AdEspresso

The 10 Best Facebook Ad Campaigns That Killed It In 2017

When it comes to Facebook ad campaigns, what truly defines success?

It really depends on your goals: brand awareness, driving traffic, more conversions or sales.

That being said, there are some tried and true methods that continued to perform well for brands throughout 2017.

In this article, we collected 10 top examples by brands that killed it with their Facebook ad campaigns this year.

While some of these tactics may not be new to everyone, they’ve proven to bring success for those using them. 

If you want to achieve the same results in 2018, you can benefit from the examples provided.

When researching top campaigns, one thing I noticed with a lot of other publisher posts, is that the conclusions were based too highly on opinion.

Someone would look at an image of an ad and consider best practices. Then, if the ad followed the guidelines, it was considered to be a top campaign.

That’s not AdEspresso style. We walk the walk only if we can talk the talk!

When deciding whether an ad campaign really made a killing, I looked at the following criteria:

There are a lot of ad campaigns I could have chosen and some may have had just as impressive of results as the ones below.

The problem is that, for most of them, no actual results were provided to us when I reached out to various brands to prove that either campaigns or the ads within them performed well.

So, when in doubt, I decided to use the most trustable source when it comes to Facebook ads: Facebook itself.

To provide a preview of what’s to come, here are the brands/organizations I’ll be covering:

  1. Overnightprints.com
  2. Worldwide Breast Cancer
  3. Sumo.com
  4. Antonia Saint New York
  5. Birchbox
  6. Kitterly
  7. KAYAK
  8. P.F. Chang’s
  9. Save the Children
  10. Visa

And here they are, the 10 Facebook ad campaigns that killed it in 2017, so you can get an idea of how to revise your ad campaigns going into the new year.

1. OvernightPrints Gets a Boost from KlientBoost Seemingly Overnight

GOAL

When KlientBoost, an Orange County, CA PPC/CRO agency, took on Overnightprints.com as a client in early November 2017, their goal was to help increase conversions.

These are the previous results from 10/12/17 to 10/31/17 before the account was taken over:

IMPLEMENTATION

Overnightprints.com had been running retargeting efforts to sell postcards on the official website, but it seemed like they might be limiting their focus a bit too much.

The question arose: why are they only utilizing right rail ads?

KlientBoost used the same creative from previous campaigns, but set out to increase reach with new placements. The agency started utilizing both desktop and mobile news feed ads, expanding placements beyond just the right rail ads.

RESULT

As a result, the client saw the number of conversions increase from 208 to 641 purchases (that’s a 200% increase!). Not only that, but cost per purchase decreased from 42 cents per purchase to 12 cents per purchase — all this in less than a month (see results below for 11/12 – 11/30).

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

Although in some cases, on a limited budget, you want to test different placements and types of campaigns progressively, conversely, you may also want to be more expansive in the beginning to quickly weed out what performs best and what doesn’t. Best practices are general guidelines, but they don’t work for every brand or in every case. Yours could be an exception to the rule.

In this case, it wasn’t so much that the right rail ads weren’t performing well, but that the client was missing opportunities to reach an audience who engaged differently on Facebook — many users were engaging on mobile devices or were more focused on native content in the news feed rather than looking at the ads on the side.

If you have a limited budget, it’s more about focusing on the right components rather than less components. It becomes more about long-term return on investment than short-term savings.

2. Worldwide Breast Cancer Campaign Builds Awareness of…Lemons?

GOAL

Worldwide Breast Cancer, a global charity focused on early detection of breast cancer, had their work cut out for them, touching on a very sensitive topic for many women: checking for signs of cancer. They wanted to find a way to build awareness of the importance of checking while alleviating some of the anxiety or fear around it.

IMPLEMENTATION

One might say that people feel more inclined to support a good cause than a business, especially if the request is only for a like or comment on a Facebook ad–but that’s not always the case. Some people may not even know your organization exists, or may not know how to start engaging with it in a way that’s most beneficial.

That being said, the organization decided to make lemonade out of lemons with its #KnowYourLemons campaign throughout 2017. With colorful imagery and positive messaging, they took a risk by making light of what may be seen as a serious topic of discussion.

By the way, if you don’t get it: lumps equal lemons. It’s okay, took me a minute, too.

The fun and engaging mentality doesn’t just stop at the ad. The microsite provides a quiz for women to check if they’re at risk.

