Tag Archive for: ad creative

How Performance Creative Generates Bold, Actionable Results for Growth Marketing

creative examples from Tuff

Performance creative challenges marketers to dig deep into what makes ads “work” better than others. Through deliberate testing and tweaking and testing again, we use data and analytics to not only understand the needs of our target audiences, but to also address them directly–in ad creative and copy.

Simple as that, right?

Key components of performance creative

Yes, there’s more to advertising than color and copy (a lot more). Ad creative is particularly unique because 75% of campaign success is driven by creative. We know that attention spans have dropped since iPhones magically appeared in all of our back pockets in 2007. That means that first impressions count more than ever, and ad creative is one of the few things that has the ability to still grab someone’s attention mid-scroll. And aside from reading someone’s mind, testing that creative is the best way to understand what made them stop scrolling in the first place (so we can get more people to do the same). We do that testing after we establish a few key elements. 

5 key elements for successful performance creative in growth marketing:

  1. A clear understanding of the target audience: This requires research into their demographics, interests, and behaviors, as well as anything you can find on their motivations for clicking, browsing, purchasing, signing up, etc.
  2. A clear and measurable goal: Set a specific data-driven goal for each marketing campaign so at the end of a test you can say: “We learned something useful here.”
  3. A strong value proposition: The ad creative and copy need to clearly communicate the benefits and value of the brand. 
  4. Engaging content: Strong ads capture the attention of the target audience.
  5. A compelling call to action: All ads should include a clear and persuasive call to action, such as “Sign up now” or “Learn more,” that encourages the target audience to take an action immediately. 

By syncing these elements, performance creative will be set up to trigger specific actions–that are measurable! The “performance” aspect comes in when we start changing ad creative to influence what actions people take (and who’s taking them). We change the ad creative methodically because clear tests mean clear results. 

The creative testing process

Remember the scientific method from middle school science class? Our process follows the same steps. (If it worked for Galileo, then it’ll work for us too.)

creative process

  • We observe how the current creative is performing. 
    • We ask: Does one stand out from the pack? Are they similar? Is there an obvious gap in format, messaging, or brand elements?
  • We make a hypothesis based on our experience working with hundreds of companies, products, and partners: “You know what, a bite-sized testimonial might do really well for this SaaS audience.” …or… “I think a video will get more people to purchase than a static quote here.”
  • We whip up the creative and run the experiment for at least two weeks to test just one variable (like an animation vs. static quote). We change one element of the ad and present it to similar audiences. Everything else has to stay constant or else we’ll run the risk of incorrect conclusions about the relationship between our variables (i.e. it gets messy). 
  • We draw conclusions based on specific performance metrics like cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rates. If we’re able to pay less to get more people to take the desired action, that tells us that one specific aspect of your ad is more impactful than the other (and should be tested more!) 

What testing performance creative shows us

We don’t launch any campaigns without clear questions and hypotheses outlined beforehand. As a growth marketing agency, the broader goal is to understand which messages or offers (or formats or buttons, etc.) are more appealing to different segments of the population, and which channels or platforms are most effective for reaching those audiences. A/B tests provide valuable insights into the attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of our target audience, which helps us continually put out stronger creative and campaigns.

To learn about our audiences, we typically ask questions such as: 

What ad formats work best across my acquisition channels and their respective audiences?

We load up our campaigns with a mix of ad creative formats so we can continually test their performance and efficiency against each other. It’s been particularly interesting to see the popularity of video ads skyrocket over the past 7 years, only to begin leveling out with stills this year (according to our data). In the past few months, we’ve seen carousels pick up in popularity across Facebook and Instagram, even more so than video. 

What messaging (and copy placement) resonates with our audience best?

We use value props to create the base from which all marketing messaging for a particular brand is derived. Using a tried-and-true value props template, we outline the specific elements of a brand that set it apart from the competition, the very specific problems it solves, and how this solution benefits the user. Then–you guessed it–we test ‘em to see which resonates most. 

We also test the placement of messaging in our ads. In Facebook ads, for example, there is copy above, overlaying, and underneath all visual ads. It’s important to test where a CTA like, “Get 20% Off Now” works best. A possible test would be to include that CTA directly on the ad creative vs. in the caption underneath. Run the test for two weeks and see which gets more clicks/higher CTR and how many of those clicks lead to purchases. There’s your answer.

Which creative works best with which audience (and drives the best results per objective?)

The creative that works best with a particular audience and drives the best results per objective will depend on the campaign’s (or just the test’s) goals. Here are a few factors that can influence the effectiveness of your creative:

Relevance: Creative and copy that is relevant to the target audience’s pain points are more likely to inspire action.

Clarity: Ads that are easy to understand are more likely to resonate. 

Emotional appeal: Imagery and messaging that elicits an emotional response (through storytelling, colors, keywords, etc.) from the audience is often more effective. 

Brand consistency: Creative that is consistent with the overall brand identity (including colors, fonts, messaging, and even CTAs) is more likely to be effective.

Ultimately, the best creative for a particular audience and objective will depend on the specific context and needs of the campaign. It’ll almost always be necessary to test different types of creative to see which one performs best with the target audience.


Say we spent $2,000 on a 2-week creative test on Meta: $1,000 on an animated ad and $1,000 on a static ad with the same messaging, same CTA, and same audience.

Each ad received 9,000 impressions. Out of 9,000 impressions, the animation got 200 clicks that led to 4 purchases. Out of 9,000 impressions, the static ad got 100 clicks that led to 5 purchases. That leaves us with these metrics: 

Animated Ad Static Ad
Spend $1,000.00 $1,000.00
Impressions 9,000 9,000
Clicks 200 100
CPC $5.00 $10.00
CTR 2.22% 1.11%
Purchases 4 5
Cost Per Purchase $250.00 $200.00
Conversion Rate 2.00% 5.00%

There are a few key areas to consider when deciding which creative asset was more successful. The KPI will differ depending on the business’s goals, but let’s stick with purchases as the main measurement for success. 

The quick answer: The static ad saw a lower cost per purchase, so we can draw an initial conclusion that the people interacting with it are further down in the funnel and more likely to buy. This means that it’s more cost-effective to serve a static ad to that audience rather than a video ad, and that’s where we should put our budget. HOWEVER—we’re seeing more engagement with the animated ad (double the clicks from the same number of impressions = higher click-through rate). 

From those numbers, we might form a new hypothesis that those people are higher in the funnel and not quite ready to enter their credit card info. They’re interested in learning more (because they clicked the ad to go to the website), but they’re ever-so-slightly less likely to buy (4 purchases vs. 5). 

By now you know that testing performance creative isn’t a one-and-done type of deal. These early results aren’t strong enough to hang our hats on just yet. In this scenario, we’d want to create another test to poke holes in our static ad and build them up stronger, or maybe rethink the audience we’re putting the animation in front of. There are so many elements to A/B test, and it’s the marketer’s job to decide which to focus on first. 

Need a push? Here are some ideas…

Try these A/B tests!

Our advice: Start small. You won’t find the answers to all your advertising questions in the first month of testing. And if you take anything from this article, take this list of creative testing ideas you can put into action immediately. 

