Secrets the Pros Use to Create Great Facebook Ad Design (2018 edition)

It’s not easy to know how exactly you want to get started when it comes to Facebook Ad design.

There’s so much to take into consideration and it’s no surprise that brands and marketers alike feel stumped when it’s time to head to the drawing board.

But this is not your case. Or it won’t be anymore!

Our goal is to ensure that Adespresso customers (and blog readers) always run the highest-performing Facebook Ads campaigns possible.

To do so we invest our money and the brainpower of our experts to experiment and find out what really works and what doesn’t.

After managing almost 300 million dollars of ad spend in Facebook Ads worldwide (and wasting lots of our own money making every conceivable mistake), we still learn new, surprising things with every new campaign we create.

In this post, we share with you what we discovered in 10 years of hard work:

The 22 Facebook Ad design secrets that will give your campaigns a boost.

We wrote the original version of this post in 2015 to talk about design secrets that the pros (including us!) used to create the kind of high-converting ads that revolutionize your business. At that time we found 9 golden rules to follow.

Less than two years later, we updated the post with new and updated best practices to create the perfect Facebook ad design, seven tips&tricks that reflected all the changes that the Facebook Ads platform had seen until then.

In the 2018 edition of this post, we’re going to look at what changed in Facebook Ad design after the latest big changes the platform implemented.

We added design tips spanning elements of copywriting, visual components, placements, and strategies, giving you a total of 22 secrets of Facebook Ad design that will give your campaigns new life.

If you want, you can click here and go straight to the 2018 content!

But if you want the whole design… keep on reading!

16 Evergreen Secrets to Create Great Facebook Ad Design

Facebook Advertising can be tough. And it’s getting tougher every day.

As more advertisers realize the potential and jump on board, the increased competition can quickly turn a winning Facebook advert into a money-waster.

In the end, however, the success of a Facebook Ad comes down to just two critical elements:

  1. Great design
    (AKA attracts users’ attention while creating the desire for your product).
  2. Laser-focused targeting
    (AKA display your ad only to an audience of potential customers).

Here are the 16 most effective “classic” tips we’ve learned about creating amazing Facebook Ad design that will excite and entice users to buy your product!

1) Always Test Multiple Designs

I can not stress this enough. Never assume anything. Always test everything. No matter what your level of expertise is or how long you’ve been advertising on Facebook, always test both your ad’s design and its targeting.

Every time you’re creating a new campaign, take the time to come up with at least 4 different Facebook Ad Designs and then test each one. For example, you might test two different images with two different copy texts (2 images x 2 texts = 4 variations).

As you might have guessed, here at AdEspresso, we love illustrations. Every post has a unique design and we use them for advertising as well, but we have discovered that that strategy was somewhat off. While illustrations perform pretty well and are great branding, an ad with a picture of a person performs far better:

Cost per Download: $1.68

Cost per Download: $3.13

Look at that! The Ad showing a person performed nearly 2 times better than our beloved mascot.

So, remember: test everything, even the craziest ideas. Then mix it up to keep things fresh: vary both copy text and images to reduce Ad Fatigue and steer clear of high ad Frequency, which can decrease ad effectiveness.

2) Create Buyer Personas

Most businesses have different sorts of customers with different needs. By creating Buyer Personas, you not only improve your Facebook Ad Designs, but you serve your customers better, overall.

For each potential customer type, write down a persona. Man or woman? Profession and job title? What’s the biggest problem she/he’s hoping to solve by using your product?

Once you’ve created your buyer personas, design a Facebook Ad (paired with laser-focused targeting) for each one, directly addressing their pain points. Here’s an example of two potential AdEspresso Ads, one aimed at Startups and one aimed at Media Agencies:

Very different value propositions! For Startups, we highlight their desire to grow as quickly as possible. For Agencies, we address managing Facebook Ads more quickly and with better results.

3) Add Social Proofs

Do you know what the most influential emotion in a purchase decision is? Fear.