RESULT

By February, the campaign has reached 7.3 million people in just three Facebook posts alone. If you thought having “lemons” was a bad thing, think again.

Due to its success, the campaign continues to run even into late 2017 bringing in donations for the charity.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

By including a memorable catchphrase or hashtag, especially if you’re running campaigns across platforms that support hashtags, this can make performance tracking a little easier.

The imagery of lemons bearing 12 different symptoms as a reminder for what women should check is clever, because it helps add a bit of humor to help women overcome a fear of checking while keeping within censorship rules by using an everyday object.

Essentially, the organization took a risk with a campaign to help women discover if they were at risk — and sometimes, it’s worth the risk of going out on a limb (for the lemon, that is).

3. Sumo Gives Mo’ Power to Content with Facebook Ad Retargeting

GOAL

Sumo knew that organic competition was tough with the amount of high quality content available, so they sought to get their content seen by focusing their efforts on distribution — an area they thought they could have the most impact on their performance.

IMPLEMENTATION

Sumo.com used layered targeting and a retargeting pixel for those who have read blog posts to then get them on board with a more profitable offer. At first, strategic media buys make sure that content is in front of the right people. Then, they were retargeted to sign up and provide contact information (which is considered a higher threat request).

RESULT

Chris Von Wilpert took Sumo from $5 million to $10 million just with paid advertising efforts. So, if that’s not reason enough, I don’t know what else to tell you.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

If everyone is jumping off a bridge, should you? One main takeaway from this campaign is sometimes it benefits to take the road less traveled and not do what everyone else is doing. If you’re in an oversaturated market or you know most of your competitors are using a particular tactic, you might find greater success in channeling your efforts in another direction.

The second key takeaway is to make sure you present higher threat offers to those who had already shown interest rather than to a cold audience. Don’t scare your audience off by asking for too much right off the bat.

4. Antonia Saint New York Gets the Crowd Stomping with a “Kick” Starter

GOAL

Antonia Saint New York, a high-tech heel brand, sought to encourage users to pre-purchase a pair of shoes via it’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

IMPLEMENTATION

They employed a 2-phase Facebook strategy.

The first part of the campaign aimed at gathering customer information. The brand used a variety of link, video, and lead ads to send people to the Kickstarter page and targeted both Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences based off those.

Then, if someone filled out lead info, visited the website or Facebook page, or engaged with any canvas or video ads, he or she would be retargeted to make the purchase.

RESULT

The campaign promoting the Kickstarter ran from July 6th to August 27th, 2017, and resulted in 7 times return on ad spend and 1,796 sales conversions tracked directly from Facebook.

I call that a win!

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

The brand expanded reach to Instagram and Audience Network as not to oversaturate the Facebook News Feed. You don’t want your audience to experience ad fatigue. By also targeting those who had shown interest in a similar campaign, the brand was able to tap into an audience that already had similar interests rather than having to start from scratch.

By testing a variety of ad types, they could discover which ones were really resonating with their audience and make their ads diverse enough that the experience of viewing seemed different each time. As you learn about your audience, make sure you’re continually refining your campaigns to better meet their needs and interests.

The reason I chose to mention this campaign is that crowdfunding has become pretty popular and I have been asked if there’s a different approach to promoting a Kickstarter as opposed to just your regular website. As you can see, in this case, a lot of the same principles apply.

5. Birchbox Thinks Out-of-the-Box with Beautiful Mobile Optimized Strategy

GOAL

Birchbox, an online beauty retailer that provides a monthly subscription of personalized samples, wanted to bring in new subscribers and drive sales.

IMPLEMENTATION

The brand was testing videos meant for mobile versus repurposing TV commercials to see what would perform better.

They created videos, for Lookalike Audiences of current subscribers as well as those who had related interests, that did the following:

  1. Showed close-ups and demonstrated the product.
  2. Use recognizable beauty products people already loved.
  3. Open the videos with attention-grabbing intros and music.

RESULT

The creative developed for mobile news feed outperformed other content with a 35% increase in mobile conversions after optimizing for mobile in first 6 months of 2017 and 70% of website traffic coming directly from mobile.

This led to Birchbox creating their own in-house production studio for further investment in video creation.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

Birchbox looked at insights from multiple campaigns where they repurposed content over time to get an idea of what to test moving forward, which saved time in testing phase. This saved them time and money from not having to play the “guessing game” or recreate the wheel.