  • Headline + CTR: Test two different Facebook ad headlines with the same creative to see which one gets a higher click-through rate. Then use the winning headline on two different creatives. The result? An optimized ad with a proven headline and creative. 
  • Call-to-Action + CTR: Test two different CTAs to see which one gets a higher click-through rate. Then power up your optimized ad from above with the most effective CTA. Triple threat!
  • Audience targeting + purchases: Test different target audiences using the same exact ad to see which group completes more purchases. Those are your people. (Then show the less active audience a different ad to see if that works better!) 
  • Audience targeting + time on site: A lesser-used test, you can compare which audiences spend a longer time on site to gauge their engagement level. We want to know what happens after someone sees our ad and before they complete a purchase for a fuller picture of what they need and where they are in the user journey.
  • Ad format + cost per purchase: Test two different ad formats (text-based vs. image-based) with the same ad copy and same audience to see which results in more cost-effective acquisitions. The lower your cost per purchase, the more efficient and effective your ad format is. When you can double down on the most effective ads over and over again–then you’ve cracked the growth marketing code. Nice!

There are hundreds of ad elements and metric combinations you can use to evaluate your performance creative. With so much data at our fingertips, it’s the growth marketer’s job to ask the right questions and demand more of our creative and campaigns. 

What performance creative can tell us about people

Creative that’s backed by data is one of the superpowers of growth marketing. It tells us more about our audience, how much they know about our brand, how much they want to know about our brand, and just how close they are to making a purchase (or similar action). By measuring their actions like clicking an ad, scrolling a website, starting the check-out process, or even ignoring us altogether, we can learn first-hand what makes an ad effective–down to the color of a CTA button–and where we need to shape up.

The key is to keep testing and iterating and testing and iterating. Campaigns should flex and flow and change with the market, the audience, the product, the platforms, and the inexplicable tides of people using the internet. Pay attention to the numbers and your performance creative will be better than ever. We promise. 🚀

Psst 👋 want help? We got you.

creative testing

Which Product Features Matter Most? How to Use Creative Testing to Find Out

creative testing

As a CMO or Head of Growth, you are most likely keenly aware of what makes your product powerful. The question is, do you know which features matter the most to your potential customers, or better yet, their pain points? If you have a very technical or complex offering, it can certainly be a challenge knowing which of your features or benefits will resonate the most with your prospects. That’s where creative testing comes in. 

At Tuff, as a growth marketing agency, we’ve learned to leverage creative testing to provide some quantitative measurement of this riddle. If you have a lot of features you’re eager to showcase and don’t know which ones to include in your assets, this is a good problem to have and solving it will clarify your creative strategy moving forward. 

Let’s take a look at how Tuff handles creative testing for different (and very technical/complex) product features. 


Say you have a SaaS platform that is simply outstanding from your competitors. You’ve got a platform that covers it all: better pricing, more robust tech, easier integration, overall user-friendliness – you’ve simply thought of everything. What do you do with all those valuable features? Give each one a tiny bullet point in an over-crowded asset? Create a rambling two minute video outlining each benefit in detail?

Quite the opposite. With an abundance of product features, you need to have an abundance of creative assets that cover each one thoroughly. Look at all four of your key features or benefits as your four “hooks” for your different ad concepts. That allows you and your team to really get after what’s driving growth and sticking with your prospects. 

Here’s our recipe for success: Isolate one per ad concept and run all these concepts concurrently. Make sure to give all your concepts a fair shot at serving to your audiences fairly equally (remember we’re talking about creative testing, not audience testing here!). Take a look at your KPIs (CTR, CPA, CVR) for each concept and compare them against each other. Since you’ve done the hard part of whittling down a clear and concise value proposition for each concept, whichever ad performs the best will give you the answer to your question of which feature matters most to your core audience. 

At Tuff, we start out by casting a wide net with our creative assets, addressing an equally wide array of features and benefits. Once we’ve given them all a proper test, we double down on the features that performed the strongest, and save the others for later (they might perform better with a different audience, or maybe they’re better utilized in another channel!). 

By doing your due diligence of testing different product features, you can eliminate future guessing and have an informed, data-driven creative strategy that strikes at the heart of your prospects’ pain points of your respective industry. 

Tuff Creative Testing In Action

There are many, many, many different ways to approach A/B testing, and we’ll spill the beans now: they’re not all effective. Understanding which button color generates a stronger CTR is handy to know…but is the juice really worth that squeeze?

Instead of A/B testing our faces off, our approach is to—before we think deeply and thoughtfully about how developing a hypothesis—we heavily diversify the look and feel of our ad creative. That way, before we put pen to paper designing our test, we have high confidence that we’re doing so within an ad creative format that resonates with our target audience. Meaningful testing shouldn’t come at the expense of performance. 


To put it simply, we’re enthralled by IronVest’s simple, comprehensive approach to online security. Especially because the app that their team has developed is far ahead of the curve of traditional password protectors or online security systems. The app is absolutely packed with rich, powerful features but a burning questions we wanted to answer out the gate was “which one(s) really capture our target audiences’ attention? Which mean the most?”

Both the IronVest and Tuff team alike were hungry for answers. But before we dove into developing a test to unlock it, we first wanted to take a beat to understand two critical questions:

  • How do we quickly and clearly communicate to our audience what IronVest is?
  • What is the ideal ad creative format that resonates with our audience?

To set the stage for an effective feature test, we flighted a round of ad creative characterized by heavy diversification of look, feel, and messaging. Two assets emerged victorious when it came to performance (primarily honing in on click-through rate (CTR)/cost per click (CPC) as well as conversion rate (CVR)). 

Concept 5 and Concept 6 reigned supreme.

Here’s what we observed:

  • “Security” and “password manager” were two common threads between our top performers. As well as language around “we’re different/uncommon.”
  • Playful/branded shapes and bold colors were common between the two assets. 
  • Both assets have a highly “futuristic” or modern vibe about them.

So, armed with this knowledge, we developed an asset that we have high confidence would perform as a standalone ad and versioned it to highlight three different top features and one value prop. 

We made a strategic choice to include one value prop (as opposed to sticking to all features) is because on rare occasions, we find that there’s no simple answer to “which feature performs best” and instead discover that uplifting features secondary to benefits or brand statements can outperform. You’ll see the value prop we chose is directly tied to our findings above. 

Here’s what we built:

A Variant: Selfie-biometrics password protection (feature)

B Variant: Masked emails (feature)

C Variant: Password protector that doesn’t store your data (value prop)

D Variant: Virtual phone numbers

In order to get optimal and cleanest results, we’ll isolate each of these assets in its own separate campaign (leaning on Facebook’s A/B test tool works well here too) and flight them together, waiting until each asset has amassed statistically significant spend to pull results.

The best part: once we pull our findings, the work doesn’t stop there. It will be crucial for us to update, retweak, and modify creative, weave in additional features and value props, and generally a/b test our winner from this round to come out the other side with a strong, definitive statement about which feature drives best results. 

Stay tuned!

Our Advice: Baby Steps

Platforms with technical and complex elements can be tricky to properly showcase. You won’t have enough time or ad real estate to tell the full story. Instead, isolate a few of your strongest talking points and go deeper and more into detail with those benefits and features. Your ad performance will tell the story, and you’ll have clarity on where to go in the future!

