Creating winning demonstration ads for Facebook & TikTok

In the late 1990s, a pair of Canadian copywriters had a simple idea for a soap ad—a litmus test. 

In the test, conventional soaps would turn indicator-paper dark—because of their alkalinity. But it would stay completely clear with Dove—because of its mildness.

Executives hated the idea—it was against brand guidelines and incompatible with long-running campaigns. 

And yet, it resulted in a breakthrough ad demonstration.

The campaign started in November 1991. Dove’s dollar share grew from 15.7% in 1991 to 23.4% in 1995.

Sales for the same period grew 73% which was unprecedented in a mature market.

And the core features of the launch campaign were exported to 34 countries.

Demonstrating Dove's product advantages became part of their creative evolution. 

The campaign worked because it focused on making people believe. 

And the best way to make people believe is to show them, not tell them. 

We scoured DTC ads this past week, and could not find many with the same level of dramatic and bold demonstration.

So this is our challenge to DTC—make more bold demonstration ads!

Different types of demonstration ads 

In the spirit of “show, don’t tell”—we’ll use examples of real ads to inspire you to make a dramatic demonstration of your own. 

Focusing on three main types of demonstrations:

  • The dramatic demonstration
  • The street test demonstration 
  • The simple scientific demonstration 

The dramatic demonstration ad

In the ultimate example—to prove the durability of 3M’s latest product, $3 million was put inside a Vancouver bus shelter to test the glass.

It’s all about the drama. 

You could just pound glass with a hammer in a controlled environment. 

But that’s not going to catch attention. 

How can you make it more exaggerated? 

Put real money—or lives—on the line.  

LifeVac does exactly that, using security footage in its ad creative to show exactly how the product saves lives.

It stops your scroll instantly. 

They could have used staged scenarios or animations, but by showing real people in real life-threatening situations, the demonstration is much more powerful. 

Even if your product doesn’t save lives—there’s a few takeaways we can learn from the dramatic demonstration:

→ Make the pain point tangible—something you can touch, feel, see, taste, smell—then show how it’s resolved by your product. 

→ Heighten the problem + solution, without leaving reality. Can you showcase a gritty, realistic demonstration of your product’s value in the wild? 

→ What’s the biggest claim you can make about your product? Don’t tell us, show us. 

Yeti gets really close with this ad showing the indestructibility of the GoBox

What if—instead of a beautifully produced video—we saw the GoBox take a real beating in the wild. 

→ Grizzly bears try to smash it.

→ Someone takes it skydiving. 

→ It falls off the back of a truck.

Sometimes, the best way to get people to believe you, is to do it for real. 

The street test demonstration ad

Street interview ads have been around forever, but they found new life with TikTok. 

Try making a demonstration ad using this format. 

Example: Febreze pulled unsuspecting people off the street, blindfolded them, and put them in a seemingly gross-smelling room

But, thanks to Febreze, participants thought the room smelled lovely. 

Their reactions are funny, relatable, and real

Next time you come up with an idea for an influencer or actor—see if it might work for a man-on-the-street demonstration instead. 

For example, I love True Classic's ads/comedy skits. The brand has a clear POV and it's built on a bold promise—women love the way True Classic tees fit on men.

A cool iteration of this ad would be to test this on the street. 

Stop random couples, get the man to swap his shirt for a True Classic tee, and then see if the wife or girlfriend agrees—the True Classic fits better. 

Or take a photo of a male model in three t-shirts—and ask women on the street, which fit they prefer. 

When you’re confident that you’ve got a good product, you can bring a demonstration out to the street knowing how the final result will likely play out.  

TRUFF does a nice job of this. The DTC hot sauce brand asked Mexicans to try its jalapeño lime hot sauce to prove its authenticity. 

There’s no need for a big Febreze-level stunt to execute a memorable street test. 

This type of demonstration works because of its roots in reality and honest reactions. 

The simple scientific demonstration ad

Thinking back to the famous Dove ad—many demonstrations have changed the trajectory of brands by relying on basic science to differentiate.

When we look at most DTC haircare ads, they all have a similar vibe. Technically, they are “demonstrating” the product in use…

…but, what we really want to see is demonstrated proof of the product’s effectiveness. 

Simple science could easily prove the point:

→ Compare your ingredients to competitors using a demonstration of the effects. 

→ Show the science at play behind your product—is there something your product team does during testing that proves it works? 

→ Take away the people—how can you prove your product’s effectiveness without relying on a person’s testimonial?

For instance, DTC cereal brand Magic Spoon positions itself as a healthier alternative to other cereals. 

How could it take this "us vs. them" narrative and make it more dramatic? 

What if we saw a split screen with sugar pouring into a swimming pool, representing a year of eating junky cereal, versus nothing for Magic Spoon. 

Instead of simply saying "less sugar"—think of a way to use a scientific demonstration to show the difference.

Making demonstration ads for Meta & TikTok stand out

A good demonstration ad relies on a good product. 

For this exercise only (!), forget about the customer—focus on the product. 

Then, use your marketing brain to figure out a scroll-stopping way to demonstrate that effectiveness.

Get a tour of Motion’s creative analytics platform. We’ll even build free sample reports for you using live data from your TikTok, Meta, and YouTube ad accounts.

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It originally appeared in Thumbstop—a free weekly newsletter filled with tips to help you ship winning Meta, TikTok, and YouTube ads.

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James Mulvey
Head of Content

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