As digital marketing continues to evolve at breakneck speed, it’s easy to forget just how young today’s dominant advertising platforms truly are. Facebook didn’t introduce its pixel – and, in turn, complex retargeting and lookalike audiences until 2012. Now, less than a decade later, $100 million dollar brands are being built using nothing but Facebook ads. As with any new environment, early Facebook advertisers will admit that the platform had hints of the wild wild west in its early days. Advertisers were throwing everything at the wall trying to figure out whether this was the future of ads or just another fad. Naturally, just through the sheer number of advertisers trying to figure out the system in their own unique ways, many bad habits were developed. What was even more dangerous though, was that many of these bad habits were falsely correlated with success. To this day, you’ll see ecommerce “gurus” claiming that they’ve found “hacks” to lower their CPMs, improve their ad deliverability, or scale their businesses faster than other advertisers on the platform. Be wary. 

Perhaps in the early days, there were shortcuts in the system to ensure your ads were delivered more effectively in some minor way that – just through the sheer lack of advertisers – propelled your brand forward in some material way. But nowadays, with the magnitude of the platform and the number of advertisers fighting for real estate, there just aren’t any new “tricks” to get ahead. It’s a classic arbitrage: Facebook was (and is) an incredible advertising tool, and so everyone flooded the market to take advantage of it. Once the market was flooded, it became tougher and tougher to “beat” the system. On a long enough time horizon, on any ad platform, all that matters is the fundamentals. That’s why, in order to equip yourself for the future of advertising, there are only two things you should focus on: brushing up on your ad fundamentals and keeping an eye out for new ways to apply these fundamentals.

 

Advertising Fundamentals

Sometimes it feels like marketing nowadays is just funnel this, funnel that – likely in no small part due to Russell Brunson and the ClickFunnels movement. What founders often forget, though, is that funnels began long before today’s digital marketing fads. AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) is perhaps one of the first marketing funnels, tried and true over decades of non-digital marketing. Aside from scale, today’s advertising is fundamentally different than the ads of previous generations for one core reason: data. Billboard ads, for example, made it nigh-impossible to understand how effective your dollars were. Does £10,000 spent on a billboard drive a hundred sales? Two hundred sales? No sales? You could find a correlation, but hardly causation. Now, however, when a customer comes down a paid social funnel and purchases something from you, you can backtrack and discover exactly when they saw the ad, where they saw the ad, and what creative prompted them to purchase. We expect that AIDA has largely gone out of fashion because it’s markedly fluffier than the funnels we’re accustomed to today – what does “Awareness” mean? What does “Desire” mean? On the surface, it feels somewhat academic. 

AIDA-Model

When you dig deeper, however, we actually believe that AIDA is a timeless framework, and with a bit of adjusting it can work beautifully as a quantifiable metric for today’s ad requirements. AIDA generally illustrates the evolution of a customer from “kind of interested in your brand” to “taking action with your brand”. It’s a classic, timeless, buyer’s journey. Here’s how one might bring this age-old marketing framework into the 21st century by tying it to quantifiable Facebook video ad metrics:

– Awareness: A metric that might indicate that a viewer is “aware” of a video ad is the number of people who watch a few seconds of the ad, divided by the total number of people the ad was shown to. This indicates that they were somewhat interested, but didn’t choose to stick around for long. On the Facebook Ads dashboard, you would divide your 3-second views over my total impressions. 25% is a healthy awareness metric here.

-Interest: A metric that might indicate that a viewer is “interested” in a video ad is slightly longer watch time. Depending on the length of the video, for example, you might aim for an average watch time of 3-8 seconds. Longer average view times (especially proportionate to the length of the total video) might indicate that more viewers are interested in the ad.

-Desire: A metric that might indicate that a viewer “desires” your product after watching a video ad is a clickthrough rate. Depending on the niche/product, 1-1.5% is a healthy number here.

-Action: A metric that might indicate that a viewer is actually taking “action” on an ad is a Return On Ad Spend or a low Cost Per Acquisition. This entirely depends on the price point and the average order value of your product.

The metrics that we’re tying to each step of AIDA aren’t actually the point. The broader goal is to illustrate that marketing fundamentals will become more and more important as digital platforms mature, and arbitrage opportunities disappear. You can’t just continue to throw things on the wall and hope they stick. A framework allows you to understand your ad performance through a structured lens. After brushing up on your fundamentals, the next step is to keep an eye out for new ways and places to apply these fundamentals.

 

Ad Creatives 

So what are the underpriced opportunities in digital ads right now? As we move closer to Black Friday, here are two to keep an eye on through your new AIDA lens: 

Story Ads

Stories are still a relatively new ad placement. A variety of factors play into CPMs – available ad inventory, a number of users viewing that ad inventory, advertisers bidding on that ad inventory – but for the time being, story ads are objectively cheaper than feed ads. This applies to both Facebook/Instagram (which both have feed options), but also to Snapchat (which is almost purely a story platform). TikTok isn’t exactly a story platform, but creatives are formatted similarly there. Be wary though: not all traffic is equal. Whether it’s because of consumer social media habits (ie. are people in a buying mood when on TikTok?), or various other reasons, visitors that come to your site from story placements may not be as immediately lucrative as visitors that come from other placements. As we get closer to Black Friday, however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cheap traffic allows you to fill up your remarketing funnels, email lists, and SMS lists, so that you can be more efficient with your ad spend when CPMs are at their highest.

In order to optimize your creatives for story placements, be sure to edit your content as 9×16, and always display your brand or offer within the first 2 seconds of the video. Check out this Facebook group for inspiration on vertical story ads.

User Generated Creatives

In a sea of manufactured, studio-produced content, another underpriced tactic is any ad that feels user created. People love what other people love. The keyword there: “people”! Instead of designing ads that feel like a brand talking at their customers, lean towards ads that allow customers to talk about a brand. Brevite has a great example.

One of the original appeals of influencers was to vet products and act as a trusted advisor to their followers. In a sea of bot followers and manufactured celebrities, those genuine influencer relationships are difficult to find. Instead, design your ad creative in a way that gives the impression of an influencer video – and, irrespective of the ad platform you’re on, watch your ROAS rocket. 

With Black Friday around the corner, now is not the time to reinvent the wheel with your ad creatives. There’s too much on the line to experiment. Instead, now’s the time to massage previous winners. Look at your ad strategy to-date through the lens of AIDA: what’s working? What’s not? Then, based on what you’ve found, apply that to new ad placements and design dimensions that are sure to scale. 

 

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