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How To Make Display Ads That Work

A brief guide on how to optimize creatives on digital for better conversions and higher retention. These learnings are provided as a selection of takeaways that are readily implementable as part of your company's digital strategy.

These slides were originally presented by me at the Google Startup Bootcamp, New Delhi in October 2015. They have subsequently presented at Adwords conferences at Berlin and at several other events.

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How To Make Display Ads That Work

  1. 1. 1. Optimising Display Ads Praveen Rajaretnam Co-founder, Wooplr Advisor, Cupick & 1Thing Startup Consultant LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  2. 2. Condensed Playbook (to be taken with a pinch of salt)
  3. 3. Disclaimer • This is not a ‘How to’ guide • Few tactics mentioned might be one-off • Apply the learnings • Takeaways are meant to provide inspiration to experiment – do not adopt them blindly • Use them / incorporate into your own digital strategy • These are my learnings • So, take them with a pinch of salt • Remember, experience alone teaches you LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  4. 4. But First, Follow Best Practices Setup Measurement Tools Define Your TG Create Personas Plan & Set Goals Be Data Driven Optimise the Funnel Research Digital Marketing 101 LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  5. 5. Don’t you want to make an ad like this?
  9. 9. 3 Things an Ad Should Do
  10. 10. 1 LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES • Why does the ad matter? • Does the copy and design communicate clarity? • Does it evoke the desired emotions in the consumer? It should state its objective clearly
  11. 11. 2 LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES • It should meet or exceed the expectations set. In order to do this, empathy is key • Treat every interaction as an opportunity to get to know needs better It should deliver on the promised value / utility as advertised
  12. 12. 3 LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES It should impact / delight the consumer
  13. 13. Motto for Every Advertiser
  14. 14. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES To understand, and be understood.
  15. 15. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES 01 Simple Layouts 02 Concise Copy Keep it to the point. 03 Legible Text Text in the ad should be clearly readable on all screen sizes 04 Tappable CTA Make the call-to-action (CTA) big & inviting (tappable size) Aa
  16. 16. Easier said than done!
  17. 17. First Mantra
  18. 18. Startup L. Jackson The data does not share your opinion. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  19. 19. Case Study #1
  20. 20. • In the initial days, followed the principle, • “If I wouldn’t click on the ad myself, never put it up.” • The creative was designed by men for a TG of women • Unsurprisingly, led to more men than women clicking this ad CASE OF BIAS LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  21. 21. • Created a focus group • Understood requirements, involved the TG in the creative process and took their feedback • New ads reduced clicks from men and improved conversions HOW WE SOLVED IT LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  22. 22. TAKEAWAY #1 • More importantly, beware of confirmation bias during the creative process • Speak to your users. Listen more! • Also, you cannot reach an individual through generalities Reject self-as-user mindset to avoid bias LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  23. 23. Case Study #2
  24. 24. BEING LED BY HYPOTHESIS • Celebrity looks drives more sales • Major e-commerce players (and brands) at that time used this route in their ads • So we decided to create a celeb lookbook ad set to acquire users • Everyone was convinced that these ads will perform better than existing sets LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  25. 25. FIRST SET OF CREATIVES WERE LAUNCHED • Sample group approved the creatives (100% gave thumbs-up) • Launched with high expectations LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  26. 26. PERFORMANCE OF AD SET 1 • Performance • Cost per install (CPI) was 50% higher • Blunder • We were so convinced about the route (of using celebrity lookbooks), we decided that it was the creative that wasn’t working • We ignored data completely • We went back to the same women who thought this creative was ‘very good’ to ask what was wrong with it LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  27. 27. CHANGES MADE • Using the natural background of the celebrity photo to add authenticity • The apparels look too cluttered. Focus to be put on the main apparel only LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  28. 28. SECOND SET OF CREATIVES WERE LAUNCHED • The women loved this creative set as well • Expectations on the ad set were still high LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  29. 29. PERFORMANCE OF AD SET 2 • Performance • Cost per install (CPI) increased further by 78% • Blunder • We continued to ignore data • In the medical world, when the treatment doesn’t work, the doctor doesn’t change the prescription – she changes the diagnosis • In our case, we changed the creatives (the prescription) instead of looking at the data • We changed the creatives again besides trying different targeting and copy options • Thus, we continued to treat the symptoms rather than the disease LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  30. 