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

How We Decreased Pathstream’s CAC by 59% YoY


When we first started working with Pathstream – a Series A startup that offers online certification programs that help people level up their careers, they were spending nearly $1m each quarter in ad spend to hit their lead volume goals, but with a ROAS right around 1.10. They were hitting their application targets, but they were breaking even doing it. 

By restructuring ad accounts, testing creative, audience targeting, and different conversion events, we were able to help decrease Pathstream’s CAC by 59%, leading to their most efficient quarter ever and hitting their ideal LTV to CAC ratio for the first time. 

For 80% of our partners, we take a blended approach to reducing CAC – we focus on decreasing costs on ad channels to send more traffic to the site with the same amount of money, and we create a CRO strategy to improve website conversion rates. 

The exception? When development capabilities are limited or a partner has a custom CMS. That was the case for Pathstream. We weren’t able to implement robust CRO tests in order to improve CAC – we had to get creative when it came to optimizing Facebook and paid search campaigns on Google to hit those CAC targets.


When we first partnered with Pathstream, a majority of their ad spend was dedicated to Facebook ads, but the cost per lead, cost per application and cost per enrollment were extremely high and they knew they needed to drive these costs down in order to keep investing a large majority of their paid spend into Facebook. 

With this goal in mind, our social ads team immediately started diving into the Pathstream ad accounts and analyzing the existing data to identify opportunities or “quick wins” as we call them, while also simultaneously working on a longer term strategy for driving down Facebook costs. 

Here’s a sneak peak of how we drove down their Facebook CPL by 63% year over year. 

Testing new audiences 

We tested a handful of new audiences over the past year for Pathstream from job titles, to interests, demographics and lookalikes. We found that our most successful audiences were based on interests for specific Pathstream programs (Asana, Salesforce, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics) and a lookalike of 5% based off of previous Pathstream students who have enrolled in one of their certification programs. 

Since some of the program interests we were targeting could possibly have overlap (Example: Digital Marketing and Data Analytics), we used the audience overlap tool to ensure that the overlap wasn’t greater than 40% so that our program specific audiences wouldn’t be bidding against each other.

testing audiences on Facebook

After we discovered that these were our top performing audiences, we tested a combination audience that targeted both the interest audience and the lookalike in one ad set. This ultimately did not perform as well as the two audiences segmented out into their own ad set. Based on this learning, we segmented each audience back into its own ad set and set the budget at the campaign level which allowed Facebook to allocate the daily budget to the audience with the lower cost. 

Optimizing for Higher Funnel Conversion Events

When we first launched campaigns, we were extremely focused on driving down the cost per enrollment, so all of our campaigns were optimized toward the “purchase” conversion event. We soon realized that most Pathstream students don’t immediately enroll in a program when they first find out about Pathstream. In fact, it could take weeks or even a month for someone to enroll in a Pathstream program after first expressing interest. 

This led us to switch up our optimization strategy and test out a higher funnel conversion event (submit application), which fires once someone enters their information, becomes a lead and also completes a quick application. 

By switching to a higher funnel conversion event, we were not only able to increase the total number of applicants, but we were able to drive down the cost per impression, cost per click, cost per lead and cost per enrollment by bidding on a higher funnel action –– which is less expensive and in return gives the Facebook algorithm more data to target users likely to submit an application. 

Developing new conversion-driven creative

A large part of our Facebook strategy we put together in our initial research for Pathstream included new create asset ideas based on a creative analysis we pulled together with what’s working well and what’s not resonating as well with the Pathsream audience. 

💡We create data-driven ad creative at Tuff, and have an entire blog post about how we approach that for our partners. Check it out here!

We wanted to test a mix of image and video assets that showcased Pathstream’s value props in an engaging way that would get our audience to click on the ad. We tested a combination of school-branded assets and pathstream branded assets and found that all of the assets that mentioned “100% online” and “get a project management/digital marketing/salesforce certificate” in 6 months were our top performing static ads. 

We also tested UGC style videos (like this one) and saw a 56% increase in CTR and decreased the cost per lead by 37% once we rotated those into our campaigns. 

testing creative on Facebook

Paid Search

With an ad account this large, we ended up restructuring campaigns twice since we started partnering with Pathstream.

Phase 1 Account Restructure

Initially, Pathstream had over 30 different Google Ad accounts they were running campaigns from. Pathstream partners with different universities to offer their certification programs covering curriculum on Facebook Digital Marketing, Salesforce, Tableau Data Analytics, and Asana Project Management. They had a separate ad account for almost every university + certification program combination. 

Our first step was combining the campaigns across 30 ad accounts into one to increase the amount of lead data in one ad account to make the Google algorithm work smarter for us.

Even though we culled down campaign structure significantly in phase 1 of our account restructure, we still had over 40 different search campaigns, each with minor differences. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Many partners have similar account structures and are certainly successful, and Pathstream was finding success early on with this approach as well. With the goal of getting CAC even lower though, we set out to restructure things again after a few months. 

Phase 2 Account Restructure

At this point, we were utilizing many automated, conversion focused aspects of Google Ads. Max Conversions bidding strategy, Data Driven Attribution, Dynamic Search Ads. With these campaign features, Google works best when there is an abundance of data, specifically conversion data flowing into each campaign. 

If campaigns are too spread out, only receiving a few conversions per month, you may be underutilizing the true power of automation. This was partially the case for Pathstream.

By condensing campaigns from 40+ to 15, we allowed more conversion data to feed into fewer campaigns, in turn making our ads more efficient. We did not limit targeting. This was not designed to decrease our volume or impression share at all. We were not looking to lighten our workload either. Instead, limiting the number of campaigns gave Google more conversion signals, gave Tuff more opportunity to experiment and learn quickly,  and also allowed for better informed expansion across channels in the future.

For starters we left our highest performing campaigns alone. The ones bringing in the most conversion volume and most search volume remained mainly untouched. The big changes were with the campaigns that had the least amount of monthly search volume. Many of them we grouped together into a catch all campaign. What was 10 separate campaigns all converting only a few times a month became one larger structure that converted much more often as a whole. 

Only 3 weeks after our account restructure we saw these results:

  • Conversion Rate increased 26%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 38%
  • CPC dropped 21%
  • CTR increased 8%

This was only the beginning. Performance continues to improve week over week while we gather more data in a much less congested structure. From here, we can start to expand our reach by efficiently pivoting what is working best for us in the short term and beyond. 

Have a complicated Google ad account structure you could use a second set of eyes on? Or need help reducing your costs on Facebook? We’d love to help!

Ad Creative Types That Constantly Drive Performance (Regardless of Industry)

Testing, testing, testing! As a creative team tucked inside a growth agency, we throw around that word a LOT. Especially because we partner with scaleups looking for quick, efficient (and sustainable) paths to growth. Making sure we’re clear about what we’re testing—and executing it within rock-solid social ad campaigns—ensures that on the other side of a few thousands of dollars worth of ad spend (and oftentimes even less), we can take a step back and confidently say, “here’s what worked; here’s what underperformed.” You can read all about that and get our tried-and-true templates in this blog!

