Scaling your Facebook ads strategy using big creative swings

Iterations are essential. 

Iterations pay the bills. 

But to break into new levels of growth, you gotta swing big. 

“At Wpromote, we audit a lot of ad accounts,” Darren D'Altorio told us. 

“And what we tend to see is a creative testing roadmap that focuses on a lot of small tweaks, iterations, and a lot of the same ideas.” 

Darren is the VP of Social Media at Wpromote. 

Way back in November, Darren D'Altorio blew us all away with his session at Motion’s annual Creative Strategy Summit

I’ve been thinking about the session for months and wanted to revisit Darren’s ideas.

His thesis was that you can’t iterate your way to advertising greatness. 

“The real goal of creative planning is to introduce new ideas into the system. These should be ideas the brand has never done before. And if they hit, they’ll open up a new lane, bringing an influx of new customer data into the business.” 

In today’s issue of Thumbstop, we’re going back to the art of swinging big.

By the end, you’ll have some actions for getting your team to ship creative messages that broadly resonate and are served to a massive TAM on Meta.

If you want to watch Darren’s original session at Motion’s 2023 Creative Strategy Summit, here is the replay.

Facebook ad tips

Facebook ads strategy example: Vuori’s high-concept approach 

So what does this look like in practice? 

Let’s look at a real example from Vuori. 

Vuori is a client of Wpromote, so Darren has a unique view of their creative strategy. 

The goal of their creative testing is to find concepts that broadly resonate and can handle larger and larger amounts of ad spend. 

Here is one concept that Vuori has been running for a few years.

The concept began as a static, was adapted into different formats and iterations, and eventually became the basis of a TV commercial. 

Facebook ad example
Instagram ad example

Now—take a look at the two opening shots from their TV spot.

We see that concept is basically the same, beginning with a new version of the original flat lay. 

Meta ad example

And then with the core idea expressed now with beautiful high-production shots. 

DTC tv ad example

The TV commercial has also been through several evolutions. 

In other words—this is a big concept that can handle a lot of spend and went from a humble static ad to multiple TV ads. 

How to create a successful Facebook ads strategy in 2024  

So what can we learn from Vuori’s approach? 

Here are some broad actions to help you come up with more bold concepts that scale. 

1. Test big creative ad concepts, not iterations  

The goal is to weight our creative testing roadmap on concept tests, not iterative testing

“Little swings give you little learnings. Big swings give you big learnings,” says Darren.

“You need to limit the amount of iteration in your testing roadmap until you’ve found that concept that unlocks scale,” says Darren.

“If nothing is working, don’t keep iterating messages that aren’t resonating. Move onto a new concept until you’ve opened up a new lane.”  

Think of your creative as a magnet, finding and matching the right creative with the right person.

As shown in the image below, if your concepts are too similar in message, approach, and visual style, the auction will serve them to a similar audience. And block you from achieving scale. 

Facebook ads testing tips

“You want to make ads that you trust have mass appeal,” says Darren. 

“With the Vuori example, we’re confident that the concept can be turned into a more premier asset like a TV ad, putting a relevant message in front of a wide audience.” 

Finding high-concepts for new ads

In classical advertising, this is known as thinking “high-concept.” 

High-concept ideas are simple, easy to understand, and will naturally adapt to many different executions. 

“Vuori has done at least 50 different versions of that flat lay static concept,” says Darren. 

“So there is iteration happening but you need to unlock the concept first.” 

The concepts need to have “legs” as Don Draper might say. 

How do you train your team to think high-concept? 

💡Limit one-off ideas. 

If it is high-concept, it should immediately spark other executions, other visual treatments, and spin-offs.

💡Push for creative differentiation. 

High-concept ideas should open up new lanes, not be slight twists on ads already working. This differentiation is in the messaging as well as aesthetic vibe.

💡Simple = memorable. 

High-concept ideas omit information in exchange for being more memorable. 

For example, the Vuori concept—“One short. Every sport.” 

A less sophisticated marketer would want to make that less vague and might even add in the top selling categories—”Golf, swim, and play ball—with one short for sport.” 

Learn to omit and let the customer fill in the dots. 

Don’t over-optimize on past ad data 

The biggest barrier to finding high-concept ideas is that the data alone will never get you there.