30. ANOTHER SET OF CREATIVES WERE LAUNCHED • We went back to the drawing board (still convinced about the route) • We decided to drop the celebrity altogether and focus only on the apparels with the copy doing the rest • The CPI improved marginally on the previous set LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  31. 31. WHAT THE DATA TRIED TO TELL US • Click-through rate (CTR) was higher than average for the original creative set 1 • However, the Conversion Ratio (CVR) had dropped considerably which affected the CPI • This indicated a disconnect between what was advertised and what the user saw on the landing page which led to increased drop-offs • We completely ignored the CVR parameter • Subsequently, we put more focus on brand messaging and ASO Relevance score of ad CTR x CVR LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  32. 32. TAKEAWAY #2 • But remember, certain insights can be unraveled by building empathy alone Look at all data available before making a decision LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  33. 33. TAKEAWAY #3 Focus on relevance. Make sure the ad shown is useful (use Pareto principle) LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  34. 34. Second Mantra
  35. 35. Startup L. Jackson Don't let anyone tell you reinventing the wheel is a stupid idea. These people would be content pulling a wooden cart behind a horse. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  36. 36. Case Study #3
  37. 37. EXPERIMENTATION • When Facebook introduced carousel ads (MPA), we looked at how other brands were using it. We were not convinced that it would work for us and decided to take a different approach • We tried a completely new concept of using content in ads (for e.g., style tips, DIY, etc.) LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  38. 38. PERFORMANCE OF THE AD SET CPI DROPPED BY 20% DAILY INSTALLS WENT UP BY 300% • The ad broke away from the conventional ads at that time by not pushing the consumer to buy something • The ad was informational – in fact, it looked less like an ad and more like a story on their feed WHY THE AD WORKED LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  39. 39. TAKEAWAY #4 Create distinctive, high-relevance, high-quality content • Be original – it helps to create and build your brand identity • Never stop experimenting • And sell less LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  40. 40. Third Mantra
  41. 41. Startup L. Jackson Ask not what my platform can do for you, but what your app can do for my platform. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  42. 42. STOP FOCUSING ON CPI 1. Instead focus on the creative and copy 2. You will have to make do with what is available 3. Look for innovative ways to break out of the constraints 4. Remember, your competitor faces the same limitations as you (when evaluating different ad platforms / networks) LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  43. 43. Case Study #4
  44. 44. Women Women who love shopping, dressing up, street fashion and labels alike. Goes to malls, flea markets. Inspired by Bollywood fashion and her peers. Checks fashion online. Tier-I cities Urban. Independent. Working. Home makers who spend considerable time online. SEC A/B households Monthly disposable income from INR 3,000 to INR 30,000. Shops via e-commerce 18-30 18-24 followed by 25-30 and then 30+ Wooplr’s TG 1. Gender targeting on many platforms was either not available or was ineffective. 2. Spillover (>40% men) on the Wooplr app was common 3. Communicating to the right set of women proved a major challenge Problem Statement CHALLENGES FACED ON AD PLATFORMS LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  45. 45. SO WHAT DID WE DO? 1. No faces / belly buttons 2. More emphasis on the product 3. Use of elements (colors, copy, etc.) that are unappealing to men • Project MAN REPELLER launched • Aimed at making our ads extremely unappealing for men (see rules on the right) The Rules LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  47. 47. PERFORMANCE OF THE AD SET • Spillover reduced to less than 20% across all platforms • Ratio of acquisition from Tier I to Tier II cities improved, thus attracting the right segment – resulting in higher D30 retention stats LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  48. 48. USE AD PLATFORMS FOR THEIR STRENGTHS • Who your friends are • Who you chat with • TV Shows, movies & brands you love • News you care about LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES • What you search for • What’s in your Inbox • Directions you map to • What’s in your Android device * Based on this article by Josh knowsknows
  49. 49. CREATE CONTENT & ADS FOR PLATFORMS LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES • Ad platforms are unique and cater to their audiences using vastly different mechanisms. So, treat them differently. • Leverage each platform for their strengths • Create content and ads specifically for those platforms INTENT IMPULSE
  50. 50. TAKEAWAY #5 • Leverage the platform’s constraints to your advantage – it gives you a leg up over your competitors • Make creatives & ads for specific platforms (what works on Facebook does not necessarily work for AdWords, and vice-versa) Look at the system as a means to an end – not an end in itself LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  51. 51. Fifth Mantra