How we set up an ad creative test at Tuff:

  • Most often when we begin to outline our tests for a new partner, we’re talking value props. Our question: “Which of your core messages is most likely to stop a scroll and win a click?” During this testing phase, we’re keeping the creative formatting relatively simple and getting very particular about the creative messaging. This way, we can isolate that variable and come to a cleaner, more definitive conclusion after our test period has ended. For one of our partners, Betterleap, this is what this looked like!

Betterleap Creative Example

  • After we’ve run a few tests and feel confident that we’ve honed in on our strongest message, we’ll begin to experiment with look and feel of ad creative. In this phase we’ll diversify creative type and formatting, launching a suite of creative that includes user generated content, UX animation, simple/bold copy statements, offers, and more.
  • Our goal in these subsequent phases is to hone in on what elements of creative assets drive those clicks. And THAT is what this blog is all about. Although the companies we partner with span across a wide range of industries, after publishing hundreds of creative assets and running dozens of tests, there are three main types of ad creative types that reign supreme. 

Note: while we run campaigns on a multitude of different platforms, this blog centers primarily on what we’ve found to drive the best performance on Facebook/Instagram.

The three types of ad creative that constantly drive performance:

1. Split-Screen Creative

Believe it or not, REGARDLESS of industry or company type, split-screen creative is consistently among our top performers. We’ve even pitted it against bold, colorful branded videos, 3D animations, custom illustrations…you name it. And split-screen creative still drives better performance. When we first spotted this trend (with our partner, AKKO) we scratched our heads and thought, “okay let’s create a fresh version in our next round and see if the trend holds up.” Spoiler alert: it maintained it spot at the top of our performance pyramid and hasn’t wavered since. 

If you’re over there thinking, “no way, jose! Video ALWAYS wins!” Well…that’s what we thought too before we saw the numbers!  

2. Made-On-TikTok Creative

TikTok is unequivocally the fastest-growing social platform. It’s a hotbed for sprouting new trends that permeate every other. It’s also the channel we get asked about the most by organizations looking to partner with a growth agency like Tuff. “Can you run ads on TikTok for me?” is arguably the question that we see most often in our “Let’s Talk” form fill

So, we started building a network of creators and making high-impact ad creative for TikTok! We also spotted an easy opportunity to test this creative outside of the TikTok ad platform. Our results: regardless of channel—but most clearly on Facebook/Instagram—our made-on-TikTok ad creative type drives incredibly strong performance (even when resized in 1080×1080 for in-feed placements). (Note: click the image to see the full video!)

TikTok Creative for Teachable

3. UX Animation

The third type of creative that consistently puts up strong click-through rate numbers is UX animation. This doesn’t just apply to SaaS businesses, though, when we can show what the user experience of any platform is like (even if it’s just a checkout flow or onboarding process—something the user might only experience once) we see performance inching higher.

Our hypothesis: when we can demystify the “how it works” part of the equation right out the gate at the top of the funnel, we subliminally communicate to our audience that we really care about their experience. So much so, we want to show them ALL the inner workings before they even click! Especially because the most-used sites on the internet are user obsessed, your potential customer has a low tolerance for clunky interfaces or ugly design. Positioning yourself as a winner in UX from the get-go is consistently a win! (Note: Click the image to view the full video!)


There you have it! While we’re always generating new ideas and hypotheses, these three ad creative types are ones you’ll consistently see within our ad creative suites. Because they work!

Have you been experimenting with creative formatting? We’d love to hear about it! Or, if you’re curious about what we could uncover about your organization and target audience through creative testing, let’s chat!

watching tiktok ads on mobile

The 5 Main Components of Effective TikTok Ad Creative

watching tiktok ads on mobile

TikTok…it’s a tough nut to crack. Not only because it’s notoriously the most ephemeral channel (who, who, WHO is responsible for all of these amazing trends?!) but also because TikTok users are extremely adept at sniffing out BS. It takes a smart, authentic, real story to capture the attention of a TikTok scroller. And we’ve spent a LOT of time this past year and change developing the perfect TikTok ad recipe. 

And, as your trusty TikTok Ads Agency, we’re here to spill the beans. 

1. Get Vulnerable – Tell a Real Story

Okay, I’m admittedly a serial TikTok scroller here, but one of the things that I (and MANY others) love about the platform is the way it amplifies real people’s stories. And when I say “stories,” I’m not talking about the airbrushed, Face-Tuned stories we see on Instagram, or even the HD, studio-lit stories of YouTube. The great thing about storytelling on TikTok is that it gives you access to someone who picked up a phone in the spur of a moment and shared something personal! No joke, the third video that popped up for me when I opened the app just now was this vulnerable, real, and in this case, heart wrenching story. The courage! (The makeup!). Another example is this video in which a woman captured a funny-not-so-funny email she received from Facebook support.

Did you click on those links? Even if you did, swing back by to check out the view/like count. DANG. Proof that people are drawn to stories that feel human! For marketers and creators looking for our audiences out there in the app, this is a crystal clear nudge to get vulnerable ourselves. Here are a few examples of our approach:

What are the pain points your audience experiences that drives you to create a better product/solution every day? Start there and then get real.

2. Don’t Overthink It – Keep it Lo-Fi

As mentioned above, false peeks into curated lives and expensive camera equipment really have no place on TikTok. If you find yourself reading from a script, directing a scene, or breaking out the Red camera…STOP. 

Take a moment to scroll through the app yourself. Almost every single video looks like it was shot on an iPhone. And even the ones that were shot with nice equipment get some sort of filter or treatment that *suggests* it was casual or off-the-cuff.

Our approach: sketch out a general idea or main ideas you’d like to cover then jump into the app! Creating a video is so quick and easy that it’s fun to work through a few iterations in the app, scratch them, workshop them, and refine in real time. 

3. Uplift Diverse Voices – Find Great Creators

Part of building trust and resonating with your audience is dependent on finding real, personable creators. This one is without a doubt the trickiest. There’s no easy way to track down, hire, brief, manage, and get great creative from creators, but we’ve learned first hand that when you put in the effort, it pays off in spades. 

The really effective piece to this puzzle, for us, has been CLLCTVE. For a reasonable monthly subscription price, we’re able to submit a form that includes information about what the organization is about, the type of creator we’re looking for, and other relevant information to the job. Then, CLLCTVE’s team of creator recruiters will compile a list of people that fit our criteria. From there, we’re free to reach out directly to each creator and roll with the project however we please! Here are a few fun examples of videos we’ve made with creators:

4. Shake Your Booty – Create with Music in Mind

TikTok is a supremely sound-focused app. Unlike Facebook—which most seasoned ad creative makers are used to—”88% of TikTok users said that sound is essential to the TikTok experience.” (source). Oftentimes, when we begin to make ad creative, we’ll find the sound we want to use even before we begin to concept out the rest of the aspects of the ad. 

Disclaimer! It’s super important to ensure that when you create a video to use as an ad that you select from TikTok’s library of commercially-licensed sounds. There’s admittedly a notably lesser selection, but TikTok’s AI is quick to ding your account if you’re caught using unlicensed tunes. 

