Intelligent Ad Design Makes All the Difference

By Stephanie Bohn, CMO, VidMob

A few months ago, I bought a pair of wedge sandals on Instagram from a brand I had never heard of. I surprised myself with this spontaneous splurge because, since 2017, I’ve been loyal to one shoe brand in an effort to live a life free of foot pain. After dealing with two surgeries, I searched far and wide for a stylish enough shoe that also offered long-lasting comfort. Once I found my perfect pair, I bought it in six different colors. When I clicked an in-feed ad to buy wedges way out of my comfort zone, I kind of shocked myself. I didn’t know if the shoes would run true to size, if the materials were of high quality or if the brand was well regarded. I had no idea where the company was located or if they offered free returns. I was entranced by the ad. It was beautiful, colorful and said exactly what I needed to hear, “ultra-comfy, stylish and perfect for any occasion.” 

I couldn’t help but wonder, were other people buying on impulse from unknown brands? The next day, I polled a group of colleagues, and nearly every person in the room admitted to buying something from a new brand. No one could clearly explain why they made the purchase other than “the ad looked good.”

What Drives Impulse Buys

My research colleagues and I decided to explore this phenomenon further and conducted a survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S. ages 16-45. We asked them a range of questions about their behavior on Instagram and actions taken on shoppable ads. The results were fascinating. Over one-third of those surveyed had bought something from an Instagram ad within the past year, and among those, 75% chose an unfamiliar brand. Among females, the trend was even more pronounced – 81% bought a product or service from a brand they didn’t know. The top motivator was price, but “the way the ad looks” was a leading driver, especially among males.

This insight affirms remarks shared by Google’s Global Marketing Director, Joshua Spanier, at Google Marketing Live. He revealed that 70% of ad campaign performance is attributable to the quality of the creative. Brands agonize over algorithms to optimize budget allocation and targeting, but running the right creative should be of utmost concern as it has the highest potential to impact ROI. Ad design can make or break a  campaign, which means marketers need to be smarter about what and how they create. No longer can you succeed by outspending your competition, you need to design superior creative.

When Every Second Counts, Every Frame Matters

 In a fast-scrolling economy, you have three seconds or less to convince someone to pay attention, care, believe what they see, and take action. That’s a lot to accomplish in the blink of an eye. Here are three ways to make the most of every moment of ad exposure.

  1. Every creative element must serve a purpose. We have found that the smallest details — the direction of a person’s glance, the placement of a logo, the brightness of a color — can have a profound impact on ad performance. Understanding the degree to which each visual attribute resonates with your target audience is how you’ll uplevel your creative. This can be done with a technology solution that identifies every visual detail and scores its ability to drive campaign outcomes.
  2. Adopt an agile mindset. Creative is subjective, and consumer responses are unpredictable, so the only way to achieve high performance ads is by continuously testing, learning, and tweaking. One-size-fits-all best practices is a fallacy. What works best for a luxury apparel brand ad on Instagram Stories during Fashion Week is wildly different than what works best for an auto brand in-feed in late December. You need to learn your brand’s best practices – by platform, by ad format, by audience and by campaign objective.
  3. Context matters. If you want your ads to resonate emotionally, rely on talented humans with in-depth knowledge of the ad environment (which is in constant flux). Ads that look like ads are generally overlooked. Many of the emerging e-commerce brands understand this and are gaining market share with intelligently-constructed shoppable ads that blend with the social feed, and reflect the viewer’s sensibility. They often resemble editorial posts and don’t immediately register as marketing. This is especially important with younger consumers who instantly sniff out ads and scroll right by.

Retail’s Social Future

This is truly a new era for shopping. Instagram and Snapchat are poised to become the malls of the future. In March, Instagram introduced its beta version of native checkout, eliminating the need for shoppers to leave the app to complete a purchase. Snapchat has a similar program, also in closed beta, that allows users to swipe up to make purchases. Instagram recently began testing a new feature that enables customers to set alerts so they can be notified of new product launches as soon as they hit. A few weeks ago, Instagram announced a try-on augmented reality feature to make purchasing cosmetics and fashion apparel simulate an IRL experience. The beta version includes a handful of partners like MAC, Nars, Warby Parker and Ray Ban. TikTok, the newest social video app on the scene, recently announced that is making an e-commerce play by allowing users to include a shoppable URL in their bios or videos as well as creating a storefront where consumers can shop in-app. With 60 million new app downloads in September alone, TikTok stands to be a worthy contender in the social commerce space. All of this innovation is aimed at streamlining the journey from discovery to purchase, or as Facebook says creating a zero-friction future. 

Opportunities to participate in beta programs generally go to top media spenders. The first-mover advantage is real, but emerging brands are putting up a strong fight with well-crafted ads. Conventional wisdom would suggest that in a world where the average person scrolls by 300 feet of content a day, a recognizable logo and deep brand relationship would always win out. But, what we’re seeing is that well-designed ads are becoming the great equalizer.



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