A furniture maker slaves over a lathe during the day but she moonlights as an SEO. When a plumber in Cedar Rapids finishes mending clogged pipes, he goes home to add negative keywords and optimize bids. When I freelance, I am biz. dev. guy, creative talent, accountant, or debt collector depending on the day of the week.
My point is this: the tired adage about small business owners and hats might be played out, but it’s completely true.
Notice, though, that the ancillary tasks associated with running a business listed above are all learnable skills that can be acquired (or circumvented) with a bit of time and the right tools. Anyone can brush up on PPC knowledge (using blogs like this one) or subscribe to QuickBooks.
Developing an eye for good design, though, is a different story.
Good taste is subjective, sure, but it doesn’t come natural to everyone. Trying to arrange the various textual and graphic elements of a Display ad or piece of Facebook creative can feel arbitrarily laborious to some and downright infuriating to others.
How, then, is your average small business owner or overworked marketer supposed to improve upon bland ad creative like this…
What it lacks in excitement it makes up for with information and four different greys!
With something like this…
The first is practice. Not the #hack you were looking for, I know.
The second, though, is easier and just as actionable: Look for creative inspiration in the right places. Find superlative ad creative, figure out what’s so great about it, then use your research. All it takes is a bit of serendipity and a willingness to use some free resources.
What’s this? Why, it just so happens I’ve rustled up a short list of some of the best resources you can leverage to make better ad creative.
If you’re a content marketer, an influencer, or just an avid user of social media, you’ve encounter Canva.
Hell, if you’ve ever been to our website, you’ve encountered Canva: many of our contributors (myself included) use it to create the images (some sort of visual overlaid with the title of a blog post) that accompany social shares.
While I’ve never used the paid version, I’ve made extensive use of Canva’s free tools. Before doing so, though, I paid a little visit to their blog, Design School.
Design School is a phenomenal resource for tips on how to make better ad creative through the power of design. They’re got blog posts on platform-specific strategies and best practices that are loaded with great examples (which you should borrow from liberally).
While the blog itself is great, the real gem here is the extensive tutorials section, which includes multi-step modules on:
The best part about Canva’s tutorials is that they’re interactive; everything you’re taught, you’re taught within the context of the tool. This makes it easy to pivot away from research and towards producing gorgeous creative for your Display and Facebook ads at the drop of a hat.
“Pinterest is only used by amateur chefs, kindergarten teachers, and compulsive organizers with too much time on their hands.” – Me, like three months ago.
But then something happened. I did some digging into Pinterest ads, which led to a bewildering discovery: Pinterest’s 150 million monthly active users create 9,700 pins each minute. That level of engagement flipped my skepticism to strategizing.
I began to explore the platform and quickly drowned in the unyielding off-kilter cupcake recipes and look-books for opulent log cabins robbed of their rustic charm. As I tweaked my searches to incorporate more industry-focused queries, though, I started noticing a ton of great ads and other neat bits of creative.
This month, when I started designing a new Facebook infographic (stay tuned!), Pinterest is the first place I headed. It gave me some ideas as to what else exists in the space, which was the first step towards creating something original (and better).
Now, Pinterest isn’t going to be the optimum source of inspiration for everybody. It’s better for B2C businesses, particularly those in niches that overlap with Pinterest’s core demographic. That being said, Pinterest is still a great free place for you to hone your eye for design.
A curated list of ad creative, what a sterling idea! I wonder if there’s a resource where, say, I, a marketer, can look at examples of great ad creative without the HGTV and Food Network worthy white noise of Pinterest…
Well would you look at that!
Per their website, Swipe-Worthy is “an exclusive community for marketers, copywriters & savvy business minds who come together to breakdown the psychology & strategy behind great marketing examples & better understand what makes them work so you can effectively implement those insights into your own marketing.”
A bit of a mouthful, so here’s the gist: it’s a place where you can draw on decades of print and digital ad creative that’s been broken down and analyzed by experts.
What separates Swipe-Worthy from Pinterest— outside of scope and user-base—is what happens when you click into one of the sample ads.
Armed with this analysis, you can reverse engineer the psychological principles applied by Ogilvy and the like and then apply the same ideas to your own ad creative. Whether you’re trying to craft the perfect second headlined for a bottom of funnel AdWords ad or landing page, the research you conduct on Swipe-Worthy could make the difference between somebody remaining a prospect and metamorphizing into a converter.
While binge watching Mad Men might sound like a more exciting mode of vintage ad research, it just doesn’t offer the same level of directly-applicable inspiration. Maybe put it on in the background?
It’s interactive. It’s curated. It’s enabling.
Last but by no means least, my personal favorite source of ad creative inspiration: Facebook Creative Hub.
For the uninitiated, Facebook Creative Hub is a tool that allows advertisers to peruse ad creative across every available ad type on Facebook and Instagram. When I say ad creative here, I don’t mean stuff.
I’m talking carousel ads that tell stories. Collections that drive conversions. Video ads that would clean house at Sundance. Case in point.
While you might never use a Canvas ad as part of your own digital marketing (you probably lack the creative resources available to BBDO, the agency responsible for the Lowe’s spot above), understanding the limits of what’s possible on Facebook (and any other platform for that matter) can be eye-opening from a strategic perspective.
Once you’ve identified the kinds of ads you’d like to draw inspiration from, Facebook makes it a cinch to create and share your own detailed mockups (which can be uploaded to your ad account).
What are you waiting for?!
As your digital marketing strategy evolves, the need for clear, engaging ad creative only increases. The free tools I touched upon here are an excellent jumping off point for improving the quality of your own creative.
Speaking of improved creative, a bit of an announcement: WordStream recently acquired Algorithmic Ads, a company whose software algorithmically selects content, images, color schemes, and calls to action from existing business assets and then dynamically builds a variety of Google Display Network and Facebook ads. This will make it even easier for our clients to deploy eye-catching, Conversion Rate Optimized image creative to complement their search presence. We’re stoked.
Did I forget about your favorite resource for inspiring great ad creative? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!
Allen Finn is the co-founder of Toasted Collective, a cannabis-focused digital agency. Many moons ago, he worked at WordStream, where he reigned as fantasy football champion for some time.
See other posts by Allen Finn
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