How to use commercially-licensed sound:

  1. Open the video creator, and tap “Sounds”
  2. In the dropdown, tap “Commercial Sounds”
  3. Choose the one that best fits!

settings in tiktok for adding music to tiktok ad

5. Cover Your Ass – Drop the Watermark!

It’s a small detail but one of the most important—never publish an ad on TikTok without first removing the watermark. Trust us on this one, we learned the heard way that TikTok AI is swift in its abilities to find ad creative with that pesky watermark and ding your account. They also aren’t super into second chances. So if you aren’t trying to get your account suspended until you can reach a TikTok rep, make sure you’re dropping that watermark!

Thankfully, it’s simple to do:

  1. Cruise to a site like SnapTik or SSSTikTok
  2. Drop in a link to your published/public TikTok video
  3. Voila!

So, are you feeling inspired? If so, drop us a line, we’d love to see what you create! If you’re feeling a bit intimidated and not quite sure where to start, let’s chat!

ad creative for startup

Low-Cost Ways to Source Video Assets For Your Startup

ad creative for startup

If you’re running a startup, you need quality assets without breaking the bank. On average, video content tends to lead a higher conversion than static ad creative, however, it can also become the most expensive. 

As a startup marketing agency, we’re always on the hunt for scrappy ways to make awesome assets. Here are some effective workarounds we’ve found that help us (and growing businesses) make great, effective video assets without hiring an expensive agency or souring a costly freelancer.

UGC Content

Do you already have client testimonials? People who are willing to speak about their experience with your service, product or brand? Creating UGC style content is simpler than you think. Reach out to people that have a powerful testament to your brand and coordinate a Zoom call to ask them a few questions. This doesn’t have to take more than 15 to 20 minutes, and ask their permission to record the call. Pull the recording and splice up the clips to a 0:30 – 2 minute video for YouTube, or edit together the most impactful clips to create grabbier clips for social channels (just don’t forget the captions!). One of our strongest performing ads using this technique showcases a genuine and powerful story of Sebastian and how Multiverse truly changed his life. We have also found success in incorporating branding elements into video ads like our All Together Compilation for Multiverse. 

TikTok Creative

TikTok specific creative is among some of the most top performing creative not only across TikTok, but also Facebook and Instagram. But, hiring influencers to create content can be expensive. If someone on your team is up for the task, creating your own TikTok video can be a great way to test to see if this channel/creative format will drive results for your company without expending the time and budget to track down an influencer – and, it can be a great exercise in learning the platform (proof here!)

However, if you’re a bit camera shy, there are also simple ways to mimic the feel of the TikTok platform without using the app. There are a ton of royalty free stock video resources that require no attribution. Sourcing videos that feel commonplace and overlaying copy similar to the native TikTok platform leaves a high impact at a low-cost investment. This TikTok style compilation video highlighting the benefits of Nova Credit, was developed using only stock video and a quick voiceover for audio. Here are our favorite go-to sites to source free stock videos:

  • Unsplash – A site for the creator, Unsplash offers free images touching a variety of categories. Unique in style, there’s bound to be something that fits your brand identity. We love using this site to find less curated professional photos that appear more raw and real.
  • Pexels – This site offers high-quality stock photos and videos. 100% free, no attribution required.
  • Pixabay – An excellent resource of copyright free images, videos, and music, this site also requires no attribution.
  • Coverr – Hello, high-quality free stock video. No sign up or attribution required.
  • Envato Elements – A paid membership service, this site offers a wide collection of resources from stock photo and video, fonts, music, to web templates and more. There’s so much on this platform to take advantage of. It’s definitely worth the investment, and it’s the site we find ourselves using the most. 

And, ultimately, if your TikTok ads end up driving great performance and you’re looking to produce more videos with a more diverse set of creators, consider making a small investment into a creator sourcing platform like CLLCTVE. For a small monthly fee, CLLCTVE allows us to input our requirements/requests for the type of creator and their team will put in the legwork to match us with 5-10 creators that match our specifications. Then, we’re free to reach out on our own time, negotiate our own budgets and terms, and provide our own creative briefs to produce fresh made-on-TikTok ads like this one

Simple GIF-Style Motion

Perhaps the simplest way to incorporate motion into your ad is to take static content you already have and compile it into a simple animated ad by importing them to Premiere, After Effects, or any other video editing software—and, if you’re new to the game you can even do this in Photoshop!. Take your top three to five static assets and create a simple .mp4 allowing one to two seconds on each image before switching to the next (this may sound tricky, but here’s a simple YouTube tutorial that breaks this down in four minutes). To elevate this content further, add some headline copy along with your brand logo for awareness and you have an inexpensive animated ad ready to launch! If you don’t have existing content, utilize stock photos in the same manner. We have found success with super simple assets like this

Another approach that has worked well is taking written testimonials and utilizing stock video to elevate movement within the ad. We love grabbing testimonials from partners’ direct websites or TrustPilot and making the text front and center with stock video blurred for the background like this Betterleap Testimonial. We have also used this same concept and spliced up longer testimonial copy using multiple stock footage clips so the content is easier to consume. Sometimes it’s great to showcase where the testimonial came from, like our testimonial ad for Nova Credit recreating the feel of the TrustPilot platform to build trust with the viewer.

Lastly, let’s not forget audio! Even though most users on mobile view content with no sound, it’s important to keep this audio component in mind when designing an ad. Sometimes if a user is scrolling though with sound on, the audio can catch a viewer’s attention. It’s worth the investment in subscribing to a royalty-free music site to source thousands of audio tracks. Here are our recommended sites for music:

  • Envato Elements – Our favorite investment for all creative resources, Envato provides thousands of licensed audio tracks for royalty-free commercial use of every genre. 
  • AudioJungle – This is a service through Envato Elements offering more than 1.8 million royalty-free audio tracks. Individual tracks start as low as $1. Personal subscriptions via Envato Elements are $16.50/month, team subscriptions start at $14.50/month per member.
  • Storyblocks – Library of over a million royalty-free music, footage, photos, and templates with unlimited downloads. Subscription includes an easy-to-use video editor. Individual subscriptions range from $10-$30/month.
  • Epidemic Sound – High quality background tracks with a library of 35,000+ tracks updated weekly.

Feeling inspired to create? Great! Feeling a little overwhelmed by the options and not quite where to start? Let’s chat.

designing video ad creative for Facebook

Bow Down to Data: How We Use Metrics to Dictate Creative (+ Creative Analysis Templates)

designing ad creative on a computer

“Do you make creative?” This is the question (that we got over and over again) that planted the seed that eventually bloomed into the creative department here at Tuff. 

But, it was a question that we considered carefully before taking the plunge. There are a handful of other growth marketing agencies out there making “performance creative” but we knew that if we were to treat creative as an extension of our growth marketing services, we needed to make sure that everything we made answered to one queen: data!

So, that’s just what we did. And over time, we’ve built, refined, and perfected our creative analysis template and we’re excited to share it with you. It’s designed to hold our creative accountable—a way for us to make sure we axe the assets that aren’t contributing to driving clicks or revenue for our partners. And, ultimately, build out a suite of creative for our partners that centers on the stickiest messaging and drives the best possible traffic towards conversion.

Here are the two templates we reference in this article: 

The Alternative: Slow-Moving & Expensive

Branding and creative-first agencies serve a definitively important purpose in the marketing world: a solid and cohesive brand has the power to instill trust and lay a great foundation. It’s also a powerful tool for building your employer brand. But, check out the H1 of our Creative page, and it’ll tell you everything you need to know about why our creative team is different: “Creative doesn’t have to be a production.” 

