Tag Archive for: 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.

Example

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. 

Methodology

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. 

IronVest

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!

How to Set Up an A/B Test so You Get REAL Results

When analyzing ad creative, it can be hard to tell which element really makes a piece resonate with the viewer. Is it the bold color? The little bit of sass? The scroll stopping typography? Or is it how you articulate the value you’re offering? The audience you’re addressing? 

There are so many variables that it can feel overwhelming. That’s when it’s time to start A/B testing!

At Tuff, methodical A/B testing has allowed us to both make small yet powerful tweaks to well-performing ads and also generate powerful business-level insights. Most importantly, it helps us drive up click-through rate, and drive down costs. This article will take you through our process from the initial creative development all the way to the implementation and analysis of A/B tests so you can supercharge your ad creative too.

A/B Testing 101

An A/B test is when you run 2 versions of the same ad, but with one variable that’s different. You can then look at the ad performance to see which version more effectively resonated with your audience in order to gain insights that will help your overall campaign.

Below is an example where we were A/B testing different hero images to see if people would be more likely to engage with language about “virtual photoshoots” or language that targets a more sophisticated creative demographic that might be looking for “photo assets.”

Here are the results: 

  • A Variant (photoshoot company)
    • CTR = 0.36%
    • Purchases = 20 
  • B Variant (photo assets) 
    • CTR = 0.24%
    • Purchases = 1 

ad creative a b test

Notice that every variable is the same from the logo color and placement to the lay-down imagery to the highlight color. While it would have been possible to truly isolate one variable here in this ad (like JUST changing one word) there’s strategic decision making that went into our approach so, before you put pen to paper, it’s important to ask yourself…

Where to Start?

A/B testing for A/B testing’s sake is just about as useless as hanging your clothes out to dry in a rainstorm. Without some forethought and a strategic outline, you’ll be left with results and also a resounding, “so what?”

So, at the outset of creative production, we’ll get our full team together. This usually consists of a growth marketer, or big-picture strategist, a campaign manager, or the person deep in the day-to-day on-platform optimizations, and the creative strategist, or the person on the hook for developing creative that’s on-trend, on-brand, and platform-specific. We’ll ask ourselves three major questions:

1. Why do we want to run this test?

An A/B test that originates in an actual impactful question makes a significant difference in its effectiveness. This can be as simple as: “is our creative more compelling when it features people or just products?” It can be as complex as: “should we position ourselves as a disruptor in the market or a powerful alternative to other stale options?”

2. How do we measure success?

It’s important to outline your KPIs for an A/B test before you develop your ad creative. 

If click-through rate (CTR) is your primary metric that determines success, then you’ll want to seriously consider your hook, the headline, and potentially the CTA as elements that move the needle. 

If you’re more focused on a metric like cost per action (CPA), then you’ll want to consider your holistic message and how well the information, look, and feel of the ad matches the landing page experience in order to determine success. 

Finally, if you’re considering a metric that tells you more about general awareness like cost per 1,000 views (CPM) or watch rate, then you’ll need to talk about what elements of creative will be responsible for driving those metrics and honing in there. 

3. What do we expect to learn from it?

Remember 8th grade science class? Then you’ll remember how important a hypothesis is. It’s critical to have a clear understanding of what you hope to learn, or what you expect to discover by running your A/B test so that when it concludes, you’re one step closer to driving optimal performance with your ad creative. This is closely related to point #1 above, but takes it one step further. Here’s what that looks like using the two examples.

“is our creative more compelling when it features people or just products?”

  • Hypothesis: the presence of people demonstrating our product in use is a crucial part of generating interest and sales of it. So, we expect to learn that more education about HOW our product works is an important step in the user journey.

“should we position ourselves as a disruptor in the market or a powerful alternative to other stale options?”

  • Hypothesis: people are curious about us as disruptors, but are more efficiently compelled to sign up/request a demo when they understand how to compare us to one of our competitors or a “poor alternative.”

4. How are we going to go about it?

This is where the real cross-team fun begins! Before you begin your brief and define how to build your creative to get the findings you’re after, it’s critical to collaborate with your campaign managers to understand their approach to creating an appropriate environment within the right channel. Is this a test for Meta, LinkedIn, or YouTube? What’s the right audience? How about budget and duration? Aligning on these points will set you up for success. 

