Social media ads have usurped the traditional advertising market that everyone remembers: 45-second television ads with expensive production that reached thousands of people. For decades, TV was king for reaching a wide audience, but the amount of people watching TV in the way we used to has shrunk, while the number of Facebook and Instagram profiles skyrocketed.

Now is the time for e-commerce to prosper with so many social media users looking to keep in touch, connect online and find good things to buy via their smartphones.

As the competition on social media increases, it can become more difficult to grab the attention of potential customers. The key idea is to persuade your target audience to interact and engage with you, especially people who may already be tired of a stream of good and bad offers. 

So how do you win this competition, especially if you can’t rely on expensive production?

The answer: your creatives. Making attractive, engaging, high-quality ads is the pathway to taking your brand to the next level. We recently discussed the trends and challenges for businesses with Ilya Lagutin, CEO at Aitarget, a creative platform that helps to automate creatives in Facebook, Google, Snapchat and TikTok. Dive in here to learn why a creative-first position is the only way for digital businesses to attract customers and increase sales. 

1. What is a creative-first position? Why is the creative so important to a brand? 

Social media advertising has seriously evolved in the almost eight years that Aitarget has been engaged with platforms like Facebook. Nowadays, the quality of your ad is key. 

Originally, when Facebook was just beginning to show ads to users, the key challenge for all advertisers was to determine and find a target audience. That was a breakthrough: social networks provided us with great targeting opportunities, customizable not only with user demographics like gender and age, but also with interests, geography and behavior. Social media ads were also cheap at that time, so the only thing an advertiser had to take care of was determining the best approach for reaching the target audience. 

Step by step, this situation has evolved: previously, people had to select targeting, but now algorithms perform this work more efficiently then any specialist. For example, now the most efficient targeting on Facebook is Lookalike. It automatically searches for people who are similar to your customers in ways that go far beyond simple matches that could be described in specific ways. In comparison, you can’t select any targeting on Google in general. This means you select your app and then the social network finds your audience on its own. That is why simple targeting has become less popular for advertisers. 

The next big evolution in our industry was bid strategies and budget management. The new question became: how much money do I pay per user/view/click/etc and why? 

Companies such as Aitarget developed sophisticated automated strategies to manage bids, set the budget low or high, reallocate it and determine a correct price for the ads. However, things have changed even in this area: automated app campaigns have gained popularity both on Facebook and Google, ranging from Campaign Budget Optimization (Facebook) to automated or universal app campaigns (Facebook/Google). In these cases, the concept of bid management completely disappears. Instead, you indicate your business objective and stick to the process with the hope your ads recover the costs. Facebook manages the bids and budgets automatically ‘under the hood’ to bring you to your goals, or as close as possible.

That’s why today the only thing an advertiser can proactively alter and experiment with is the creative. This is what a user sees. It is also important to keep in mind that social advertising is no longer as cheap as it used to be: over the past 10 years the price increased by 5-6 times (because the number of social media users increased dramatically).

This means that the users’ value also increased. In the early days of social advertising you didn’t have to care so much about what exactly you showed to a user – when it was cheap, the value of bad performance wasn’t so high. But today, Facebook’s auction algorithm increases the value of high-quality creatives. This means that if I offer an engaging creative that shapes a good user experience, and my competitors do not, even if I bid less my creative wins and goes to users. This is how quality ranking on Facebook works. 

At the same time, the cost per conversion generated by good-quality and low-quality creative can differ tenfold. Therefore, should you now want to significantly increase the effectiveness of your ads, your creative is the only option for experimentation, tests, and optimizations. 

It is also the option that delivers the greatest performance to your business.

Another reason why creative is key to your brand making a profit is the growing trend for skipping. Skippable ad formats have increased on social media. For example, when YouTube ads first came out, almost all ads were unskippable. Now ads before videos can quickly be skipped, and Instagram offers users the ability to swipe away your brand stories and scroll through their feed whenever they want. So you must have good eye-catching ads; it is the only thing that can pause fingers and make users listen to you through your ads, til the end. 

2. Which businesses are most affected by the creative-first trend?

On social networks, there are two types of products advertised: discovery shopping products and intent shopping products.

What is intent shopping? An example would be when your fridge is broken and you urgently need a new one, so you search for it and buy one. When you do not need a new fridge, business could hardly ever sell one to you through social media, regardless of the quality of their ad creatives. 

Discovery shopping follows a different pattern: you ‘discover’ something online and make a decision to buy it. For example, you may not need new sneakers, but you spot an ad on Instagram that catches your eye and you decide you want to buy the sneakers.

While the quality of the creative is important for both types of business – intent and discovery shopping – for customers that are primarily focused on discovery shopping it means more. In fact, in this space good creative creates demand for the specific product. That’s why fashion and beauty brands’ ads are among the most efficient and effective on social networks.

The difference in performance between the average fashion creative and one for the same brand that has been adjusted to improve the overall quality of the creative.

3. What are the current trends in crafting great creatives? What’s changed, and what’s next?

Well, I think there are three basic trends. 

The first relates to the reduction of attention-span to those watching. Originally there was a standard of 30 seconds like classic TV spots, then it was cut to 15 seconds. Now the average time a person may concentrate on your ad is several seconds. 

