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Since Facebook Ads launched back in 2007, the variety of ads available on the platform has increased exponentially. Whereas Facebook Ads started with a single ad format—Flyers, designed to allow college students to advertise events on campus—there are now a huge range of different formats available on the platform.
This article, which is a follow up to the intro to Facebook ad types, looks at each of the main ad types in more detail, and ways that you can make the most of each of them.
The most common Facebook ad format is what's referred to as a static. It's a single, still image, whose aspect ratio can range from 1.91:1 (landscape) to 4:5 (portrait).
Statics are the bread and butter of most Facebook Ads accounts. They're simple to produce and can get a message across quickly. You can run them across all placements, and they can play a role for businesses in any vertical.
One of the more interesting benefits of statics is that because all their content is displayed in a single frame (unlike videos, where it's staggered over the course of the clip) they can in some cases be better at encouraging direct response. There's no video for people to get distracted by watching; people know when they see a static ad which they want to learn more about, that they need to click on it.
The flipside of this is that statics can be less effective at communicating more complex propositions, or introducing users to new products (or product categories). When you've only got one frame, there's only so much content you can fit in before it becomes too crammed.
For the reasons above, statics often perform best as part of retargeting campaigns; campaigns targeting users who've already interacted with your brand. These users will already have some familiarity with your brand, and so the ad doesn't need to fit a ton of information in.
The purpose of retargeting ads is essentially to remind users about your brand, and encourage them to convert. Because statics can offer a clear and direct call-to-action straight away, in contrast to videos which typically build to a CTA, statics can often outperform videos on retargeting campaigns.
Designing for Statics
One key thing to bear in mind when producing static ads, is Facebook's 20% text rule. As Facebook doesn't want news feeds to be cluttered with ads full of text, it penalises advertisers who run statics which contain more than 20% text.
Facebook levies the penalty on the advertiser's auction ranking; by artificially reducing the rank of the advertiser's ads in the auction, the advertiser is forced to either serve less impressions, or pay more for the same amount of impression.
These penalties get applied for assets made up over 20% of text. Beyond around 30% text, Facebook doesn't allow the ads to even run. You can check whether your statics contain too much text by using Facebook's ad overlay tool.
Note that the overlay tool uses quite a specific method for determining ad text percentage. It divides the asset up into a number of squares, and counts how many of those squares contain text. If over 20% of the original number of squares contain text, then the ad will be penalised when uploaded into an ad account.
The method which Facebook uses to determine text percentage, counting squares, is important to remember. Looking at an image and manually estimating the text percentage can often cause you to underestimate the percentage compared to the squares method, so always upload your statics to Facebook's tool to be sure that they're compliant.
Given that Facebook only allows up to 20% of the static to be text, you need to be economical when designing statics. Chances are that you're only going to be able to fit one key message into your static.
Given that statics can see good performance on retargeting, it could be good to think about some of the psychological triggers referred to in the article on Ad Copy and Creatives (in the Reasons to Engage section). Some of the concepts there, like social proof, can be easily implemented static retargeting ads.
By including a user review or testimonial in your retargeting statics, you're able to help build trust and consideration amongst users who haven't yet converted on your product.
Where statics succeed by delivering a message quickly, and ferrying users to your site, videos succeed by allowing you to deliver more complex messages, and build more of a brand voice.
Because videos are in some essential sense a collection of statics, you can communicate far more information through them than you can through a single static. This benefit of videos is particularly relevant for where you need to communicate something more complex to a user.
This could be because your product is complex, you're communicating a complex use-case to a user, or it's for a category with low awareness. A 'category with low awareness' refers to a type of product that most internet users would be unfamiliar with. For example, take Halo Neuroscience.
Halo produce brain stimulating headsets, which are designed to help you learn by passing electric currents through your head. It's a fairly complex proposition, and not one that most have come across before (low category awareness). If I were advertising a product like this, I'd want to lean on video ads' ability to explain the concept in more detail than a static could.
An additional benefit of video ads is that you can retarget people who've viewed a certain amount of them. For instance, you could retarget people who've watched at least 75% of any of your videos. If you use videos to introduce users to your product, and to explain what it is, then it's fairly safe to assume that users which have watched 75% of one of your videos will be familiar with your product.
You can save yourself money by not showing them your videos, and instead follow-up with more direct statics ads, which perhaps offer discounts or employ scarcity tactics., to encourage conversion.
