How to test and track Facebook ad creative at scale in e-commerce

· 11 min read

Mind-boggling fact: nearly 38% of the global population visits Facebook every month. 

Say what you will about the social and cultural impacts of the platform (sorry Zuck), but from a marketing perspective, Facebook is an absolute gold mine. Recent estimates from smart people put the monthly user total at 2.91 billion, including over a billion daily active users.

You know what that means? 

Yes, people do need to spend more time outside. 

But it also means it’s a lock that thousands of your ideal customers use the platform. Which also means it's the perfect location to distribute your top ad creative. You know all that. 

Unfortunately for you, the number of users ain’t the only thing climbing: so is the number of advertisers sporting hefty wallets. Facebook ad revenue in 2021 sat around $50 billion in the US alone, a 32% increase from the previous year. 

Businesses across all industries are increasing their Facebook ad spend. This includes your competitors. 

To run a successful digital ad campaign, you need to know the creative will resonate with your audience. What’s going to grab their attention amongst a sea of other ads? Not to mention all the content they’re actually there to see — posts from coworkers, high school friends, or that uncle with “interesting ideas” about the election. Try competing with that

This is especially true now that Apple and Google are slowly prying away your team’s ability to control ad targeting and bidding. It also doesn’t help that Facebook isn’t exactly reliable regarding ad reach metrics.

So finding the right creative assets — whether graphics, photos, or ad copy — is only becoming more important to the success of a given ad campaign. 

There’s only one sure path to success: Test, test, and test some more. 

If you’re too busy in the FB ad lab to read this whole piece, here’s a TL;DR:

  • Facebook advertising is still an essential channel for branding and growth — but it’s getting more crowded by the hour.

  • Winning on Facebook means creating ad campaigns that align with your brand and resonate with your audience.

  • No hunches. The only way to determine what works is through structured testing. 

  • Here’s how you can take the stressful guesswork out of creative iteration:

  1. Generate different creative hypotheses from across your company.

  2. Test your big ideas in a systematic way. Become a scientist. 

  3. Be ready to pivot: failure is okay, doubling down is not.

  4. Save money by pretesting ideas on social channels for free.

  • Tracking is equally as important as testing. Make sure you have the expertise, tech tools, and resources to experiment successfully.

  • Air’s platform streamlines ad creative experimentation: Create the right version quickly, without the typical stress and monotony of multiple iterations.  


Take the stressful guesswork out of ad creative 

We all have assumptions about what will resonate with our target audiences. But as the saying goes, when we assume, we make an "ass" out of "u," "me," and..."our campaign ROI." Don't assume — test and validate! 

It’s a mission-critical part of marketing on platforms like Facebook.

Industry poindexters find that statistically significant A/B ad tests lift conversion rates by over 60%. In other words — do more tests, do those tests right, get more clicks. Rinse, repeat. 

Regardless of whether a creative concept “passes” or “fails” a test, you’re blazing a trail for your marketing team towards the Promised Land of on-brand ad creative. A magical place, free from frustration and anxiety. Free from creative block, from top-down pressure to save your company with a viral campaign. A place where ROI grows on trees.  

Here’s how your marketing team can take stressful guesswork out of scaling ad creative. 

Generate creative ideas from multiple sources

You’ve heard of product-market fit (hopefully). How about creative-audience fit? The first step to achieving creative-audience fit: get better at collaboration. 

Scientific progress comes from each generation standing on the shoulders of the previous, collaborating across centuries. The same should be true for your ad creative validation process (ideally over days and months, not centuries, but we won’t judge).

This means genuine discussion between your marketing and creative teams. Everyone should know why you’re testing, what you’re testing for, and the results of the test(s).

As a lead marketer, you need to ensure that your creative team has a thorough understanding of your campaign goal. We’ll say it again — the best route to a successful campaign is through structured, documented collaboration.  

Talk it out. Write it down. Get crowdsource-y. Like GoFundMe, but without the guilt.

Test big ideas in a smart way

Tests can be stressful. 

But you’re not the one being tested here — your ad creative is. These tests should actually be  energizing (dare we say, fun) for your marketing team. And they can have a huge impact on your brand’s ability to scale. Providing you run the process correctly. 

Remember, you’re comparing approaches, so it’s best to start off with 3 to 5 creative concepts. Maybe it’s something you saw a competitor do. Maybe it’s a play on current events. Maybe it’s an idea that popped into your mind at 3 am. Use ‘em all. 

Now get empirical with it. 

Choose a systematic strategy so you can evaluate your assumptions one at a time. This allows you to quickly iterate on the creative assets showing the highest impact. Equally important, it lets you quickly identify bad ideas you need to pin on somebody else toss by the wayside.

Like any good scientist, test one variable at a time.

  1. Start with a broad hypothesis to test your assumptions (this will become more specific as you gather data, so don’t fret too much about it early on). 

