Local expert Andrew Foxwell reviewed the latest trends, tactics, and techniques that are yielding positive results, as well as those that are falling short on the Meta Ads platform. View the event replay and check out the awesome photo recap of the event on the SMBMad Facebook page. You can view the presentation deck here or by requesting it on Andrew’s website.
Andrew kicked off his presentation with a suggestion that we should all be utilizing ASCs: “Advantage Plus Shopping Campaigns.” These differ from campaign asset ads in that they utilize AI to deliver ads to a more targeted audience.
Meta developed this strategy in response to iOS 14, which introduced the option for consumers to opt out of the ad tracking that Facebook primarily, though not exclusively, relied on for all e-commerce.
ASCs prove effective by harnessing AI learning, a concept Meta has dubbed their “lattice” rollout. This enables the ads to learn from customer behavior. Given the novelty of this approach, incorporating ASCs into your marketing now can provide you with a “first mover advantage.”
An additional benefit of ASCs is their parallel usability, allowing you to reach a wider customer base and preventing a single ad from consuming your entire budget. Essentially, the ASC examines a segment of your existing customers – you can determine the percentage, e.g., 10% – and identifies individuals likely interested in your product, then displays the ad to similar people.
Andrew’s recommendation is to limit your ASC campaigns to no more than five, divided into various formats like video, text, etc. This approach provides you with enhanced control and enables better budget optimization.
Continuing the concept of using different formats for marketing, Andrew delved into the topic of creative variety. He recommended using a mix of “ugly” ads, branded visuals, static images, short videos, and longer storytelling videos, all centered around the same core idea.
The idea of “ugly” ads originated from Barry Hott, whom Andrew quoted as saying, “homegrown is better.” Hott proved this idea by achieving significant success with ads using nothing but post-it notes. The idea is that this kind of ad would end up looking like “modified UGC”: user-generated content.
The content to fuel creative variety is what Andrew referred to as “awareness messaging,” falling into four primary categories: brand awareness, product awareness, problem awareness, and unawareness.
- Brand-aware content targets customers who are already familiar with your product, providing added incentives such as coupons along with personalized messages like “loved by you, restocked by us.”
- Product-aware content incorporates factual details about the product that enhance its attractiveness. This could include highlighting high-quality ingredients or showcasing social proof in the form of market share.
- Problem-aware content communicates an understanding of the challenges customers face and presents your product as the solution. For instance, addressing fatigue with a message like “goodbye, fatigue!”
- Unaware content doesn’t solely cater to individuals unfamiliar with your product. Instead, it imparts lesser-known aspects of your product, such as special ingredients or unexpected benefits.
The sweet spot lies between the “smallest audience, lowest cost per purchase, highest return” and the “biggest audience, most education needed, highest cost per purchase, and lowest return.”
Given the prevalence of advertising featuring images with text overlay, Andrew stressed the importance of concentrating on the message. Clarity in conveying what you’re selling and the reasons for potential buyers to make a purchase is crucial. This approach benefits media buyers too, as it reduces variables, speeds up delivery, and directs focus. Andrew also noted that the conventional 20% rule regarding image-to-text ratio doesn’t necessarily apply in these types of campaigns.
The first consideration when it comes to testing is understanding how to measure success. It’s essential to clarify what specific insights you seek to derive from the test. While hard metrics are commonly used due to their visibility and the ability to construct customized dashboards across various platforms, it’s crucial to note that there exist other “soft” metrics that should be measured. Andrew’s recommendation is to select a primary “king KPI,” such as conversions, and then utilize the soft metrics to provide insights into what’s resonating effectively.
Some metrics are utilized in this manner, including the “thumb stop,” “hold rate,” “watch time,” “social proof,” and “engagement.”
The testing procedure involves setting up a variety of creatives within different funnels. For instance, you might use a static image alongside three distinct text overlays, each portraying a different angle.
Similarly, this approach can be extended to destination or landing pages, utilizing formats like listicles or the aforementioned user-generated content. Andrew proposed pairing such advertorials with a “whitelisted UGC creator ad” (essentially, an influencer testimonial not on your site).
Maintaining consistency is important when conducting tests. Utilize the same metrics across all ads and change only one variable per ad set. Andrew stated, “You are looking to find out what resonates with my audience that is different from what I’ve been saying?” Andrew also reminded the audience that it’s also important to give the test time to run, especially since data can be delayed.
The slide deck highlights several effective combinations of testing methods.
What is Not Working
The next section of Andrew’s presentation highlighted several aspects within meta-ads that are currently ineffective.
The first of these was Facebook shops. Setting up these shops involves numerous administrative challenges, particularly when relying on Facebook for order processing. Despite Facebook’s endeavor to promote this with “credits” for new shop owners, these complimentary accounts lack comprehensive support and can lead to increased administrative complexities. The idea of a “fire and forget” approach doesn’t work well with shops.