We decided to take creative into our own hands after we, quite simply, realized that most branding agencies don’t have the tools or the in-house expertise to measure the actual effectiveness of their creative. It’s worth saying that almost every creative agency we’ve worked with (or at!) has incredibly insightful and talented people on their teams. But oftentimes, our growth team would submit a request for effective ad creative and, weeks (and sometimes thousands of dollars later) we’d get a file full of creative that, once we deployed it, had variable performance. 

Additionally, with the rise of emerging platforms like TikTok, user generated content is consistently showing the results we’re looking for (case in point, one of our all-time favorite posts: ​​Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad). And, simply, UGC is a creative format that most traditional creative agencies aren’t set up to produce. 

The Short List of Questions to Vett an Agency’s Ability to Produce Effective Ad Creative

  • Do they measure the effectiveness of creative as a part of their process?
  • Are they able to use data to justify their creative decisions?
  • Are they invested in their creative actually driving measurable results for your business?
  • Can they produce assets in a variety of formats?

Why We Do a Creative Analysis

Beyond simply knowing what kind of ads to make next, we perform a creative analysis once every four to six weeks and apply our learning to all other areas of our growth marketing strategy. When we can take a step back and identify patterns among our best-performing assets (like messaging, colors, imagery and even format type), we can extend our learnings to improve landing pages, email, and more.

One of our favorite tools we lean heavily on whenever we’re strategizing new messages to test or new creative to make is the Value Props worksheet. At the outset of every partnership, we’ll fill out this worksheet and, originally, use it as a level set to make sure that the ways we’re planning to articulate points of differentiation and value aligns with the expectations and insights of our partners’ teams. But, creative analysis exercises help us treat this as a living document; consistently tweaking and refining it to reflect the messaging that’s driven the absolute best results. 

Beyond making the creative objectively better, the creative analysis exercise is a tool we use to also keep us laser focused on our main goal: drive results for our partners. And, when we center data in all of our creative work, it keeps the full creative team ego-less and unified.

How We Do a Creative Analysis

This is where left brains and right brains unite! Here’s how we conduct a creative analysis step by step.

1. Pull the data

When analyzing results, there are a lot of variables to take into account. Depending on the objective of the campaign, we will pull different data points to check out performance. We look at Facebook for metrics like cost per link click, click-through rate and amount spent and then look deeper into user behavior in Google Analytics for metrics like time on site, bounce rate and pages/session. This is where organized naming conventions come in handy! When working in Google Analytics, we add a secondary dimension of the ad content and then use the advanced filter to look at the data by creative asset and audience. Not only is it crucial to look at creative performance but it is also crucial to understand audience performance and why certain messages resonated with certain people. 

creative analysis template

If we are analyzing video content, we also take a peek at how much of the video users watched, when they dropped off and what the messaging was before. 

2. Analyze the findings

Sitting among a suite of growth marketing tactics and strategies, creative is its own unique beast. So, analyzing the data and coming away with insights that can incrementally improve results can be a bit of an imperfect science. Sometimes the results are obvious: like motion outperformed stills. But other times, the takeaways aren’t as clear.

This is where it helps to enlist a creative brain (or two) to take a step back, and check out the spread. Here, it’s all about finding distinct patterns/similarities among the top performers. While it’s not always comprehensive (and sometimes necessitates a deeper look) check out our quick list of questions we ask to help us compare the top performers with the underperformers:

Among the top performers…

  • Which messages are featured? (Revisit the value props sheet here)
  • What creative format do we see? (Carousels, videos, GIFs, etc)
  • What kind of imagery do we see? (Lifestyle, illustrated, portraits, etc)
  • Is there a color pattern? Is one brand color featured more prominently?
  • Are there any other noticeable shared elements? (humor, testimonials, offers, etc)

creative analysis worksheet

3. Create a game plan for a fresh round

Here’s where it all comes together! Once you’ve got your list of findings and your full team (including your partners) are in general agreement about the patterns among the top and bottom performers, it’s time to outline a game plan for the next round.

Again, this is where it’s handy to have a creative brain on your team to synthesize all of these findings and create a fresh brief that lays the groundwork for new concepts and ideas that uplift what’s working, ditches what’s not, and introduces a few new ideas to layer on. Over time, and after a handful of these exercises, you’ll have a growing list of messaging, creative formats, imagery, colors, and other shared elements that you know are going to generate the results you want to see.  

Creative: It Can and SHOULD Bow to Data

If there’s one major takeaway from this article: there’s no room for creative egos when it comes to making ad creative that uplift growth marketing strategies. Even the most amazing, high-quality, expensive video can simply flop. And that stings. But instead of allocating more spend, trying new audiences, and trying to coerce some performance, sometimes (most often) the right course of action is to just scrap it and try something else! 

Ready to get ruthless with your creative and see real results? Let’s chat!

5 Tips for Making Great (and Cost Effective) Video Ad Creative

shooting a video ad on a phone

In two short words, we can sum up the whole point of this article: video performs. No matter if we’re talking ad performance (like we’ll dig into in this article) or organic engagement, landing page CRO, and beyond, video works. 

Here’s the thing, though, not all video is created equal. As a growth marketing agency, no matter how gorgeous, flashy, or on-brand a piece of creative is, we’ll ditch it any day in favor of creative that converts. 

Like any seasoned growth marketer will tell you: there’s no clear path to growth. An effective strategy leans on fearless testing, thoughtful hypothesizing, and an unshakeable zest for learning from failures. So, over the years we’ve accumulated a list of learnings as a direct result of successes and failures. While these are not complete (and will, frankly, never be because ad platforms are constantly changing), here are some pointers for getting your creative wheels turning:

  • Get to the point QUICKLY. Like within 15 seconds. 
  • Drop in some memorable branded elements (like a subtle logo overlay).
  • Captions are a MUST. About 80% of users watch video on Facebook without sound.
  • Don’t overthink it! Ad creative is ephemeral. It’s more important to get something out there than wait until it feels perfect. 
  • Humor is HARD. Unless you can really do it right, it’s best to steer clear.
  • Constantly search for inspo! Our favorite places to go are Facebook Ads Library, WPromote’s Ad Creative Bank, and PIVADS

Ultimately, when you’re thinking about kickstarting a campaign with video, our greatest pointer: don’t overthink it; just start.

Tip #1: Have Stills? Don’t Count Them Out

If you’re feeling extra tight on budget, short on time, or, you just have a gorgeous collection of stills, simple over-image text animation is an easy way to significantly boost performance. There are two relatively simple ways to go about this:

  1. Hire a freelance designer that can add over-image text in Adobe Illustrator (or some similar program) then migrate it into After Effects to add a little magic of movement. Looking for the perfect fit? Upwork is a great place to start to hire contractors that can jump on it quickly and most often for a super reasonable price. 
  2. Try your own hand! There are tons of drag-and-drop design tools out there to help people without much design experience create something usable in minutes. The reigning champ (in our opinion) is Canva. Pro tip: lean heavily on their templates especially if you don’t have lots of design background.

