What Makes Direct-Response Ads Work on Facebook?


NehaBhargavaEurryKim650Facebook Advertising Researchers Neha Bhargava and Eurry Kim followed up their July post on the Facebook for Business page on using Facebook ads to drive brand awareness by mining the same study of more than 1,500 News Feed ads between October 2013 and this past March, from more than 350 campaigns, for tips on how brands can generate conversions from ads on the social network.

Kim wrote on what makes ads work in terms of direct response:

As we expected, some of the strongest-performing direct-response ads clearly present the product and its key details — so those ads score high on informational reward. And, as is the nature of direct-response ads, they also have a clear call to action. Our research showed that when marketers did these two things in their ads, the ads didn’t necessarily need to score higher than the average on the other five elements.

One of the most successful ads in our study was for a coupon site. The business’ ads included an image featuring coupons from recognizable brands and the hyperlinked words, “Start here.” It was clear to people what they needed to do and what they would be getting if they visited the site.

Kim also detailed findings in the study that surprised her:

The research revealed that a strong focus on the brand was another successful approach for increasing conversion rates. This was somewhat surprising to us.

For example, one personal care brand whose ads we studied was one of the best in driving online conversions. The brand ran two ads that prominently featured the personal care product and another two ads that highlighted its founder in a way that really humanized the brand. These ads rated two times higher than average in brand personality and brand link. (The ad shown below is not the actual ad rated, but is representative of the one that was.)


As for suggested best practices, she wrote:

Advertisers should think about creative that is really focused on the product (informational reward and calls to action) or on the brand (brand link and brand personality).

One common pitfall we see in campaigns focused on online conversions is when brands run ads that lack a connection to the brand’s personality. When people are buying things online, they want to know what they’re getting and, at the heart of it, what the brand represents.

In particular, one online furniture store scored more than two times the overall average in brand link (the ad shown below is not the actual ad rated, but is representative of the one that was). That’s because its logo was featured in all of the ads. But the ads scored lower than average in brand personality and focal point. While the ad images featured attractive furniture, there was no focus to any of the images that provided a clear representation of the brand or intent of the ad. As result, the brand didn’t see great results in terms of online conversions.


Bhargava added:

All in all, we found that the best-performing campaigns clearly kept their objective and brand in mind when developing creative. The messaging of the most successful ads informed consumers on what they needed to know — who is this advertiser, what’s their value proposition and how can I purchase this product? They understood what the consumer knows about them — are they a new brand or a household name? And then drove them to the appropriate action — whether that’s signing up for an email list, purchasing a product online or simply keeping the brand in mind for the future. Every advertiser has a different objective, brand equity and call to action. It’s important for their creative to reflect all of these pieces.

Readers: What did you think of the advice from Kim and Bhargava?