In growth marketing, creative is the critical X factor – ClearTips

As we move toward the privacy-focused, less targeted future of growth marketing, the world’s biggest lever on paid social channels like Facebook will be creative. The loss of attribution from our good friend iOS 14.5 has accelerated this trend, but channels have increasingly moved toward automating their advertising platforms.

Because of this, I believe that every growth marketing engine should have a proper creative testing framework – whether it is a seed-stage startup or a giant like Google.

After three years at Postmates, consulting for various startups, and most recently at Uber, I’ve seen the landscape of marketing change in a number of ways. What we are seeing now, however, is being organized by factors beyond our control, triggering a change unlike anything I have seen before. Creative has since become the most powerful lever in paid social accounts.


If you want to harness the creative power and be successful with paid social marketing, you are thinking right. You need a creative testing framework: a structured and consistent way to test new creative assets.

Here’s a breakdown of the pieces needed for a creative testing framework to be successful:

  • A defined test schedule.
  • A structured topic approach.
  • A channel-specific strategy.

Creative has become the most powerful lever in a paid social account.

The test creative should be a continuous and iterative process that follows a prescribed testing schedule. A goal and structure can be as simple as testing five new creative assets per week. Conversely, it can be as complex as testing 60 new assets involving multiple themes and copy variations.

For a low expense account, the constructive test should be lean due to the limited event signal and vice versa with a high expense account. The most important aspect is that the test continues to move the needle as you discover your next “champion” asset.

Creating a test program for different creative subjects

4 themes x 3 variants per theme x 5 copy variations = 60 assets. image credit: Jonathan Martinez

After setting a test schedule, define the main themes of your business and field of work instead of testing a plethora of random ideas. This applies to creative assets as well as copy and what are the key values ​​for your product or service. As you begin to analyze constructive data, it will be easier for you to decide what to add or subtract in the test with this structure. Think of it as a wireframe that you either extend or trim throughout the test sprint.

For a fitness app like MyFitnessPal, this can be structured as follows:

  • Theme (product screenshots, images of people using it, UGC testimonials, before/after images).
  • Messaging (Segmented Value Props, Promos, FUD).

It’s important to make sure you have a channel-specific approach, as each one will differ in creative best practices with testing capabilities. What works on Facebook may not work on Snapchat or many other paid social channels. Don’t be discouraged if creatives perform differently between channels, though I do recommend a parity test. If you already have creative assets for one channel, it’s okay to resize and format the rest of the channels.

determination of victory

Equally important for creatives is proper event selection and a statistically significant threshold to be followed across all trials. When selecting an event to use for formative testing, it is not always possible to use your north-star metric, depending on how high your CAC is. For example, if you’re selling a high-ticket item and the CACs are in the hundreds, it would cost a hefty amount of money on each creative asset to reach the stat-cig. Instead, choose an event that is more of the upper funnel and is a strong indicator of how likely a user is to convert.

Using more upper funnel events results in faster learning (blue line).

Using more upper-funnel events results in faster learning (blue line). image credit: Jonathan Martinez

When deciding whether to use a statistically significant percentage, it is important to select a percentage that remains consistent across all constructive tests. As a rule, I prefer to use a certainty of 80%+, as it allows ample confirmation along with the ability to make quick decisions. Neil Patel’s A/B Testing Importance Calculator is a great (and free) online calculator.

make or break

You’re scrolling through a social feed, a sleek gold pendant catches your eye, but all in the message are brand names and product specifications. It caught your attention, but what did it do to attract you again? Think about it: What are you doing not only to hook, but to reel people in with a “creative”–a factor to make or break it in paid social growth marketing?

iOS 14.5 Preventing Data Loss

Creative testing is only going to get tougher for mobile campaigns as iOS 14.5 obfuscates user data, but it doesn’t equal impossible and it simply means we need to be more efficient. A variety of hacks can be applied to help you gain a clear insight into how a creative is performing – some may not last forever and others may be timeless.

Amidst all the privacy restrictions, we still have access to a huge population of users on Android, which we should take advantage of. Instead of running all the creative tests on iOS, Android can be used as an obvious way to gather insights, as privacy restrictions on those devices haven’t yet been implemented. Data collected from Android tests can then be taken directly and applied to iOS campaigns. It’s only a matter of time until Android data is also at the mercy of data restrictions, so use this solution to notify iOS campaigns right now.

If running an Android campaign isn’t a viable option, another quick and easy solution is to submit a website lead form to assess the conversion rate from creative assets to completed forms. The user experience certainly won’t be as amazing as evergreen, but it can be used to gain insights for a short period of time (and a small percentage of the budget).

When crafting the lead form, think about questions that are both qualified and will indicate that someone is completing your answer-star program on the evergreen experience. After driving people through a lead form, a communication can be sent to convert them so that advertising dollars can be put to good use.

try by account step

Testing efforts for creative asset types should vary widely by account stage and can be broken down into three I’s: imitation, iteration, innovation.

The type of formative test should vary over time.

The type of formative test should vary over time. image credit: Jonathan Martinez

The earlier the account level, the more dependent your creative direction is on what is proven to work by other advertisers. These other advertisers spend thousands proving performance with their properties, and you can get strong insights from them. As time goes on, you can slow down derivatives from other advertisers a bit, focusing on the best performers. If I have to give percentage, then 80% effort should be on quick copy. As the winners reckoned, iteration would naturally gain steam, and innovation would be the final, heavy-handed prong.

This doesn’t mean that innovation can’t be attempted quickly if there are great ideas, but generally, a more mature company can spend heaps of money to validate their innovative ideas. Whether you have an in-house design team or you are working with freelancers, it will also be a lot easier to spin 50 variations than to think about and design 50 different innovative properties. Copying and iterating will make your initial testing faster and more efficient.

Leveraging Competitive Insights

Brainstorming and trying to imagine the most beautiful, flashy, hook-inducing creative doesn’t always happen within seconds, let alone minutes or hours. This is where using competitor insights comes in.

The Facebook Ads Library is the most abundant resource, as it contains all the creative assets that each advertiser is using across the platform. It always amazes me how little people actually know about this free and powerful tool.

When browsing through competitors or best-in-class advertisers in this library, an indication of a well-performing creative is how long an advertiser has been running a specific asset. How does one find it? Every property is easily stamped on the date an advertiser began running their creative—it’s beyond powerful. I can spend hours scanning through creative assets, and each advertiser provides even more information and inspiration.

Creative should be at the top of the list as you think about where to put effort on your paid social growth marketing. We must have a hacky mindset as the data becomes more fuzzy, but with that mindset comes what separates the winners from the losers. The types of strategies that will vary over time, but what will not differ is the importance of strong creative, make or break it to success.

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