People resist buying your product because they’re scared of losing money and afraid of making the wrong choice. This is why free products are so effective. And it’s not just about the money. Free = No Risk = No Fear.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should give your product away for free (although sometimes you should). I’m just suggesting that you need to address customers’ fears by adding Social Proofs to your Facebook Ad Designs.

A great social proof that reduces fear are testimonials from famous people. Having a VIP endorse, your product immediately gives you credibility and removes a level of fear. It can also be expensive, of course.

If you don’t have testimonials, you can still leverage your large user base. Check out this ad from Dropbox. Despite being well known, Dropbox still highlights that they have more than 100,000 businesses relying on them! That’s a testimonial in itself.

Can you imagine how users respond? 100,000 businesses?! Wow! If everyone and their sister are using Dropbox, there must be a reason. It must be a great product, and so I have no fear jumping onboard. How can all those people be wrong?

4) Use Call-to-Actions

Adding a Call-to-Action to your Facebook Ads might not increase your click-through rate or make your ad more engaging, but it’s likely to improve your overall conversion rate and decrease your cost per conversion.

Why? Because a good call-to-action decreases friction. If a user clicks your ad and arrives on your landing page, it won’t need to waste time figuring what to do next. He’ll already know and quickly proceed to perform the desired action.

He’ll know because you’ve prompted him in your Ad with a Call-to-Action like “Download our eBook…,” “Subscribe to our newsletter for a chance to win…,” “Take the survey and receive $10 off…,” etc.

By the way, here’s a post we recently published on advanced Call-to-Action strategies on Facebook.

5) Choose images that stands out

If advertising is a war, then Newsfeed is your battlefield. And a very crowded one it is.

If you want to get your ads clicked on, you have to grab the users’ attention so that they read your ad. This will come down to your ad’s image. The right image can immediately attract the eye and earn you a click.

Therefore, carefully select an image that will stand out from the crowd. You might also try to add some visual contrast like the ad here. Honestly, I don’t like this tactic as it looks a bit tacky/spammy and therefore is bad branding. It does tend to work, however.

A better strategy is to use Instagram-like filters on your pictures. Be creative but remember, while the image needs to stand out, it should not be offensive or too strong. That would be against Facebook’s rules, and your ad will be rejected.

6) Address The Logical & Emotional

We think we’re intelligent animals who always act rationally, but that’s only partially true. Our emotional side has a lot to say when it comes to buying.

A simple list of product features might convince the rational self in some users but has no effect at all on their emotional self. Our emotional self-doesn’t care about features, that part of us wants benefits.

No one wants to become a millionaire just to have money. They want the beneficial lifestyle that comes with being rich. Likewise, you don’t buy a product for its features. You buy it to solve a problem and, thereby, to make your life better.

In your Facebook Ad designs, therefore, address both the rational and emotional side of your users. Here’s a great example:

7) Be Consistent

Like Call-to-Actions, consistency will reduce friction and help your users complete the desired action. If someone clicks on your ads, it’s because they like the image, your message, and what you’re offering.

After clicking, they should end up on a landing page that reinforces what they saw in the ad. Use the same images and wording, just go into more depth describing your product and why they should buy it.

People decide if they like a website in seconds. If you don’t hook them immediately, you lose them. Imagine what would happen if, after clicking an ad for red sports shoes on Facebook, you ended up on a generic page with hundreds of sports shoes without one that is red. You’d leave immediately, right?

This is a crucial thing that so many advertisers overlook! After looking for a good example for more than half an hour, I gave up, and quickly found a typical error:

Look at that; I click on a very specific ad with a pink shoe… and on the landing page, there’s no trace of it. And no mention of the 55% discount promised.

8) Pick the Right Placement

Correct placement of your Facebook Ads is critical and, ideally, you want to optimize your design for each placement.

Check out this ad below. It was in my right column, but it was clearly meant for the Newsfeed. The text is simply too small and, therefore, unreadable. The copy has the same problem. It’s just too long, and I don’t even know what the ad’s about!

9) Showcase Credibility

Trust and credibility are fundamental. Without them, you’ll never convince a user to buy your product, give out their email address, or establish any relationship.

