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The good, the same and the ugly: creative lessons from Facebook's newsfeed

By Earl Allan, Designer evangelist



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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February 15, 2017 | 5 min read

Facebook’s newsfeed is the crucible within which great performing ads shine through, after the dross has melted away. There is so much competition for attention in the newsfeed, and Facebook’s strict controls on ad volume make it more so. On top of all this, there is only a three-second window for viewability on mobile.

Designing successful ads

The good, the same and the ugly: how best to design your ad campaigns

Why do hipsters try so hard to look the same?

The problem with trying too hard to look cool is that you might start to look like everyone else. What happens in hipster-land also happens in ad-land.

All too often, ads within a category look frighteningly similar. Try the test yourself – look at three or fours ads from different advertisers in the same category. Cover the logo and ask yourself if you were a casual viewer scrolling past, would you actually notice that the ads come from different advertisers?

Chances are that you can’t tell one from the other. And if you, being informed and interested, can’t; which consumer can?

Ugly is the new beautiful

When we started to implement our AI’s compositional analysis on ads, SHAKA (that’s the name of our AI) was recommending ads that I, as a career ad man, would consider to be ugly.

What is ugly? I am not imposing my subjective standards but the classic rules of design. Ugly is when colours clash and things are slightly out of proportion. Why on earth are people clicking on those ads?

With enough data, we realised that it was not because of any hidden design merit that these ads worked. These ads worked only because they stood out and were noticed. Such sweet irony. We worked hard with our advertisers and ReFUEL4’s design community to get these lessons to them.

How to create contrast within context

So the primary learning is how to look different, while providing enough context to the viewer that the ad is relevant to the category that they are interested in. And what hacks can an advertiser implement to stand out?

Start with knowing yourself and the competition:

1. Know that each category is different.

2. Be clear what other advertisers in your category are doing.

3. Understand intimately what is unique about your brand and product.

4. Develop a hypothesis as to what the consumer truly seeks to find in your category.

5. Take a creatively contrarian perspective.

6. Cross your fingers that it works (We don’t have to, we have SHAKA who tells us).

Here are some category examples:

Online gaming- Make it real

• Extend reality into the virtual experience.

• Tap on real life scenarios and experiences.

• Show the most thrilling game scenes.

E-commerce – Make it clear

• Online users have a short attention span. All ads need to be clear in its objective and message.

• For short burst direct response ad categories (like betting and e-commerce), this is amplified as these ads have a shorter life span.

• Show product options clearly. Use uncluttered designs to add an element of quality to your products.

• Use themes via graphic element, colour tones and backgrounds that complement the products.

M-commerce- Make it 'now'

• Consumers can always buy it another time, elsewhere. Make them feel they have to do it now.

• Show highly relatable scenarios in every day settings.

• Highlight the time-saving benefits to customers who are constantly on the go.

Winner of Facebook’s Innovator of the Year, ReFUEL4 is the world’s leading data- driven creative platform, delivering assets from 10,000 global creators backed by predictive AI technology. Learn more here.


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Winner of Facebook's 2016 Innovator of the Year, ReFUEL4 is the world's leading online ad creative management platform. 

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