Animated text inspo roundup: Pilot | DoorDash | Blue Apron

Tip #2: Get Yourself Some UGC

User-generated content is, quite simply, golden. Think about it: how much more likely are you to buy a product like a razor when you see a real, relatable person incorporating it into their everyday life (like billie does) vs. a staged ad that showcases the product in a sterile, overly-glam staged environment (like Gillette does)?

Companies like billie that do UGC remarkably well are likely able to tap a wide range of influencers and probably have a community manager on their team (or partners with a PR firm) who spends most of their week connecting with influencers, managing the creative production, and keeping up with contracts. 

For most smaller businesses looking to get into the UGC game, it can be a challenge to know where to start. That’s why we recommend testing a service like Billo. The interface is super easy to use, the creators are friendly, fun, and super professional, the support is amazing, and it makes getting user-generated content super doable on a tight (financial and time) budget. 

We tested a UGC video from Billo for our partner AKKO — check out the results!

UGC inspo roundup: Shopify | Ritual | Ruggable 

Tip #3: Try Your Own Hand

One of the most experienced Social Ads Experts/Growth Marketers on our team wrote an article awhile back. The title tells you all you need to know about our recommendations for testing video on you ad platforms if you’re not ready to try Canva or UGC: Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad.

The TLDR; “Typically, brands think that developing video assets = 💸💸💸. But that isn’t the case. Shoot the video on your iPhone, edit it together in TikTok, and export it to use on other social channels. Mimic the latest video editing trends on social, and you can get scrappy with creating your own video content — and see great results.”

Tip #4: Build Yourself a Rolodex of Freelancers

There are SO many different ways to infuse movement into your ad creative. And so it naturally follows that there is a seemingly infinite number of creatives to help you make it. If you’ve got a bit of a budget to spend, you’ve got the opportunity to hire creatives ready to bring your ideas to life. 

As we mentioned above, Upwork is where we’ll start if we’ve got no existing connections to leverage for a new creative idea. Here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind when you hire a freelancer to help with video ad creative:

  1. Can they help with illustration/animation? (This is one of the easiest ways to create flexible assets that don’t depend on a costly video shoot).
  2. Do they have experience working with ads? They function quite differently than brand creative.
  3. Do they charge hourly or by project? (For three unique video assets without shooting, earmark anywhere from $1200 – $2000)
  4. How quick is their turnaround?

Once you’ve found a freelancer that meets your criteria, write up a quick document outlining your three unique video ideas, the most important messaging you’d like to convey, any existing branded elements you have, and a full folder of creative assets (like illustrations, photos, video, etc) that the freelancer can use. The more information you can provide (plus examples of what you like), the smoother the process will go.

Illustrated ad inspo roundup: Bench | Hotjar | SEMRush

Tip #5: Test, Test, Test

So, we put our creative through the ringer early and often to check up on four key metrics:

  1. Cost Per Click (CPC): is the creative grabby/interesting enough that it can generate a quick click from our audience?
  2. Click-Through Rate (CTR): another way of looking at CPC and essentially answers the same question. Is it compelling enough that we can get someone to want to learn more?
  3. Time on Site (TOS): does the creative match the site experience? In other words, does your creative provide a smooth transition once your user hits the site?
  4. Leads: Can be swapped for revenue, signups, etc. based on your business. This tells us which creative kickstarted the strongest path towards conversion.

In the chart below, we ran a creative audit for a partner of ours that does bookkeeping for SMBs. We tested a wide variety of creative then pulled the top-performers and bottom-performers to compare metrics and glean insights. Based on what we see here we have a strong idea of what messaging resonates best, what creative led to the most conversions, and which creative just simply flopped. 

Creative CPC CTR TOS Leads (calls)
[Video] Let’s go Brad $0.51 4.22% 0:00:11 3
[Video] Stop bookkeeping $1.02 6.36% 0:00:18 8
[Still] Family time $0.51 1.97% 0:00:10 0
[Still] Social proof $0.27 0.22% 0:00:02 0
[Still] Working late $0.43 1.00% 0:00:03 0
[Still] Meet your bookkeeper $1.07 2.71% 0:00:05 0

Now, based on what worked and the resources we’ve gleaned along the way, we’re ready to hit the ground with a creative refresh that leans heavier on what worked and ditches what doesn’t.

Ultimately, creative doesn’t have to be a production. While it should take time and consideration, we see too many organizations that shy away from video to their own demise! Looking for help kickstarting your own ad channels or leveling up your creative game? Let’s talk.

developing ad creative on a computer

The Beginner’s Guide to High-Performance, Channel-Specific Ad Creative

developing ad creative on a computer

When balancing the main components of a growth marketing tactic (strategy + targeting + creative), there comes a time when many organizations find themselves in a chicken-and-egg scenario: which comes first? Is it the campaign strategy and targeting that should dictate creative? Or should great creative—backed by battle-tested value props and watertight messaging—lead the way into a strategy that can really bring it to life; serving it to the right people, and driving up conversion?

The short answer: it depends. (I know, I know).

In a perfect world, the world in which giants like Verison, Budweiser, Nike, and other Super-Bowl-ready players operate, there’s an endless well of data at the ready to inform all of the above. And you’d know what creative works best on which channel paired with which optimized audiences, etcetera, etcetera. But! If you’re here, you’re likely looking for a growth marketing agency that can operate with trim budgets, run efficient tests, and use scrappy creative to drive quick wins and set the stage for scaling. 

So, before we talk about creative, we’ll need to broach the topic: what kind of creative do you already have at your disposal? Your answer to this question might help you hone in on which channels are your best starting point. Here’s our quick guide:

Making the Most of Creative You Already Have

Before you jump headlong into creating a full new library of creative for the channels on which you’d like to run ads, revisit your existing assets with a fresh lens! How about that product shoot you shot last year? What’s left in the B-Roll folder? Revisit that brand video you commissioned for your sales team. Check in with your videographer to see if you might be able to snag some other shots out of his archives to repurpose instead of planning a full new shoot. 

Still Photography/Images:

  • Suitable for: Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, Gmail Ads, Display Advertising, Email Marketing
  • Make them ad-ready: Hire a freelance designer (we love UpWork) or get your own hands dirty with a drag-and-drop tool like Canva. Add simple on-image copy and your logo in an unobtrusive way so it’s super easy for a user to understand who you are and what you do in a flash. 

Owned assets (meaning images, illustrations, or other graphics that have been created specifically for your brand) are typically much more impactful and drive better results than stock photography. But, that doesn’t mean you should rule out stock! 

GIFs or Simple Motion

  • Suitable for: Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail Ads, Display Advertising, Email Marketing
  • Make them ad-ready: Ensure your freelance designer from UpWork has the ability to accomplish simple animations in After Effects or a similar program. Canva also has some simple, easy-to-use motion templates as well. The same advice goes for GIFs or simple motion in your video — make sure it’s super easy for your audience to get the message. If possible, even keep the copy to 5 words or less. 

Super simple motion, like animated text flashing over a still image or a 3 second looping video almost always performs better than still imagery across all the above channels.


  • Suitable for: TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail Ads (as longer as they’re under 30 seconds long)
  • Make them ad-ready: Swing back by Upwork and find yourself a scrappy video editor that can help you recreate ad-ready assets. Ensure product placement (or super strong branded elements) appear within the first 3 seconds and that your video does not run longer than 30 seconds in length.