While this should be common sense, I see ads all the time that do not appear credible and so immediately jump turn me off as spammy. Point #6 above describes how you appeal to the emotional side of your users by highlighting the benefits of your product, but this does not mean you should over-promise or, worse yet, lie outright.

A self-improvement course can surely help your career. A service like AirBnB can help you earn extra money from an unused bedroom. But would you advertise either with a picture of someone driving a Ferrari or having fun on a Yacht? That would be far too much of a reach, right?

Check out these two ads:

I can easily believe that a new start-up can guarantee me $100 per month – or even up to $1,000 per month. But when we start getting into very large numbers, this can lead to doubts about your brand or company’s credibility.

For example, the “$25 Million Dollar Swipe File” implies that the file you are receiving is worth, or will lead to, 25 million dollars.

While the business that advertises this may have actually earned such a high amount of money with this file, some may perceive the dollar amount as exaggerated given the anonymity and brevity of the claim.

10) Consider the Psychology of Color

If you’re not harnessing the psychological powers that different colors can have, then you’re missing out on a vital creative force that every top Facebook ads pro is using.

90% of all the snap judgments that we make about products can be traced back to color, according to a study in Management Decision. Here are some of the major science-backed trends in how people perceive colors that you should keep in mind:

When planning out your ad creative and deciding on a color to use, think about the market you’re selling to, what they like, what they expect, and then you’ll be thinking along the right lines. For an example of how this works in the real world, we’ve taken that classic image of different brands organized by color and drawn some connections:

The gas companies here—BP, Shell, Gulf, ExxonMobil—may produce an identical product for consumers. But these companies, part of the legendary Seven Sisters of petroleum production, are heavily differentiated in the brains of consumers thanks to their incredibly distinctive colors. If you had to start an oil company today, I might say, “Go gray!” Be the Apple of gas!

The same kind of color psychology can be seen in the tech companies on the chart (outlined in blue). Apple represents neutral, calm, design sensibility. Facebook represents trust and dependability. Yahoo represents wisdom… or at least, they did, at one point—originally, Yahoo set out to organize all of the internet’s information into one home page, and they did a pretty good job.

Don’t take this chart as gospel—“My product is exciting, so I must use red in my Facebook ads”—but do check out what your competitors are doing. Look at what is working. Subtle changes in color can influence how we see advertising, so take your time and make your decisions count.

11) Utilize Location-Specific Imagery

One of the great things about Facebook advertising is that it’s so easy to set up multiple campaigns all targeting different geographic regions. But you’re not fully capitalizing on the power of Facebook ads unless you’re also changing the content of your ads to match the geographic region you’re targeting.

Kisi, a keyless-entry startup that helps offices take care of employee access to buildings remotely, is available all over the United States. But if you’re in New York City, you’re not going to see a generic Kisi ad on your Newsfeed. You’re going to see a targeted ad that looks like this:

If you’re in New York City, it’s all but guaranteed that an ad with an “NYC” plastered over it is going to draw your attention better than an ad that could have been shown anywhere. This is something strangely lacking in most people’s Facebook ads, but it’s something that traditional advertisers have definitely caught onto—check out this Haagen-Dazs ad from the BART in San Francisco:

Pandering or not, this ad got the tech world’s attention. If you’re going to spend the money to target customers in expensive urban areas like New York City and San Francisco, it’s worth capitalizing on that specificity to drive home a more personal, targeted message in your advertising.

12) Leverage The “Power of Free”

We’re always on the lookout for free. It’s one of those trigger words that renders just about everything around it more attractive—free beer, free money, free food, you name it. We love free.

When used in advertising, it can be an incredibly effective technique. It definitely sets you apart from the majority of the ads on peoples’ Newsfeeds—which are asking people to pay money for products—but capitalizing on the psychology of free does not mean you have to give away your product for free.

For example, you could make free part of a special offer that comes along with buying your product:

Or, you could simply use free as a lead generation device. Content marketing is a powerful way to grow your business, but you can’t have a great lead generation magnet unless people actually read it and get value out of it. Giving away helpful information for free is the easiest and most effective way to spread your content and show people that you’re a trustworthy source of information.