Our friends at the agency Ready Set use a framework called "explore vs. exploit" to ensure they’re not over-indexing on smaller changes. 

As Sandra Rand, VP of Marketing at Ready Set, explained on LinkedIn, in the explore mode you’re searching for “net new ad concepts and pulling big experimentation levers to learn about audiences.” 

In the exploit mode, you’re “iterating and optimizing top-performing ads using trends, segmentation and customer data to predict what will work next.” 

As the mad ad genius Rory Sutherland (who coined the explore vs. exploit framework) explains, creative teams need to be cautious about becoming too efficient and “over-optimized on the past.” 

“If you’re over-optimized on data from the past,” explains Rory, “you become trapped in a local maxim. You never introduce anything new into the system.” 

2. Get a Creative Differentiation audit from Meta

Next, request a Creative Differentiation report from your Meta rep. This report will help you understand how Meta is perceiving your creative assets. 

Too much iterative testing with small changes will produce a lot of different assets that the auction views as essentially the same. 

You’ll then try to course correct by increasing creative volume. But the team might just create similar executions of the same old ideas. 

Factors that matter for differentiation in Meta’s auction: 

  • Creative image hash
  • Thumbnail image hash 
  • Image hash for static 
  • Optimization goal 
  • Conversion type 
  • Conversion target (pixel, app, page id) 

Factors that won’t give you differentiation: 

  • Text/copy 
  • Targeting choices 
  • Video features other than thumbnails 
  • Localizing copy 

“Iterative tests and insights from things like copy are useful and have important learnings for the team. But in general, we want to move towards a more thematic testing approach versus only testing small changes,” says Darren. 

3. Search for more creative inputs to produce better ad concepts  

So how do you come up with high-concept ideas? 

You need inputs. The creative strategist needs to conduct broad research, bringing inputs to the team for creative development. 

Surface-level research—such as quickly copying an ad format you see a competitor using—leads to weak, undifferentiated ideas.

At Wpromote, Darren’s creative strategy team conducts three types of research. 

First, trend research and analysis of platform shifts. 

This is macro research and includes heady topics like cultural shifts, audience behavior and preferences, technological advances, what’s trending and what’s hot within different genres and demographics.

“This becomes the language in which the brand is going to show up and how we format and build our creative.” 

The creative strategist also needs to understand the language of different social audiences, analyzing how trending viral content formats can be applied to advertising ideas. 

Think of trending ad formats as conceptual portals. They are not quite thematic ideas yet, but they can spark creative directions when explored. 

Unboxing, Us v. Them, Testimonial, Lifestyle Video, UVP, Press Mention, LoFi, UGC, Brand Ambassador, Animations, UX Screen Recording, Founder Story, and Person-On-The-Street—these are all starting points. 

Remember—having a mix of these different aesthetic styles (rather than 10 flavors of the same) creates more creative diversity. 

Next, they analyze in-market creative and performance. 

This involves message and content analysis, visual analysis, branding and performance content analysis of your existing ads. 

Analyzing performance data informs how Darren’s team decides which big swing to take next.

“We’ve been using Motion to analyze our creative and KPIs for years. It is an incredible tool for visualizing and pairing performance data with the creative asset and deriving incredible insights,” says Darren. 

Finally, sentiment analysis. This includes social media monitoring, reviews and comment analysis, and market sentiment research. 

“Sentiment analysis is an important part of the research, making sure you understand customer needs and that your product is solving real problems.” 

Facebook ad analysis using motion

Creating a winning Facebook ads strategy for 2024

Your job as a creative strategist is to build frameworks that allow you to test differentiated concepts that have the greatest propensity to scale. 

To align your creative with how Meta’s auction works, you need to aim for big ideas that resonate broadly. 

By uncovering ad concepts with the largest TAM possible, you are unlocking new lanes of growth for your brand. 

Bigger swings target different pockets of customers rather than reaching the same audience again and again, which reduces the efficiency of your ad dollars.

In contrast, iterative frameworks are less effective if the team gets stuck in the same data loops and becomes risk-averse to trying net new concepts. 

Swing big. Take risks. And aim for net new concepts to break you into the highest levels of performance. 

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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James Mulvey
Head of Content

Scale your creative wins

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