No matter if you’ve got a branded video, YouTube reviews, or a scrappy library of shot-on-iPhone video, it’s definitely worth splicing, dicing, resizing, and testing video against your still assets.  

🚨 Important! Before you start drawing up your strategy, investigating your targeting options, and setting aside budget, be sure to check out this Creative Ad Specs cheat sheet to make sure your files are large enough and are either in the right aspect ratio or can easily be reconfigured.

Pro tip: you’ll (likely) see better results quicker if—instead of creating brand-new creative—you instead focus on resizing your existing assets to fit each placement. 

How to Create High-Performance, Channel-Specific Ad Creative

If you only take ONE thing away from this whole article: don’t bust your budget on creative. Our approach (and, truly, the only way we can get behind creative production): test, test, test. Then, only then, consider investing in more high-value/bigger-production creative after you’ve gotten an opportunity to really hone in on the messaging and visuals that drive down cost per click (CPC) and drive up conversion rate (CVR).

Here at Tuff, when we take on creative production on behalf of—or alongside—one of our partners, here’s the approach we take:

The Tuff Timeline: Creating, Deploying, and Learning From Creative

When you hire a revenue and conversion-first growth marketing agency like Tuff, before we dig into pre-production, we’ll ensure the first weeks of our engagement are centered on rapid, actionable testing so that we can confidently make new creative that really resonates (and is worth the cost).

Days 1-3

Before we spend a dollar, we’ll start by digging into your target audience and validating/battle testing your value props. Based on the site experience, your sales materials, and what we can learn from you, are we confident that we can make creative that can hit the right people with the right message at the right time? 

Days 3-5

From there, we’ll get into concepting. If “fair, modern and inexpensive insurance” are the strongest high-level value props (for example), we’ll build creative ideas around them and workshop them with you to make sure we’re aligned.

We’ll create three very distinct concepts to test against each other so we’ll be able to understand—from a high level—which works and which don’t work as well.

Days 5-15 (depending on complexity of the creative)

Then, we’ll get into production. We’ve got a Rolodex of photographers, videographers, and designers to quickly and efficiently produce great creative.

We’ll produce 1-2 different pieces of creative underneath each of the three distinct concepts (for a total of 3-6 pieces of creative) every 6 weeks until we hone in on winners and double down there.

Days 30-60

Finally, and most importantly, we’ll put that creative through the wringer by conducting a full creative analysis that measures its effectiveness using two major data points:

  • CPC (is it grabby/compelling enough to get a quick click?)
  • CPL (is the ad-to-site experience seamless enough that the creative helps smooth their path towards conversion?)

From there, we’ll emerge with insights about what’s performing, what’s not, and a game plan for a fresh round of production (the timing on this cycle is totally dependent on ad spend and audience size).

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you’re ready to break out and start testing what kind of creative drives the best results for your growth or you need to enlist the help of a team that can take that burden off your hands, we’d love to hear about it!

Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad

A selfie of three smiling friends on the beach

There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for successful social ad creative. After working with 50+ brands in all kinds of industries and executing countless A/B tests, we’ve learned a thing or two about what good paid social creative looks like. 

Disclaimer: what works for one account might not work for another. Make sure you’re testing different kinds of creative to find what works best for your brand. 

Yes, every Facebook ad account has its creative differences. But when it comes to the Facebook ad creative that works the best in 2021, there are definitely some common themes. Check out our tips for developing Facebook ad creative that yields the best results.

Low Fidelity Video > Everything Else

Say “hello” to iPhone videos, and “see ya later” to hella expensive video production. On most all of our accounts, low-fidelity iPhone quality video typically outperforms the polished high-end video we’re testing against. 

Typically, brands think that developing video assets = 💸💸💸. But that isn’t the case. Shoot the video on your iPhone, edit it together in TikTok, and export it to use on other social channels. Mimic the latest video editing trends on social, and you can get scrappy with creating your own video content — and see great results.

We tested this for Felt — an app that lets you send handwritten cards right from your phone.

Note: our Facebook campaigns are optimized for app installs, and one of our primary KPIs for measuring success is cost per install (CPI). 

The CPI for ads that featured low-fidelity video assets was 20% lower than its high-fidelity video counterparts and 50% lower than image ads. 



The data above shows the average CPI for $36K in Facebook spend. 


Curious? Check out some of our ad creative for Felt. This will help give you a better idea of what we’re talking about when we say low fidelity and high fidelity video content. 

Low Fidelity Example | High Fidelity Example

Over time, we’ve gleaned a few other tidbits for editing video for social ads. Selfie-style video of someone talking about your brand works really well (this could be the founder, an employee, or an influencer you’ve partnered with) – just make sure you add subtitles! We’ve also noticed that videos with subtitles and graphics that match the in-app design features are also some of our top performing video assets. Ask yourself: What are the kids makin’ on TikTok these days? And how can I copy and paste that style for my brand in a way that makes sense? 

What are Non-Dynamic Ads?

Dynamic ads allow you to upload up to 10 images, 7 videos, 5 captions and 5 headlines, and the algorithm will pair different combinations of creative together to make what it thinks is mostly like to perform the best. 

In theory, Facebook’s dynamic ad creative option sounds too good to be true. And my grandma always told me that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

For some brands, Facebook dynamic ads can work. But if you’re currently using dynamic ad creative and seeing less-than-stellar results, try switching back to the regular non-dynamic ad creative.

Non-dynamic ads give you more control to make optimizations, and it’s much easier to translate the data into actionable insights. 

When we onboard new clients at Tuff, we often see that they’ve been running dynamic ad creative on Facebook – especially if someone in-house has been running their Facebook ad campaigns because it’s such an easy ad format to execute. 

We experienced this with two Tuff clients: Joyn and Team Boocamp. One of the first optimizations we made was to switch their Facebook campaigns from dynamic to non-dynamic ads. 

And by making that simple switch, our cost per signup for Joyn and Team Bootcamp decreased 42% and 47% respectively. 

a sharp drop in Joyn's CPS after launching non-dynamic ads

Images with Text > Lifestyle Images

You would have never, ever caught me saying this two years ago, but well, here I am. Social media advertising is ever evolving, and so is our approach to developing creative for Facebook ads. 

Creating images with text used to be one of the biggest Facebook ad creative faux pas because of the 20% text rule – AKA the bane of my existence. 

When Facebook semi-recently did away with the 20% text rule (praise be), it changed the type of image creative that works best for ads. Now, images with graphics and text overlay tend to perform better than the typical lifestyle image. 

When you add a bit of text to an image, you give yourself more real estate to get your message across. Think about a text overlay on your image as your headline, and the native text elements in Facebook ads manager as supporting copy. 

We put this to the test for Offline – a restaurant subscription service in North Carolina. We found that graphics yielded an 48% lower cost per signup (CPS) compared to regular images with no text overlay. 

Aside from CPS, we saw that graphics had a stronger CTR, lower CPC, and drove healthier traffic to the site – doubling the time on site (TOS) compared to regular image ads. 

a chart that shows the decrease in price and increase in efficiency between images with graphics and images without


Interested in learning more about our A/B testing methods for social ads? Give us a shout