Corporate Eye

3 Keys to Designing Effective Online Ads

facebook mobile appNew research from Facebook’s Marketing Science team identifies three keys to designing effective online ads as well as a variety of recommendations and warnings about things to avoid.

The researchers studied 350 brands in 18 industries between October 2013 and March 2014 by recruiting 700 people from around the world to rate more than 1,500 ads that ran in their Facebook News Feeds.

Using the data collected, the team identified the following recommendations for online advertisers to increase conversions:

  • Focus on the product.
  • Provide product information in the ads.
  • Provide a clear directive in the ads.
  • Focus on the brand.
  • Provide a strong link between the brand and the ad.
  • Provide a good fit between the brand’s personality and the ad.
  • Online conversion-focused ads should provide a clear connection to the brand’s personality
  • Single product-focused images should be used in ads to make potential customers perceive the brand as “approachable and accessible.”
  • To increase brick-and-mortar sales, use an iconic product image in the ad that grabs consumers’ attention and enables them to easily identify the brand.

The report repeatedly states that a strong brand link and product placement within online ads are important, but that doesn’t mean that ads that didn’t rank high in each of these elements among consumer participants were failures. Ads with diverse creative or ads that were highly tailored to the brand goals and audience preferences might not score well for all elements but could score very highly for the most important elements.

That brings us to the researchers conclusions. They identified three keys to designing effective online ads:

1. Know your objective because different elements are important for achieving different goals.

The researchers found that brand-focused advertisers consistently scored higher on elements like the link between the ad and brand, the emotional reward delivered by the ad, and the noticeability of the ad. However, direct response-focused advertisers scored higher ratings on call-to-action. These results make complete sense, but some advertisers still use the wrong types of ads for the wrong reasons and audiences, and in the wrong places.

2. For online conversions, focus on product or brand within the ad.

The researchers found that ads that focused on the product with a strong call-to-action and informational reward scored well in online conversions. On the other hand, ads that focused on the brand performed well in online conversions when the ads offered a strong link to the brand and a strong brand personality.

3. For in-store sales, focus on prominent product placement or well-rounded ad creative in the ad.

The researchers found that ads with strong product placement scored well for having a strong brand link, brand personality, and noticeability which successfully drove in-store sales. Similarly, well-rounded ads  that scored high on all elements (or most elements) were successful at driving in-store sales.

While none of these findings are groundbreaking, they do give you some insights into not only how Facebook users rate ads but also how well those ads performed. The researchers compared results of the rating study with previous research that tracked conversions and sales to provide a more comprehensive picture of what’s working (and what isn’t) in online advertising. Therefore, there is value in considering these research results and consumer preferences when you’re planning future online ad creative designs.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Maria Elena licensed CC BY 2.0

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.