13) Use Customer Testimonials

We all love the feeling of being a part of something. When you see other people talking about how much they love a picture of a cat on Facebook, you feel like going and expressing how you feel too. When you see something that you’re outraged by, you join in by liking the relevant statuses and posting some words to show that you agree.

When you see customer testimonials, that same part of your brain lights up as if to say, “Buy this product. Join the club.”

Use your customers to make your Facebook ads compelling. No one can be a better sales representative when you’re trying to get people to click on your ads in their Newsfeed since Facebook is already such a massive social medium. And as we’ve mentioned before, the best sales don’t come from direct sales but recommendations.

14) Intersect Interests

Targeting intersections of interests is one of the most powerful techniques out there for getting people to stop scrolling and check out your ad. Here’s how it works:

We did this before, targeting those people who were fans of college football and also liked tacos. In this example from Dr. Pepper, you can see what you might do if you targeted fans of college football and Dr. Pepper:

Or maybe you’re Toyota targeting people who go on outdoorsy adventures:

Interest intersections are powerful for the same reason that localized ads are powerful. When you show people an ad that feels like it’s just about them, they’re way more likely to stop, click, and share because they feel a personal connection to it. The returns, if you do it right, will be awesome. Just check out how much better we did when we targeted college football fans and taco fans:

15) Include Faces in Images

According to a 2005 study out of Caltech, there’s even a specific group of cells in our brains that fire only when we see a face. And then there’s the well-known psychological effect called pareidolia that causes humans to look for faces in everyday objects like stoves and toilets. The takeaway here is that people love to see faces. It’s a phenomenon that’s deeply ingrained in our brains, a vestige of our primal beings—so use it in your Facebook ads!

Ever wonder why the mascots on cereal boxes are always cute animals or cartoon people staring right at you? Well, according to a lab at Cornell studying consumer behavior, the reason is that it is effective.

When the Trix rabbit glances into our young, impressionable eyes every time we go to the supermarket as children, we start gradually developing a preference for Trix. We humanize the product and get attached.

Make your customers feel the same way and put some faces in your Facebook ads.

16) Create Urgency

There’s nothing we hate more than losing out on a great deal because we were just a little bit late. It’s the principle of loss aversion: we feel bad when we miss out on getting something, but we feel even worse about losing. And when we see an urgent opportunity arise, we do not want to let it slip through our fingers.

One of the biggest problems with advertising today is that urgency can be difficult to trigger in people. Since we can get items in less than 5 hours off Amazon and virtually every other e-commerce platform offers some 1-2 day shipping options, people feel as though they can probably get whatever they want whenever they want.

Inducing scarcity and urgency could mean grabbing hold of your audience’s attention with an eye-catching deal that they just can’t pass up. You want to create a deep sense of FOMO—fear of missing out, as in this ad from Watch Junction advertising a hot deal for 60% off.

There are many different urgency-evoking phrases that copywriters use in their headlines and ad texts to create excitement.

Try some of the following words with the next special offer that you put on Facebook:

Facebook Ad Design Secrets for 2018

All of the above tips belonged to our original post (and have been updated to reflect any necessary changes based on Facebook updates since). They are all still directly applicable to designing new ad campaigns, so don’t write them off; every single one is valuable, and we’ve even covered them again in recent posts and webinars.

That being said, there have been some big changes to the platform, which gives us more options for how we use the ad platform and the types of campaigns we can create. Let’s take a look at a few more design tips that are either more important now in 2018 or that are now available based on these new updates.

17. Use Multiple Ad Formats

There are so many more ad formats now than there used to be, which can be more overwhelming but it also means there are more design options so we can really get creative. Carousel ads, Collection Ads (which are shopping and product-focused), Canvas Ads, and even Story Ads are all exciting options that keep things diverse and can help you to capture user interest.

Standing out in the newsfeed (or the Story feed, or the right column) is crucial to getting results, and when you use these different formats and placements correctly, you’ll be able to deliver your desired effect in a powerful way. Imagine wanting to showcase the excitement of an upcoming event you’re hosting and utilizing Canvas Ads to share videos, announcements, and lists of different speakers, ending with a CTA to register now.

