your ad, a reason to care about your ad, and a reason to act on your ad.
Reason to Look
When designing ads, it's very easy to think that the people who see your ads will pay the same attention to it as you do. You think that they'll look at the ad, reach each line of text, study the image, and then make a decision about whether to click or not.
In reality though, people aren't going to pay anywhere near that amount of attention to most ads. For the majority of people, ads are a nuisance. As soon as most people realise that something is an ad, they'll immediately turn their attention away and scroll on.
With the average person paying so little attention to most ads, how do you get them to look at yours?
There are a variety of different approaches here, but most of them come back to one fundamental idea: trying to make your ads look less like ads.
A great example of this is what Cleo have done with their Facebook ads. They've exploited the fact that there are certain types of content which people tend to seek out in social news feeds, in their case: Twitter memes. They've designed ads which mimic these memes, and which use the format to promote their brand.
Because many social users (particularly younger demographics) associate these formats with humour rather than advertising, people are much more likely to stop scrolling and read the ad's content. As a result, ads like these are likely to perform better in terms of brand lift and click through rate.
Creating ads that look like organic content is one way to get people's attention, but there are plenty of others. Some ideas are:
- Make it personalised. This example below from Web Summit personalises the title field to reference the viewer's country. If the viewer sees this, it immediately provides a reason to look through the rest of the ad, on the faith that it's relevant to them. Web Summit's ad also adopts the style of an infographic too, which draws on people's attention.
- Keep it human. It's easy to gloss over ads which feature abstract product illustrations. Instead, try featuring human faces and emotions. Not only will this help your ads resemble organic content more closely, helping to overcome ad blindness, but there's evidence to suggest that we engage more with human faces. Beware though that there's also research to suggest that faces can alienate groups of people.
Reason to Care
You've got someone to look at your ad; great. Chances are however that they're likely to only look at your ad for a second or so before scrolling on. With such a short period of time, how do you make people care enough about your ad to even register it?
There are innumerable ideas out there as to how to get people to care about your ad. In my experience, most of these ideas trace back to a single fact; people don't care about brands or products, they care about themselves.
As advertisers, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the average person cares about your product as much as you. The truth is that they don't. Consumers care about themselves, and will only care about your product insofar as it can help them in some way.
Relating a product to consumer can be very simple in some cases. Say that you're selling portable chargers. You could create ads which target the pain point of having your phone run out of battery on a long day, and which position your power packs as a solution to this problem.
We've all experienced this problem, and so can immediately see how having this charger would benefit us. I'd expect these sorts of ads to work better than ads which simply listed the product spec or price of the charger, and which dont make any attempt to show the consumer how the product helps them personally.
This is a very simple example of how you can market a product by playing off of people's care for themselves. More interesting are the examples where brands don't market solutions to people's problems, but rather market people better versions of themselves.
As Zander Nethercutt points out, Samsung do this excellently with an ad they released in 2017. The ad doesn't directly reference Samsung's products. Despite being an ad for the Samsung Galaxy, it doesn't even mention the phone model (aside from a few short bits of product placement).
Rather than focus on the product, the ad positions Samsung as the brand used by "makers, directors, creators". This isn't because the ad is targeted at creators - very few of us are creators. Being creative though is an aspirational trait, something that we as consumers wish we could be. Samsung's ad is suggesting that we can be this sort of person, and that Samsung products can help get us there.
In short, the reason that the ad works is because we buy into the idea of the creator that we could become. We buy into a better version of ourselves, and thus into the Samsung brand.
Samsung's approach isn't an easy one to take. It can require some existing brand awareness for consumers not to write your brand off as precocious, and high production value to ensure your ad lives up to the brand that you're trying to sell. If you can get it right though, it can pay dividends.
Regardless of the budget that you have, or the angle you want to take, always come back to the question of why would an average person care about my ad? Ask yourself what your ad offers to a consumer, assuming that they don't care anywhere near as much about your product as you do.
Reason to Engage
By this point you have an ad which gives people a reason to look at it, and a reason to care about it. If you're objective is simply to raise brand awareness, or consideration, then you're done. If you're trying to get people to take a specific action as a result of your ad, you have to additionally give them a reason to engage with your ad.
In this final section, I'm going to walk through a (non-exhaustive) list of some of the easiest ways to encourage people to actually engage with your ads.
When you buy something, you want to feel confident that the product you're buying will live up to expectations. One of the ways you might do this is by checking reviews for the product. Reviews are a common example of what advertisers refer to as social proof; the use of customer feedback, comments & testimonials to encourage trust in a brand.