Developing Creative for Your A/B Test

One of the most popular elements to start A/B testing is the hook of a video.  A hook refers to the first 2 seconds of a social video ad because this is the time it takes most viewers to either get engaged or keep scrolling. It’s basically the 2022 equivalent of the age-old newspaper term “above the fold.” 

A/B testing can be done on a fresh ad idea (like the still images example in the previous section), but we’ve also found success through using A/B testing to revamp a struggling ad that we believe still has potential. This is useful when we know a video ad has elements and messaging that has worked in other iterations, but for some reason, it is failing to draw an audience. This is a great opportunity for developing an A/B Test around a new hook. If we can get a successful hook, viewers will stick around for the valuable meat of the message. 

An example of this was for our product photography partner, soona. On our first round of creative, we were optimistic about a testimonial concept that ended up underperforming. The ad had a lot going for it, the testimonial was sincere, the edit was fun and the messaging was similar to ads we’ve seen succeed in the past. So instead of scrapping the idea, we created an A/B test where we produced a B variant with a new hook. 

We hypothesized that the ad struggled because the viewer didn’t know what soona was quickly enough, so for the B variant, we added a 2 second frame with copy explaining it (a virtual product photography company) with photo examples before jumping into the testimonial. 

Then, we isolated these two videos in a fresh campaign with a modest defined test budget to ensure that the performance of the original wasn’t impacted by an audience that had already seen it.

Here’s our original (on the right) and our B variant (on the left). The two videos were exactly the same except for the fresh 2 second hook in variant B. Headline and text copy remained exactly the same between the two:

testing ad creative

Ultimately, the results were surprising:

  • The original video (with Rob’s face as the hook) showed a significantly stronger click-through rate:
    • CTR = 0.25%
  • The B variant:
    • CTR = 0.11%

So, we proved our hypothesis wrong! And in the spirit of science, we didn’t ball our test up and throw it out, we dug in deeper to try to uncover what it is about this asset that lagged behind. Ultimately, we ran several more additional tests and discovered that short, quippy, brightly-colored stills tend to generate our strongest click-through rates, reaching upwards of 0.8%. 

Top Tips for Structuring Your Test Campaign

Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how to set up your campaign structure in order to walk away with definitive findings like the ones we generated above.  

The first thing you’ll want to do when planning how to execute your A/B test is put together a strategic plan that outlines the following:

  1. How you’ll test the two variables against each other 
  2. Where the test will take place
  3. How long you’ll be running the test
  4. KPIs for success

There are two ways to implement a A/B test on paid social –– using Facebook’s A/B tool or isolating the variables and measuring the data manually. 

To use the A/B testing tool on Facebook, you’ll want to create two new ad sets using the same audience (one ad set with variable A and one ad set with variable B). From there, you’ll click the A/B test button in the main navigation which will take you to a page that looks like this to set up your test. 

testing creative on facebook

For the A/B test above with the two different text graphics, we wanted to make sure that we were isolating the two different assets and testing them in the same audience on Facebook so that way we could have concrete data on which graphic performed better. Since we know that the KPIs vary for different audiences based on where they fall in the user funnel, we typically like to execute the A/B test in one prospecting audience and one retargeting audience. 

From there, we decided that we’d run the test for 10 days or until each audience reached $500, which would give us enough significant data to analyze and determine which variable was the winner. 

Our main KPI for this A/B test was CTR. We also layered on number of purchases and cost per purchase as secondary KPIs. 

Think Like a (Creative) Scientist

Ultimately, to get REAL results from your A/B test you’ve gotta keep an open and unbiased mind and lean in with curiosity. If your test doesn’t generate the results you were hoping for, change up the creative and test again! When you’re after insights greater than “which color button performs better,” you’re reckoning with a number of different variables. So, creating a new hypothesis, and diving back into another test is the best way to keep you inching closer to creative assets that unlock amazing performance. 