If you want to switch things up but aren’t sure where to start, carousel ads are typically a safe bet. They have higher-than-average CTR and engagement rates, which is automatically a plus, and they give you more room to either demonstrate value or tell a story.

18. Automate the Designs

Sometimes the best Facebook Ad designs are the ones that make your life a little bit easier. Facebook’s Dynamic Ads allow you to create templates and upload product catalogs, which will then automatically generate an enormous number of ads that automatically pair up the correct product with its description, price, and other relevant information.

The concept is simple, but it’s so effective. And since these ads are often shown during retargeting campaigns to users who have recently viewed the specific product pages, there’s an increased chance of CTR and conversion. This is a great way to market a lot of products in real time without needing to manually create an ad for each one. Businesses who have large product catalogs should use this feature to their advantage and create interesting templates and descriptions to make them as effective as possible.

Interested in learning more about dynamic ads? See how to set them up here.

19. Incorporate Video

I feel like video is to marketing what cheese is to pasta; you can never really have too much. Video marketing is so important, and when it comes to Facebook Ads, videos are a particularly strong design choice.

There are several reasons for this. First, users love video, and they respond well to it. This gives you the chance to convey more information to users in a shorter space than a text-based ad ever would allow, complete with background theme music to enhance the effect you’re going for. Videos also stand out in the feed, and automatically give you an edge at getting users to stop scrolling, which is a huge advantage.

Videos are also natural vessels for storytelling, and really let you elaborate on your point in a way that will help your brand and product stand out.

Ideally, your ad campaigns marketing videos should meet the following criteria for best results:

20. Offer Value

When you design your ads in a way that immediately demonstrates and offers value of not only the offer itself but of your brand and/or product, you’ll be in good standing. Value, after all, is going to explain to users why they should purchase, and often ties in with the logical appeals we discussed above. It also explains why they should choose your products over a competitor’s, and why they have a need for it in their lives.

There are several ways to design your ad in a way that will demonstrate value. This includes:

21. Go Vertical

We’re living in an increasingly mobile-first world, where users are on their mobile devices at heightened levels and slowly shifting towards leaving desktops behind. This is not only important to understand for what types of content to create, but also how to literally design it.

At this point, you pretty much need to go big or go home by incorporating more vertical content (especially vertical video) into your ad campaigns. Note that not all of your campaigns need to be optimized for vertical, but that you should consider optimizing all video ads for the vertical format and to test out Facebook and Instagram Story Ads. Users who click to view a video and realize they have to turn their phone sideways, for example, may be just turned off by the experience enough that they’ll leave the ad where they otherwise may have stayed.

22. Tell a Story

Storytelling is an exceptionally powerful tool for marketers, and incorporating short stories in your Facebook Ads will yield exceptional results. Stories can often help merge emotional and logical appeals, which we discussed earlier, while giving users something memorable to grasp onto.

You can use single image ads to tell a story by setting a scene with a picture, and enhancing the effect with your descriptions. In the example below, for example, Plated uses a video featuring a family cooking and laughing together to really set a scene and establish that emotional connection. Carousel ads are another good option for storytelling, as each image and video slide can set a different scene, and video ads are unsurprisingly incredibly effective for this purpose, too.

When it comes to storytelling, keep it simple and go for a single effect. You don’t want to try to make people happy and scared and feeling a sense of adventure; instead, just pick one, or everything will get a little muddled and users will scroll away confused.

It’s Up to You Now…

There are so many factors that go into creating strong, high-performing Facebook campaigns.

The targeting, the copy, the offer, the bids, and even the placements all have to be right. Even if they are, however, your ad can still fall short if they lack strong, motivational, cohesive designs.

Combined, these 22 tips are the most effective ways to design killer Facebook Ads that we’ve learned over the last 10 years.

Remember to keep your specific audience and goals in mind when designing your Facebook Ads, and to thoroughly test these different design strategies and tips to see what your audience is most responsive to.

What do you think? Which of these Facebook Ad design secrets have you put to the test? What strategies have worked best for you? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!