  52. 52. Startup L. Jackson You've got 99 developers and a woman ain't one. No s**t you're having culture problems, I don't feel bad for you son. (to paraphrase in this context) INCLUDE WOMEN DURING THE CREATIVE PROCESS LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  53. 53. MAKE SURE YOUR CREATIVE TEAM IS DIVERSE 01Get comfortable 02 Think outside the box 03 Work as a team 04 Humour helps! • Having women in the brainstorming process (even if they are not part of the creative team) goes a long way • Do not include too many people during ideation as that usually leads to confusion (too many perspectives) LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  54. 54. Case Study #5
  55. 55. The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible. BRING IN HUMOUR • Create an environment where inhibitions are low • Let all ideas flow through. Don’t dismiss any idea • Keep it light (add some silliness) David OgilvyLEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  56. 56. HUMOUR ELEMENT IN ADS • A casual conversation led to a fun concept (see right image), post which the language was polished • Although CPI was higher, stickiness improved (higher D7 retention) • Thus, using humour actually increased loyalty CASUAL IDEA / CONCEPT LED TO THIS AD LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  57. 57. TAKEAWAY #6 • Humour helps connect with and earns the trust of customers – and hence results in better loyalty • Humour also makes the brand more human • Don’t make the ads too clever – they might just go over the head Less wit, more slapstick humour LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  58. 58. Keys to making better creatives
  59. 59. PERFORMING CREATIVE ANALYSIS Creative analysis can be broken down into: 01 Background Analysis Solid vs natural backgrounds 02 Colour Palette Analysis Contrast trumps Colour. 2 primary, 2 secondary , 1 tertiary 03 Right Typography Use the right font for the right image. Pair fonts well 04 Use of Subjects A/B test with subjects, visage visibility, emotions et al. 05 Copy Analysis 0-60 characters. 60-140 characters. 140+ characters. Use action words in the beginning of the copy 06 Use of Elements Heading, Sub-text, CTA, Logo, Play Store / App Store Badges Aa LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  60. 60. Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving. EXPERIMENT 1. Tested a creative with 18 variants once 2. Gained insights on spectrum analysis, placement of elements and typography David OgilvyLEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  61. 61. TAKEAWAY #7 • Text / CTA should be on the right • Creative should have preferably have one dominant human readable colour (revealed by Spectral Analysis) Multivariate testing unravels unique insights specific to your TG. Apply them. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  62. 62. SPECTRAL ANALYSIS Medium Rich Blue Note: Spectral Analysis is not suited for product images 1. Average HSV (235, 73, 38) | (26, 32, 97) | #1a2061 2. RGB Colour (most representative of image) (34, 43, 96) | #222b60 3. Human readable colour description LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  65. 65. TAKEAWAY #8 • Not every creative needs to be about your product • Experiment around ideas and themes Explore non-product themes to communicate (color, festivals, concepts) LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  66. 66. • Note bolder, taller fonts. • Shorter statements • Leading with action words in the copy • Reduce clutter TYPOGRAPHY & COPY ANALYSIS LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  67. 67. WHAT GOES INTO A SUCCESSFUL AD CREATIVE? Image 60% Copy 10% Targeting 30% Criteria **Data applicable only for generic ads on fashion themeLEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  68. 68. Colour Palette Analysis + Tools 1. Color Hunt 2. Coolors 3. Typography Tools 1. Font Flame 2. FontPark 3. Font Squirrel Free Stock Image Repositories 1. 2. 3. Pixabay 4. Unsplash 5. Stock Up Other Tools 1. Multicolr Search 2. TOOLKIT FOR CREATIVE ANALYSIS Aa LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  69. 69. Other Mediums
  70. 70. • Use simple, straight-forward images for content marketing • Avoid using copy in creatives • Use bright, vibrant images to communicate the theme CREATIVES IN CONTENT MARKETING 5 HAIR FIXES UNDER 5 MINUTES 20 WAYS TO KISS: LIP ESSENTIALS CPC: 70 paise Clicks 17.5k | Shares 1200+ CPC: 90 paise Clicks 52k | Shares 5300+
  71. 71. • For emails, use a small cover image (<25KB) so that it loads quickly • For in-app notifications, communicate the intent clearly (copy is critical) CREATIVES IN PUSH NOTIFICATIONS & EMAILS IN-APP NOTIFICATION EMAIL COVER IMAGE LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  72. 72. TAKEAWAY #9 • Email • Push / In-app Notification • Content Marketing Concepts can be extended to every measurable medium LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  73. 73. There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. WRAPPING UP 1. Keep experimenting. Innovate. (research) 2. Create distinctive, high-relevance, high-quality content (sell less) 3. Build empathy. Listen to users (avoid bias) 4. Be consistent in making decisions 5. Humour works Colin PowellLEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  74. 74. Startup L. Jackson People who think they want a world without digital ads don't understand how the Internet funds its awesome diversity. LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  75. 75. Whenever you find yourself facing a tough problem, tell yourself… LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES
  78. 78. Twitter | LinkedIn | Medium Get in touch FOLLOW ME ON LEARNINGS ON DIGITAL SERIES