A quite important thing to get right to get attention for your ads…

From doing a lot of FB ads audits, I see what people are doing right/wrong, and time and again, it’s the getting the fundamentals wrong that hurts people, and one of the big culprits is the visuals.

Switching up the photo/video is often one of the most effective things we do when working with new clients.

Last year we took over the campaigns for a financial services business, and switching one (well established and profitable) ad set from the original image to a new one produced an instant 20% decrease in lead cost, which over the course of £100+ a day in ad spend and as part of multiple ongoing optimisations, makes a big difference.

Here are the most common mistakes made in the audits I’ve done in the past months, and then the best way to approach choosing your images/videos.


  • Not testing.

I did a big post on Reddit – read it here – a little while ago about testing, and images/videos are one of the key areas to test. Don’t just chuck up one photo and never try anything else, who knows how much money you’re leaving on the table.

  • Leaving Nothing to the imagination

This is for Ecommerce sites.

If you sell a product, then just showing it up-front isn’t very exciting.

An affiliate company I audited spent £10’000’s a month on ads, and the pattern was clear, showing the product right there on the ad got worse CTR’s than teasing it, or showing a ‘lifestyle’ image involving it (for example – showing a group of girls on a night out and the ad being about a purse or a pair of shoes) – this is because of the curiosity created.
*Note however, that clicks are not the end game, conversions are, but if your site does a better job of selling than an ad on its own, then this can be great.

  • Using stock-y images.

The ONLY job of the image/video that you use is to get enough attention to stop someone scrolling for a split second, so that they can scan the ad copy to see if it’s relevant/interesting.And bland stock imagery is about as un-attention-grabbing as things get.

This is surprisingly common practice though – an SEO agency client of mine were putting heaps of effort into their content, but then using boring corporate style stock photos and graphics that completely nullified their good work.

Likewise, a charity I audited were using clip-art type ads because they “didn’t know what else to use.”Often we have no choice but to use stock photos, but sites like pexels .com and Unsplash.com make it much easier to find genuinely interesting pics to use for free.

  • Not trying slideshows.

Us mammals are hard-wired to pay attention to movement.

Being able to spot potential danger early was an evolutionary advantage, and for that reason, using video often works better for getting attention than a still image.

A client of mine runs an online course that teaches people about a property investing strategy. They put out quality content, and then sign people up to their webinar workshop. Their still images did OK, but once we started using a slideshow of those same type of images, click-through-rates went up.

  • Ignoring video

As per the slideshow point above, movement is good.

But a LOT of companies I’ve audited seem hesitant to record video. When pushed about why, lots of people mentioned video quality/production values etc – but the truth is that smartphone videos often outperform more expensive ones, so if what you sell can be recorded, do it.

This was the case with a Ecommerce store who sold beautiful prints. Their prints were great, the photos of them on a wall were fine, but when you add in some movement via a simple video of the picture on the wall, with a simple pan or close-up, it’s much more visually enticing.

*Note – this is talking about video as an attention grabber – if you are using video to tell the story/message/sales pitch in place of the ad copy, then think of it as the ‘First job’ of video being attention.

  • Faces (not enough)

We are social creatures, so using pictures of real people almost always is a good move, because they catch the eye.

  • Faces (too many)

However, I audited one online coach, who had photoshopped his face into every image.

It was funny if you knew him (I do), but didn’t go down well with cold audiences, who presumably just thought he was a weirdo.

  • Dark/drab.

I see a few people who have obviously been told that ‘real’ photos do best, and so are taking snapshots and posting them up – but ignoring the fact that they aren’t actually nice to look at.

This was the case with a Kids club business I audited – kids running around a football pitch at 5pm in the rain does not make for exciting visuals.

It’s not a lot of effort to load up photoshop and up the brightness & contrast of a photo, but it will make a huge difference in how much attention it gets.

  • Logos

This is hard to hear for some, but nobody gives a shit about you or your business at first. This thankfully seems to be on the decline, but the amount of people using their company logo as an image, or plastering it across a photo is too damn high.

You’re not Nike, stop it.

Other notes:

  • Using words on your images – This can work well, especially for retargeting ads – but the way to do it best is just to stick to a short sharp version of your headline. Remember, the visuals only job is to get people to stop scrolling for half a second, so don’t fill it with details (or logos) they don’t care about. Also, if you cover more than about 20% of your image with text, your reach will be reduced.
  • Try to avoid blue and white (the colours of FB) being the main colours. – I don’t have enough data here to be certain, but from experience, photos that don’t stick to FB’s colour scheme seems o do better, and it would make sense that was the case.

The right way to approach your visuals.

Firstly, I’ll say it again – the primary job of your image/video is to get attention – that’s it.

Effective attention-getting-visuals tend to fit into one of 3 categories:

  1. The target market Show an image/video of the type of person you’re speaking to – they will pay attention because it’s relevant to them.
    For example – if you run a food truck, then a photo of your customers eating an awesome looking burger in front of a recognisable place/landmark in your town.
  2. The problem/solution Demonstrate either the issue at hand, or your product/service solving that issue – again, people will pay attention because it’s relevant.
    For example – If you sell waterproof hiking shoes, you could show someone with wet socks looking miserable.
  3. A pattern interrupt. Something that just seems out of place will get attention (read Purple Cow by Seth Godin), but beware using ‘wacky’ but irrelevant images/videos for the sake of it. these might get people to stop/click, but it’s likely doing nothing to qualify the right people.
    For example – I saw a FB ad a while back that was just a picture of a cute dog, with a headline along the line of “Instead of you seeing a boring advert, I’m paying to show you this pup” – it got my attention, but that was that.

There you go.

Hope that’s helpful, let me know your experiences or questions.

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