There are of course downsides of videos though. The main one is simply that they're more difficult to produce. Time spent producing a single video could be used to produce a number of statics, which then can be tested against one another. Even if your video performs better than the average static, if your tests show that any of your statics is better than your video then this validates investing time into producing more statics.
Videos can run across a number of placements in Facebook Ads, but it's worth breaking down these placements into two groups.
Feed videos are probably what you'd imagine if you thought of a Facebook video ad. They can appear in news feeds, be it on Facebook or Instagram, and aspect ratios can range from 1.91:1 (landscape) to 4:5 (portrait).
Feed videos tend to be best for acquisition, and driving conversions, but this comes with a cost. Becuase they tend to perform better on lower-funnel actions, they can often be more expensive to serve.
One way of counteracting the high cost of feed videos, and gaining incremental volume, is to serve vertical videos. These serve primarily in story placements (e.g. Instagram stories), but can also serve on the audience network, Facebook's family of 3rd party apps. Vertical videos are always 1:1.91 in aspect ratio.
CPMs on these placements can be substantially cheaper; a story CPM might be half as cheap as a feed CPM, with the audience network even cheaper.
Part of the reason for the cheap CPMs is that these placements tend to perform less well from a direct response perspective. It's not hard to see why—imagine you're using one of the apps on the audience network and an ad pops up. Most people will clickly move to close the ad as soon as possible.
Just because direct response is low doesn't mean these placements aren't worthwhile though. They can be valuable for retargeting, where you'll want to use all possible channels to follow up on someone who hasn't converted, or for branding campaigns, where you want to take advantage of the cheapest possible CPMs.
Designing for Video
One of the most important points to bear in mind when designing for video, is that by default most users don't want to watch your video. Viewership on videos drops quickly after the first second or so (even before that for vertical videos like stories).
With this in mind, it's important to design videos so that they can grab attention in the first second. How you do this is up to you. It could be by asking a question or highlighting something relevant to the audience you're targeting, or it could be through attention-grabbing use of visuals and sound. Ideally though, a good proportion of the time you spend developing your video asset should be focussed on making that first second as engaging as possible.
Another point to consider is branding. Knowing that most viewers will navigate away from your video after the first second, you want to get your brand in there straightaway. That way, even if people don't watch past the first second, they've seen your brand and will have some chance of remembering it.
PlayStation do a good job of this by including a common brand animation at the beginning of all ads for PlayStation games. You can see below how the branding and the product both flash on screen momentarily before the video begins. Even if a user hasn't watched past the first second, they still know exactly what's being advertised, thus helping them to recall the product.
Statics and videos are, in a sense, at two different ends of the format spectrum. Statics are easy to produce, and convey limited information quickly. Videos are more resource intensive to produce, but can help explain much more complex propositions, and help to build a brand.
Carousels sit somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum. They allow you to upload a series of static images, which sit in an ordered 'carousel':
Carousels are typically used to advertise a range of related services or products, like in Air France's example above. Each card on a carousel features a different product, and the card's text can feature prices or any other relevant information. Each card can have its own URL, making the carousel function like mulitple ads in one.
Carousels aren't limited to advertising ranges of products though, they can also be used to express more complex stories about your brand. Take this example by Gavrieli:
Here they've effectively used each card of the carousel to explain a different feature of their product. This is a lot more information than they could have gotten into a static, but would have made for quite a dull video, making carousels the perfect format for this message.
In cases like Gavrieli's, it's important to control the ordering of the carousel. In many cases though, such as where you're advertising a range of products, the order of the cards is something which should be optimised.
Fortunately this isn't a manual task; Facebook allows you to let it choose the best starting card, and to show that first. You can then view some top-level performance metrics for each card in Ads Manager, by using the Carousel Card breakdown in the top right, under By Action.
A good way to plan your video design can involve first taking all the main frames from your video, and turning them into statics. These statics can then be put into a carousel, where you allow Facebook to to optimise for the best performing first card. By allowing Facebook to optimise for the best performing first card, you can learn which frames are best at grabbing attention, and use this information to order the sequencing of your videos.
Designing for Carousels
There are few generally applicable rules for designing for carousel ads, owing to the fact that they can be used in a number of different ways.
If you're advertising a range of products, then make sure that the static for each product is in tune with the aesthetic of the other cards. If you're looking to tell a story with your carousel, make sure each card flows seamlessly into the next.
Facebook's 20% rule applies just as much to the statics in your carousels as it does to regular statics, so make sure to keep the images clean. You have two field below each card which you can enter text into, a headline and a description, so save the text for there.