The second ineffective method involves hyper-targeting small audiences, resulting in elevated opt-out rates and increased difficulty in reaching these groups. They quickly become saturated and, as a result, consolidation and broader targeting strategies is more effective. Another setback lies within testing, wherein campaigns with numerous variants – such as multiple text, image, and video options – become considerably challenging to statistically evaluate within a low budget.
The final non-functioning aspect is “creative inaction”: not trying new approaches. Customers still crave variety, even within product ads. The trick is to find the balance between this idea and the previous “not-working” element.
What People Talk About that Doesn’t Actually Work
“Look-alike audiences” are progressively losing effectiveness. Pixel-based audiences, including purchase events and add-to-cart events, face issues with tracking and lack of browser-based cache data, leading to their degraded quality. Similarly, as previously mentioned by Andrew, shops are not proving very effective either. They demand substantial efforts for proper optimization, customization, and reliance. “The perception of flawless performance from Meta might not reflect the reality for everyone.”
Furthermore, many people talk about additional benefits apart from conversions resulting from ad campaigns, such as traffic, add-to-cart events, or video views. However, these often prove wasteful, particularly for those with limited budgets, as they fail to lead to significant conversions.
Where Most Folks Get Led Astray
Andrew then highlighted several ways in which people might make decisions leading to decreased Meta ads performance. The initial issue concerns thinking too narrowly and fixating on minute details. Incremental changes don’t yield the desired results, leading to consideration of broader strategies. Recognizing that creative content is the pivotal lever for success is crucial.
Along with this is the tendency to overthink specific audience segments, resulting in altering ad campaigns to cater to them, which in turn leads to missing out on a wider spectrum of the customer base. Andrew emphasized that “consolidation is now more important than micromanaging small aspects.”
The abundance of information available in reports can also be a place where people lose track. Identifying which metrics genuinely drive the desired results can be challenging. It’s often easier to focus on superficial metrics like comments and clicks, rather than aligning the reporting with specific business goals.
Finally, Andrew pointed out the importance of “not thinking like marketers.” In the early days of Meta, even subpar ads on landing pages could achieve success. However, with the new approach and lattice rollout, any marketing campaign must consider audience awareness levels – considering problem-aware, solution-aware, and brand-aware stages – and tailoring ad copy and creative variety accordingly to resonate with potential customers.
Lastly, Andrew addressed a pressing topic: artificial intelligence and its impact on Meta marketing campaigns.
The first change he mentioned could be scary. Andrew explained, “…changes to your product catalog in e-commerce are made without necessarily seeking your permission. These changes can include modifications to text, color backgrounds, copy, images, and videos. As a result, your ads may look different than what you originally intended.”
This concept extends beyond catalogs and affects static images and even copy. The goal is to present ads to the target audience in ways that Meta’s AI believes will yield higher conversion rates.
Don’t Panic – It’s Only Q3
After providing that terrifying news, Andrew provided some reassurance, acknowledging that Q3 is typically a slower quarter. It provides the time and opportunity to consolidate campaigns, ad sets, and creative content. Q3 allows for focusing on efficiency and testing, aligning strategies with the budget. It facilitates strategic scaling back of accounts and campaigns, positioning for a strong Q4, bolstered by the time invested in improvements to creative formats.
At the end of the presentation, a few questions were raised. The first inquired about why “ugly ads” resonate. The answer is that they convey a sense of friendly approachability, and as a result, they are likely to persist. Simply stated, being authentic has power.
The second question was asking if this was different for a service based business. Andrew’s response emphasized that this could significantly impact such marketing campaigns. Meta ads are beyond “boosting” and worth taking the time to go into your business account and thoroughly examine your ads and strategy.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Andrew Foxwell is the Co-Founder of Foxwell Digital, a social media advisory firm focused on honesty and transparency through its membership offerings, online courses, account management, and consulting services. Over the past decade, Foxwell Digital has helped hundreds of business owners, agencies, and brands grow and thrive through education, empowerment, and unparalleled authenticity. Most recently, he brought together the Foxwell Founders membership, which is comprised of 450+ of the best online marketers in the world from over two dozen countries, spending collectively $300 million per month on Meta platforms. Andrew and his family live in Madison, Wisconsin and Santa Barbara, California, where together they enjoy spending time outdoors cycling, hiking, and recounting favorite Bluey quotes.
NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT: Gigi’s Playhouse – Madison
GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is a Down syndrome achievement center that provides free, educational, therapeutic and career development programming for people with Down syndrome.
GiGi’s Playhouse serves around 360 families in Madison and surrounding areas and is in a huge growth state! They are providing more programming than ever before. Through the generosity of our community through grants, sponsorships and general donations, they keep their programming free for our families. GiGi’s is also 99% volunteer run.
The organization does 3 major fundraisers a year:
- April: Dash for Down syndrome (annual event)
- August: Go FORE It Golf Outing (annually in August)
- October: Generation G Gala – October 13
GiGi’s Playhouse welcomes volunteers to be part of their organization! Get involved at: gigisplayhouse.org/madison/volunteer