    Still feeling stuck? The ad format itself is always a great place to start. Test out different hypotheses within the visual field, like: 

    1. Are graphics more effective than photos? 

    2. Are videos more effective than static images? 

    3. Are people-oriented ads more effective than product-oriented?

  2. Next, isolate for a different variable, like more granular visual components or ad copy. 

  3. Rinse and repeat until you’ve tested all the variables applicable to your specific creative concept. 

  4. Once you’ve reached statistical significance (aka, tests on tests on tests on tests), analyze your data.

  5. You now have a fresh set of insights (and hopefully a new hypothesis or two) for your next round of testing.

The empirical process leads to actionable insights. This is how you win.

Oh, except sometimes it doesn’t. And you don’t.

This brings us to the next section. 

Be ready to pivot…and pivot… and PIVOT

Following the testing guidelines listed above is a great starting point, but there’s no guarantee that every test will produce actionable results (or any results at all). One of the most important things about testing ad creative is knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. 

And just like poker, gaining that experience means spending time and money (and hopefully not any college funds). 

This is the part of ad iteration that most companies aren’t so keen on: dealing with the results of what appears to be a poorly performing campaign. 

But it’s important to keep in mind that “failure” is a key part of the learning process. A “poorly performing campaign” is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. No part of your business is static, least of all your audience’s interests and circumstances. Identify why the campaign performed poorly, make any necessary changes, and try again. Rinse and repeat until the numbers look good.

So, investing in validated audience insight is a necessary evil — even when there’s no immediate ROI to speak of. Be patient — these processes take time.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. 

Here’s Facebook’s own framework for prototyping ad creative: 

Source 

The first three stages of this framework are essentially the process we outlined in the previous section. 

  1. You ask a question to test your assumptions in the form of a hypothesis.

  2. You make prototype ad creative to test the validity of your hunch.

  3. You learn by assessing prototype performance based on your particular ad KPIs.

The fourth step is all about your ability to pivot and change directions based on what you’ve learned over the course of the first three. It’s where you blend science and art together to beta-type — build off the successes and failures of new ad creative to uncover improvements in real time. 

Quick FYI. This type of iterative process is going to leave you with a lot of asset versions. A lot. So make sure you set your team up for success with a system that prioritizes the visibility of changes. At Air, we love a nice version stack. Our platform keeps all your variations together and lets your team focus on improving ad creative instead of searching through folders. 

Allowing your ad campaigns to grow in this type of organic fashion can seem like a high-risk process, particularly for brands that are still scaling and need to show some return on ad spend. 

Pro tip: That’s where organic pre-testing comes into play. 

Save money by using organic channels to pretest ad creative

As willing as successful brands are to invest in groundbreaking ad campaigns, it never hurts to cut down on spend. After all, no one gets in trouble for telling their boss that they spent less money. Organic social posts are perfect for this. 

If your creative team is working on ad creative that’s still too speculative for your liking, let them share it organically first. By pretesting this creative concept, you’ll get an early look at which elements are working and have a better idea of whether it’s ready to push towards paid. 

Still not sure? Try boosting the organic posts that resonate most with your audience and collect some early performance data that will help you decide whether the ad creative warrants the investment of a full ad. 


Track Your Facebook Ad Creative Tests the Right Way

Before you get too trigger-happy with the beta-testing process, it’s important that you track your tests for the appropriate amount of time. Depending on your methodology, whether it’s A/B testing or launching a new ad set for each hypothesis, it’s important that you don’t pivot too early. 

Here’s what you need to do to make sure your tracking apparatus is in place. 

Time: 

A/B tests should sit for at least 5-7 days before any alterations occur. It takes Facebook at least that long to optimize placement and displays, so sit tight. The only exception is a test that’s absolutely tanking after the first 4 days. If that’s the case, remove it. 

Time is another variable that you need to control to improve the power of your test. Make sure each iteration of ad creative runs for the same amount of time and that data collection periods are long enough to track any impressions that lead to conversions. 

You also want these tests to have the best chance of connecting with engaged users. Start tests early in the day and near the beginning of the week to get the most out of your daily budget. And make sure you identify those high-usage sweet spots!

Adjust Metrics:  

Testing ad creative means you are essentially splitting your audience into different test groups, so a hit in performance is natural. Isolate these tests in a separate section of your account so they don’t interfere with your active campaign metrics.  

Tool Check: 

Facebook pixels are still an essential part of gathering audience insights during ad tests. Make sure they’re all firing properly so you don’t end up empty-handed during conversion tracking. 

You also want to make sure that your tests aren’t targeting the same audience segment as your active regular campaigns. This just adds a bunch of confounding variables and will reduce the power of your results. 

With the right framework and tools in place, Facebook ads are still invaluable to achieving e-commerce scale. The crown jewel of Meta may be in need of a new PR campaign (sorry again, Zuck), but it still brings in billions of daily users. And that means big business for brands who can take their ad creative to the next level. 

Taking your Facebook ads to the next level means taking your creative ops to the next level too. Air accelerates your ad campaigns by automating or removing the pesky manual tasks that eat up time and energy. We make collaboration easy and provide a single source of truth for your creative assets. Get ready for new creative heights. 

Learn more about how Air can help with your brands’ ad campaigns.

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