Is creative design an art or a science? Not so long ago I bumped into a 10+ year old South Park episode that made me think about how we produce Facebook Ads.
We are introduced to the “Family Guy writing staff” who turn out to be a group of manatees. The manatees “write” jokes for the show by picking random balls from a tank. Each ball has “a different noun, a verb or a pop culture reference” written upon it. 5 balls plucked from a tank are turned into a joke and you can see an example in the “Idea Balls” segment. Sounds silly? Yes, but no more silly than the actual creative process.
The Core Idea: Deconstruct Your Creativity
When we look at ads or listen to jokes our brain perceives them in their entirety without paying attention to the “building blocks”. But a creative piece that moves us one way or another can always be broken up into components. And once we understand what pieces we have at our disposal, we can work back to creating the lists of ideas we can mix and match, just like the South Park manatees.
In our process here is the list of the components we hand-pick for every ad:
- The Audience: This is the context of who this ad is intended for
- The Offer: What value is the ad promising and what it asks in return
- The Angle: The specific emotional appeal on behalf of this offer to this audience
- The Headline: The hook designed to grab the prospect’s attention
- The Visual: A captivating video or a graphic illustrating the offer and the hook
- The Copy: The extended textual narrative with the story behind the offer
- The CTA(s): Clear Calls-to-Action expressed in buttons and links
Let’s dive a little deeper to explain how each of these components fits in
Part 1: The Audience
The most important component of the ad creative is also the most overlooked. The more specific an ad is in addressing a specific marketing persona, the more likely it would drive engagement and conversion. But the best ad creatives go beyond that and address specific steps in the customer journey, with uniquely suited messages. Many great ads also call out the audience’s attributes directly, though this is not always possible as such attributes could be subconscious, undesirable or prohibited by policy.
Part 2: The Offer
An ad without a clearly defined offer is an ad wasting budget. The offer needs to have a specific value proposition that fits the target audience. Think deals, discounts, lead magnets, webinars, etc. The offer must be credible and must match the audience’s desires and means. Don’t bother with developing ads until you have developed such offers. Unless of course “the offer” is merely to create some form of engagement to warm up the audience for follow-on offers coming further in the customer journey.
Part 3: The Angle
Think of “the angle” as the overall emotional theme and story of the ad. The offer may make sense for the audience at the logical level, but most people don’t buy based on logic, even in the business setting. We are moved by our psychology and emotion, and the angle is that connector that pushes the prospect’s right buttons to get them to act (and justify their decisions by logic later). Think of all those fitness ads that emphasize greater likelihood of getting a date. That’s an example of a good angle.
Part 4: The Headline
Social newsfeeds are noisy. Very noisy. You have to yell at people to get their attention. Headline is one way to do this. Ideally it should speak to the right audience, about the right offer, from the right angle. Unfortunately boiling down everything we would like to say to a very limited number of characters is not easy. We have to make choices and tradeoffs by prioritizing whatever is the most effective at stirring the desire to learn more. Brainstorm the ideas, make a big swipe file, and test them at scale!
Part 5: The Visual
Headline is half the battle in grabbing your audience’s attention. The other half is your main visual component, designed to attract the eye and peak the curiosity. Didn’t the picture of a manatee carrying a ball intrigue you enough to want to read that far into this post? Facebook keeps innovating and providing us with killer media formats. Use them to the fullest, especially video that provides an opportunity to tell your story at length. Video beats out most static images in head-to-head tests. Invest in media production!
Part 6: The Copy
OK, so we have the attention of a prospect from our audience who got pulled in by the headline and the visual. Now what? Of course now is the time to make our sales pitch at length to communicate the value of the offer, from the right angle. This is where the long sales copy comes in. Tell a story, address the audience, nudge them in the right direction, stir up their desires, make it fun, entertaining and educational. If they connect with your story they’ll be a lot more predisposed to buy than if you just scream “buy my thing”!
Part 7: The CTA(s)
Finally, once you told your story and got their buy-in, you have to make a clear ask. This is not the time to be vague. It is surprising how many ads include wrong links or mis-labeled buttons. You have to tell your audience exactly what the next step should be, in order to achieve the benefits of your offer, you have just sold using the headline, the visual and the copy. The CTA elements must be easy to find and use. Drop the links into ad copy several times. Shorten ugly-looking URLs. Test your CTAs and make sure they actually work!
Putting It All Together
Treat every component of an ad, just like the manatees treat “idea balls” in South Park. Make a list of ideas in every category and then start combining them to build ad creatives. Unlike South Park though, not every combination may work, so don’t just combine at random. If a headline doesn’t match an angle, pick a different headline or a different angle. The most important takeaway is that you now have the method for generating ad ideas.
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