Additionally, Birchwood recognized a trend in mobile and was quick to capitalize and adapt for this trend by created shorter videos that led to higher view rates. Staying on top of what is trending in your industry as well as with your target audiences is key.

6. Kitterly Stitches Up Success with Crafty Facebook Ad Sales

GOAL

Kitterly, a knitting and crochet ecommerce site, challenged themselves to come up with better ways to retarget crafters in the U.S. to sell their kits while being conscious of budget.

IMPLEMENTATION

No matter the company goal: brand awareness, traffic, or sales, they optimized all their campaigns for conversions. But they didn’t present the same offer to all — they varied between “View Content,” “Complete Registration,” and “Purchase”.

They employed a variety: link, carousel, and video ads. But not only that, they used dynamic ads for their retargeting efforts to really personalize their ads for each individual’s experience.

They tapped into several targeting methods such as using Audience Insights to target by interests such as in similar brands, and Lookalike Audiences based on various Custom Audiences. Their retargeting Custom Audiences were based on actions people took on the site such as viewing a product or making a purchase.

RESULT

Over the first quarter of 2017, Kitterly achieved 3.4 times return on ad spend, 2.2 times increase in revenue, and 24% more web sessions. That’s what we call stitching together the pieces of a successful Facebook ad campaign.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

Something that makes this campaign unique is that businesses tend to think that top-of-funnel is only good with a brand awareness goal or that a cold audience can’t be targeted with direct response. This is not entirely true. In this campaign, the goal of conversions was the same, but the call to action and offer was varied as to not ask too much of the user at the beginning.

Additionally, they left no stone unturned and didn’t assume that one type of ad or targeting would work well. They tested and let the performance guide them in the right direction.

7. KAYAK Makes Waves by Moving Conversions with Motion and Mobile

GOAL

KAYAK, a travel search engine, wanted to see if they could stand out amongst their competitors and improve their customer acquisition.

IMPLEMENTATION

The brand ran a customer acquisition campaign featuring short video ads with basic motion to stand out from the generic landscape images common amongst its competitors.

In order to determine which video elements were most effective in a mobile environment, the team utilized Facebook’s Create-to-Convert pilot program to create 4 lightweight videos in less than a day that included:

  1. Basic motion to still images, making them more interesting
  2. Adding animation to the logo to reinforce memorability
  3. Highlighting a benefit with kinetic text motion
  4. Bringing life to a simply product, website or app demo

RESULT

The campaign ran March 15-April 15, 2017 and brought the following results:

I would imagine after seeing these results, the PPC manager looked something like this…

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

If you plan on using animation or motion within your ads, there are some best practices you might want to be aware of that KAYAK employed. You want to build for sound-off and auto-play. You also want to use a square-format aspect ratio that fits better in Mobile News Feed.

All in all, if you can afford to use animation over still images, campaigns do seem to perform better for those brands that are trying to sell an experience over just a product.

8. P.F. Chang’s Sweeps Up Conversions with Sweepstakes Offering

GOAL

P.F. Chang’s, a full-service Asian restaurant chain, wanted to test if a traffic or conversion goal for ads would perform better for getting users to enter a sweepstakes.

IMPLEMENTATION

The brand used its Farm to Wok sweepstakes and a custom standard event called Sweep Entries, and then tacked on the Facebook pixel.

Canvas and video ads were targeting people with interests in competitor brands, people near a restaurant location, and lookalike audiences based on people who visited the website, made a reservation on the website or were part of a loyalty list.

RESULT

The conversions ad objective saw a 73% lower cost per click overall and a 75% lower cost per click when combining Facebook and Instagram ad placements, 3 times higher click-through rate overall and 2.75 times increase in click-through rate when combining Facebook and Instagram ad placements.

Although the traffic ad objective did bring in entries, 63% of them came from the conversion-focused campaign.

If you were betting money that the P.F. Chang’s conversion ad objective would win, you’re probably feeling pretty good about now…

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

By offering something of value beyond just your product, it can be the lead bait you need to draw people in for retargeting down the line. Using a sweepstakes or contests is one approach that can do just that.

Take a piece of the pie away from competitors by targeting those who may not know about your brand yet or what differentiates you from them with a clear message on why their audience should shift focus.

One differentiator from the other campaigns listed in this post is that they chose to target based off geography as well. If you’re a local business and only service specific areas, you want to make sure you’re not paying to target those who can’t even come to your store, restaurant, or on-site location.