When a brand includes social proof in its ads, the brand is effectively trying to support any claims made about its product's quality. It's saying "look at all these people who love us, we weren't joking when we said that our product is great".
For the user, social proof reduces the perceived risk of purchasing the product. If a user sees that 90% of reviews for a product are five stars, this de-risks the purchase by telling the user that there's a low chance they wouldn't rate the product five stars after purchasing it.
Though social proof has a part to play for almost all products, it's particularly important for categories of products that the average person is unfamiliar with.
Take Huel for example, who sell meal-replacement powder. The category is still fairly new; the majority of people have never tried a meal-replacement powder. As a result, many potential customers would likely see Huel's products as a risky purchase - where the risk is that they don't enjoy consuming them.
To deal with these worries, Huel's ads often rely on social proof. As you can see in the ad below, they contain user reviews which aim to assure potential customers of Huel's quality.
A method of encouraging action which is closely related to social proof is authority proof. Instead of using reviews from people just like you to encourage trust in a brand, authority proof relies on using testimony from authority figures. The ideal authority figure is someone (or something) with a connection to the product's vertical.
A good example of authority proof would be a review from a trusted reviewer. If you're selling a phone screen, and you're able to quote a five star review from a well known tech magazine, including that in your ads is likely to encourage user's trust in your product. Insofar as users trust the authority which you're quoting, some of that authority should transfer to your product.
Authority proof is particularly valuable for high-ticket items, where potential customers might feel unsure of whether to commit that much money to buying a product, or for products that are trying to break into already crowded markets. If you can quote an authority saying how your product is differentiated from the masses, then you have a great way to raise awareness and consideration.
The above two methods might encourage people to take note of your product, and perhaps click through to your site, but how do you really drive action? One method of doing so is by using scarcity tactics.
Scarcity refers to any attempt to drive action by telling the user that their chance of obtaining your product is limited. This could be by telling the user that a product is only on sale for a limited period of time, or by telling them that you only have a certain amount left to sell. Both of these tactics can take a user's thoughts from "this is a good product which I should buy" to "this is something which I should buy now".
Note that there are some good ways to get creative with scarcity. If your product is only available for a limited amount of time, say a week more, you could create 7 different ads saying that there's only 7/6/5... days left to buy your product. You can then use automated rules to switch out the creatives each day.
Though using scarcity tactics can make for compelling ads, advertisers should never intentionally mislead consumers over the availability of their products. If you think you can sell more of a product by limiting its supply then that's perfectly fine, but don't mislead consumers by advertising its scarcity if you plan to keep selling it without limit.
Scarcity tactics work because they provide a compelling reason for a user to act immediately. Another way of achieving this is by capitalising on the power of now. The power of now refers to offering any sort of incentive for a user's immediate action. This could be by offering them a discount, or by throwing in a free extra if they purchase within a time limit.
A great example of this in action, though not necessarily in the form of ads, is Amazon's checkout page:
By telling you how long you have left to buy an item, if you want it to be delivered within a certain timeframe, Amazon are creating a powerful incentive for you to make the purchase immediately.
A great way to use this tactic within ads is to think about how you can incorporate the power of now in your retageting. In retargeting, you're expressely targeting people who, despite engaging with your product, haven't decided to convert. If they're simply putting it off, then leveraging the power of now and offering them an incentive to convert soon can bring in volume you wouldn't otherwise have gotten.
The last thing to consider for driving action on your ads is the power of free. As tacky as it may seem, we're all drawn to things with the word free in them. Consciously or subconsciously, when we see that something is free, we feel like we're getting a better deal.
If you're reluctant to offer anything free, for fear that it'll hurt your bottom line, realise that you don't have to give anything away to use the F word.
Ecommerce retailers routinely advertise free delivery by absorbing the delivery fee in the item price. Service providers will advertise basic features as free, just because they're not charging you anything extra for them. It doesn't have to cost you anything to give away something for free.
The reason this works is because most consumers are much more price sensitive to add-on costs, like delivery fees, than to the original item price. What I mean by this is that a $5 delivery fee on a $50 item will feel more costly than paying $55 for that same item. And if the brand can claim they're giving us free delivery for it, then we feel like we've gotten a better deal.
The above is a whistle stop tour through some ideas on how to get people to see, care for, and engage with your ads. It's far from exhaustive, but should give plenty of ideas for how to create and test some of your first ads.