This is why:

  • ads are becoming shorter.
  • every second is valuable – you have to catch users’ attention immediately. 

The second trend is the development of unique formats, such as Instagram Stories. They have already gained a good half of the ad views. So you need to have a good creative that primarily fits the specifications of each placement, including Stories.

The third trend is personalization of creatives. Since the time a user may watch an ad gets shorter and shorter, your ad should address a user with their personal needs and shape users’ experience with your brand. The key format here? Video performs well for that purpose. It grabs attention and delivers more information than, for example, static ads.

4. You mentioned personalization as a trend. Is it true that how you show something, and who you show it to, is most important? How does that work with creatives, and what’s the formula for impactful creatives now, and into 2021?

Well, I guess, personalization is empowered with data. Data is collected by social platforms, and also by brands. Using this data you can make a personal offer to a particular customer. So, since we now have less time to capture a customer’s attention, we must immediately convey our message to a user. There are lots of opportunities here. 

For example, businesses can learn which products a user has been interested in, whether they visited their pages on a website, and then show them a video displaying those products through retargeting. The user’s location could be a specific criteria to show ads promoting that your store can do one-hour delivery to this location (in a certain city, for example).

The weather is another good personalization point. If it is sunny in the area, engage a user with what they need at the moment, eg sunglasses or sunscreen. When it is raining, vary your message to shape the demand. 

With personalization, it is important to harness all the information about a customer that a business is armed with, whether that’s from Facebook Pixel, CRM or any other data source. Use Facebook profiles-based data, and you can also integrate third-party databases, such as exchange rates, weather, etc.

5. How can a creative-first strategy impact businesses? 

You can show ads to a super broad reach of millions of users, getting views and engagement. This information can be used not only for optimizing a single campaign, but to improve your overall business through ads. For example, say you have a website with low traffic; it could be quite risky to experiment in that case. Yet you can use the data to detect the most clickable products for users, and bid on them. This means you’re able to launch ads on Facebook by buying a required number of views and identifying which products are the most marginal ones. You may also want to adjust your website or your offline lookbook to this result, placing the products on the first page for this specific, interested, user.

Brands and businesses can also analyse which components of their creative have good impact: tagline, colors, combinations of text and images, and then spread the most successful mockups to your entire business. For example, you could test “DISCOUNT” against “SALE” or “SPECIAL OFFER”, learn which one influences the conversion rate the best (using different analytic tools), and then apply the winning word/s to your business communications. Launching ads at different periods with different products can quickly relate the product price and it’s prospective demand.

6. What does a business need in order to produce impactful creative? Does it require serious production and a lot of money?

Testing different combinations is an important factor in making your creatives work. Statistics show that the most successful brands produce and launch 11 times more creatives than the less successful ones. Conducting lots of tests, experiments, and different methods of personalization enable you to collect more data and then find the best performing combination of targeting, creative, and message. 

So if you want to utilize luxury TV production, head to Barbados for video shoots, and aim to show your ads during the Super Bowl, you’re going to be very limited in terms of room for experimentation. So you’d better look for cheaper and much more efficient ways to craft your creative. In general, there are probably three approaches for that process.

The first approach is to hire an inhouse team or a few freelancers or influencers, brief each of them to shoot several cheap and simple videos for you, then go and test them.

The second approach is automation of this process. If you have some products, you automatically make a lot of videos with images of these products, using tools and creative platforms such as Aitarget. This enables you to craft a million videos with various products in an hour. Such videos are much, much cheaper than standard video production or manually produced animations.

The third approach (suitable for retailers and big businesses) is to mix standard production and personalization. Adjust automation to the creative you did before: use a particular brand video that you use on TV and combine it with different products in the last three seconds for use on social networks, or customise this creative depending on the location. 

If you want to learn more about how to make your creatives perform well, click here to schedule a demo with Aitarget.

About Aitarget

Aitarget has built an award-winning Advanced Automated Advertising Technology that reinvents the process of running campaigns via next-generation, AI-infused creative technologies. Aitarget is committed to unlocking the value and utility in exceptional creative and recognizing its impact on business outcomes and provide a closed-loop SaaS solution that empowers advertisers within a rapidly transforming e-commerce infrastructure.

Create on-brand creatives for each stage of the Funnel at scale; repurpose any branded content you have for high performing ads; benefit from analytics and see incremental improvements in the process of actionable iterations.

  • Powerful сreative tools: make your products shine by crafting all-format creative assets from scratch and without too much spending.
  • Enriched product data: increase ad conversions and amplify creatives with relevant data from the product feed, website, or third-party data (special offers, ratings and reviews, etc). 
  • Closed-loop performance: iterate and improve performance in real-time by using our creative analytics along with automated bidding and placement strategies.

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By Laya

Helping creatives to turn offline experiences into online income At the age of 18, I decided to leave my home and move to Italy. With no plan, no income, no idea what I'm up to. I just wanted to take the leap! Long story short, I ended up getting into a freelance design which later brought me to website design & online courses. Now, proud to be location independent digital nomad, I help creatives to turn their offline experiences into online income!

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