9. Save the Children Effort Gets Saved by Conversion-Focused Ads

GOAL

Save the Children, a charitable organization providing children with a healthy start, education, protection from harm and a better future, wanted to inspire people to donate to the East African hunger crisis.

IMPLEMENTATION

When using Ads Manager, the organization featured a link ad using creative from a previous top-performing ad as well as utilized the same targeting strategy.

A Custom Audience was created for those who had donated previously, and a 1% Lookalike Audience was created based off that.

RESULT

The Save the Children campaign was extended beyond just a week, with its original run being May 10-16, 2017, due to the fact they achieved 4 times more donations and 76% decrease in cost per acquisition with conversion focused rather than traffic optimized ads — again showing that going right for the goal you ultimately want can work if using the proper targeting and messaging.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

With already having some proven success with what was used, it increases odds future campaigns using will be successful. Always look to previous campaign results to get an idea of how to move forward.

If people had donated before, there’s a better chance they might donate again as opposed to a cold audience who has shown no interest in the organization before. While the previous example with P.F. Chang’s was more focused on the offer being less intrusive, this example is more about who you’re targeting period.

To elaborate, a returning customer (or donator, in this case) is generally worth more in lifetime value than a new customer (or donor), because cost per acquisition tends to be less as you upsell or continue to drive value from him or her.

10. Visa Victoriously Uses Placement to Place Brand for Younger Audiences

GOAL

Visa, a global payment technology company, wanted consumers to see it as a more innovative brand by promoting online and mobile payment ecosystem.

IMPLEMENTATION

They implemented placement tests to improve ad view duration and message retention. They did a comparison test running video ads in Facebook News Feed only, 2) in-stream only, and 3) with both in conjunction to promote multiple ways of conducting transactions.

Source: Visa “Checkout – Front Row” from Brand New School on Vimeo.

Videos were 10 seconds or under, so it wouldn’t take up too much of the user’s time where their attention starts to move elsewhere. Additionally, they used built-in sound-off play with text overlays–so not only would users need to engage with a click to listen, but those who were hard of hearing or deaf would know what the video was about.

They targeted millennials and early tech adopters in the U.S. with these videos.

RESULT

The campaign ran June 22-July 6, 2017 with a conclusion that combining in-stream with News Feed performed the best. When combined, Visa saw a 7-point lift in ad recall, 4.7 times video views, 7 times lower cost per video, and 83% on average of videos watched.

Now that’s a victory!

The additional benefit of all this was Visa got to learn a little bit more about their audience as people engaged, such as consumer viewing habits and cost inefficiencies of the campaign.

TAKEAWAYS & TIPS

Visa showed people in interesting and fun places their audience might actually go (e.g. concerts, traveling on a plane, at the spa), so that the video ads were relatable.

They also showed the ease of use through a one-click VisaCheckout or tap of a mobile phone to a contactless payment terminal. If you have a product or process, it’s a good idea to show how it works and make sure your audience doesn’t perceive the process as more complicated than it is (which is an assumption that might be made about a company that provides a combined financial and tech solution).

If you’re trying to take a brand that’s been around for awhile and portray it as cool and innovative, what better way but to target a younger audience (especially being that they’re most likely to have grown up using mobile devices)? With more clutter and noise online, it makes sense to make videos shorter and to-the-point, so users could continue on with their busy lives — because we know you’re dying to get back on Facebook and see what your friends are up to.

Wrap Up on 2017 Facebook Ad Campaigns

Well, that’s a wrap on the 2017 Facebook ad campaigns. Just another holiday present from the AdEspresso blog.

What do you think of the above mentioned campaigns? How about any we missed? If you had stellar results in 2017 from any of your Facebook ad campaigns, we’d love to hear about it.

Also, keep us abreast of any changes you might make in 2018 based on ideas from these campaigns. You just might be included in a 2018 version of this post. We always love to hear about any Facebook ad tactics or tests you ran that really paid off for your brand or organization.

Holly Winn strives to provide creative solutions to clients on a daily basis. Although she has run the gamut as far as areas of expertise to include email marketing, social media management, content management, copywriting, creative writing, SEO writing, PR writing, web design and SEO, her passion truly lies in writing. Her goal is to engage readers and effectively represent a brand’s competitive advantage in their market. Follow her at @HCWinn on Twitter for more Facebook news and tips.
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