Recently I noticed something weird. As I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed I kept getting the same ads over and over again.
Retargeting ads is nothing new to me, and I bet it isn’t to you either, but it felt like it happened more often. It is probably just the start of me going crazy but I decided to look into it.
It led to me screencapping (screen capturing, for the purists) 50 ads over the next weeks to get an idea of what was actually going on in my newsfeed.
What I saw was surprising, to say the least.
First thing, of course, I focused on the funniest and uhmmmm unusual (weird??) ones… these two:
I figured that retargeting is popular, so I expected quite a bit of the ads to be retargeting based on website traffic or engagement of some sort.
As I was screencapping the ads tho, I noticed something strange. For about three days I received no ads at all in my newsfeed. I got a few in the right column but that’s it.
I haven’t noticed that before and it’s probably the only time I was annoyed by not being shown ads.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Facebook has a certain ad load per session so I had to capture the ads over about a week or so. With the lack of ads, all of the sudden the deadline became tight.
I tried loading ads across both desktop, mobile, Chrome, and Firefox, and finally through different countries via a VPN. All with no luck.
I’m currently in Vietnam and since Facebook discarded all ads in Thailand when their king died, I figured perhaps something was going on with that -even though it might be unrelated. Nothing helped.
Eventually, I started receiving ads again and could continue.
I won’t show you my whole gallery, but what I learned from
Results and insights
The most significant thing I noticed was that 96% of all ads were retargeting ads! The trend was the same across desktop and mobile.
I expected a lot of retargeting ads but I did not expect that! Many of the ads I was shown was related to making money online and general online marketing, so these advertisers could be savvier than the average advertiser.
It makes sense that people prefer retargeting ads. Naturally, they often convert a lot better as they are shown to a warm audience instead of a cold.
I imagine advertisers will be inclined to spend more to acquire each conversion which should drive up ad cost overall when Facebook reaches a time where there are so many advertisers using retargeting ads that most people see a newsfeed like mine.
Of course, that’s going to take a while but the result is interesting nonetheless.
Image is by far the most popular creative even though video is often converting better. 84% of the ads on desktop were using images and 88% on mobile. In comparison, video is merely 4% on desktop and 12% on mobile.
Thinking about the psychology of online advertisers, most seem uncomfortable putting themselves out there, so it makes sense that images are so much more popular than video.
Video will without a doubt be the norm at some point just as we saw when images and gifs became popular as opposed to bare text articles.
At the same time, I imagine that video convert rates will decline more and more as it becomes more and more popular.
The expectations of online buyers become higher and you need to do more to persuade them to fork over their credit card.
A free offer is by far the most popular thing to link to on both desktop and mobile. 56% of the ads on desktop were linking to a free offer while it was 68% of the mobile ads.
The only noticeable difference between mobile and desktop is that on mobile the advertisers would rather take a chance on a free offer than retarget them with an article. 28% were linking to an article on desktop but on mobile 12% were articles and another 12% were paid offers.
Free offers are by far the most popular thing to link to from ads. By free offers I mean a free webinar, ebook, email course or something similar – generally some kind of free bribe that puts them on your email list.
To me it looks like as time goes on, you need to give more and more value away for free to build trust as competition increases. That led me to believe that branding is becoming more and more valuable for small businesses.
I noticed how popular free Facebook groups are becoming and how well they can convert if you show value over time before bribing them to join your email list.
In terms of retargeting ads, running them to your core audience with a link to your recent blog article is a popular choice for desktop users (28%) and for a good reason.
I’ve seen some great results from it and with the trend being that articles should be longer and longer, more like a guide-form, it seems like an overkill to serve these to people on mobile. And only 12% does.
Generally, I noticed that desktop and mobile ads were very similar even though the real life behavior of each device is very different. There is definitely room for improvement in the mobile funnels as the majority of traffic comes through there. It’s a great opportunity.
I didn’t look for trends in the copy. It’s too different and impossible to compare properly. Instead, I looked at the offer as an indication of the purpose of the ad.
I chose only to look at ads in the newsfeed to keep things simple.
I looked at 25 ads from mobile and 25 ads desktop. As I’m sure you know the majority of the traffic comes from mobile but I wanted to see if there actually was a difference.
I divided the targeting into two categories:
- Retargeting (incl. Retargeting of engagement with pages etc.)
- Not retargeting
I divided the creatives into three categories:
- Carrousel images
And offers into:
- Free offer
- Paid offer
Industry and niche
I’ve been looking at ads across various industries and niches – whatever showed up in my newsfeed.
One thing I noticed was that I got a ton of ads related to making money online. The competition appears to be extremely fierce. Of course, that reflects something about my behavior and so the results would likely be different if you did the same experiment in your own newsfeed.
This is in no way a proper scientific study so don’t take it as such. It is an experiment – a deep dive into my newsfeed but yours might be different so don’t take this as the end all be all.
My aim was not to see which ad would convert better but rather which targeting method was more popular as well as which offers and creatives. My hope was to uncover a trend and figure out how to stay ahead of it.
In my humble opinion, it’s usually better to avoid whatever is popular in online marketing and try out new things to stay ahead of the pack.
I rarely find that what is more popular is actually better performing. In my experience the bigger the brand the more they are looking for best practices because they are playing the safe game – and we all know how much large brands are wasting in ad dollars 😉
Think about it. If you are competing directly with Coca-Cola for the ad space on Facebook, with (almost) the same ad, who do you think is going to win?
Exactly. That’s why we need to get creative to stay ahead. As soon as we are playing the same game as the large brands, it’s game over.
Video is here to stay and right now is a great opportunity to leverage it as it has not yet become the norm. The conversion rate by switching from image to video is likely to go down as more and more people start using it.
Targeting warmer audiences is something advertisers seem to be catching on to and with good reason. It just converts better.
Retargeting and branding go hand in hand and is a great way to engage with your audience.
Always test and try new ideas to stay ahead of the bigger players.