Ready to dive into an impactful A/B test with us? Let’s talk. 

team uploading brand assets

Revving the Creative Engine: A Checklist for Setting a New Creative Team Up for Success

team uploading brand assets

Working with a new designer? Onboarding a new team member onto your creative team? OR maybe you’ve just called in a growth marketing agency like Tuff to make amazing ad creative and boost your growth marketing strategy. No matter the particularities, there are a handful of things you can hand over to your new team to set them up for success and make sure your brand stays consistent in the process. 

As a startup or scaleup, though, we realize that sometimes as you’re building your company brick by brick, a brand is something that can come about in a more organic way, and not necessarily in a neatly-packaged brand book or style guide. That’s okay! 

We built our creative department at Tuff because we believe that great, hardworking creative doesn’t have to be a production, nor does it need to follow all the rules that a more traditional creative agency might insist on. So, consider the following list aspirational. And, if you need to look to our team (or whoever you’re pulling into the scrum) to help elevate your brand throughout UX design or ad creative projects, that is 100% doable.

Ultimately, maintaining a level of brand consistency isn’t just an exercise in vanity. Overtime, recognizability and memorability of your brand will help potential clients or customers recognize you across platform or as they move from awareness to consideration stages, and ultimately, increase their chances of conversion!

Logo File

First and foremost, your logo will be used across all marketing campaigns. It’s important to include all variations and color combinations of your logo. Color variations of all main logo types typically have a light, dark, and full color variation and can allow your creative team to take a number of different creative approaches, like light text on a dark background, dark text on a light background, and everything in between. The more variation we have here, the more we’re able to test, and the more we’re able to hone in on the type of creative that produces the best results. 

Example of logos

When you’re compiling logos, consider all of the following (we’d love to keep as many of these as possible on hand):

  • Symbol or icon
  • Word mark
  • Letter
  • Combination – combines word mark with symbol or letter
  • Emblem – company name is placed in an emblem, usually a circle or shield 
  • Emblem + slogan 

The file type of these matters to designers as well as developers working across design software. Vector files or SVG (scalable vector graphic) files ensure your logo will appear clear and crisp across different scales and not pixelated. It is best practice to avoid PNG or JPG file types when working within a design software as these often appear blurry and pixelated when scaling across marketing projects. PNG versions are beneficial when correctly sized when handing off to developers for a web project. They should be less than 200KB to ensure fast load times. PNGs are lossless compressed files. This allows them to maintain quality at a small file size. Besides an SVG, here are some other common vector file types:

  • .ai (adobe illustrator) this is Adobe’s own source vector file – only editable in Adobe. 
  • .eps (encapsulated postscript for adobe illustrator) another Adobe-specific file. Best used for printed materials such as business cards, posters, brochures, stickers, clothing, and more. 
  • .pdf (portable document file can be vector or raster depending on how saved) can be opened and edited in most major design software. Best used for printed materials such as business cards, stationary, letterheads, etc.
  • .svg (Scalable Vector Graphic) standard vector file format and can be opened and edited in most major design software. This is the best source file to provide your designer. Can be used across web and print.

Color Palette

Branding elements like the color palette are crucial for designers. Color palettes often include primary colors and secondary colors. Honing in on a consistent color palette does wonders for brand awareness. When establishing a color palette within your style guide, it’s imperative to include HEX codes, RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black) codes. Here’s why (get nerdy with us 🤓): 

  • HEX codes are most commonly used for designers across digital design. Developers also use HEX codes when implementing website designs. These are displayed as a six-digit combination of numbers defined by a mix of RGB.
  • RGB is for electronic digital screens (computers, TVs, cameras, smartphones, etc) where combinations of red, green and blue light are compiled within pixels. RGB is an additive process using colored light. Values range from 0 to 255. 
  • CMYK is for printed media (magazines, flyers, photographs, product packaging, brochures, etc) and are measured in percentages. CMYK is a subtractive process using the pigment of inks, dyes, or paint.

Tuff color palette

While our creative team here at Tuff steers clear of printing (so CMYK are less important to us) it’s helpful to note that if you are working within a file intended to be used to print, be sure to check your software settings to confirm it is set to the correct color mode.

Typography Files

Typography matters. Typography connects your voice with visual recognition to your audience. The style of typography helps subliminally convey both personality and emotion. And, there are tons of fun design tricks we can use when we’re trying to say something in particular. For example, we can totally change the emphasis on, or noticeability of a sentence when we use different font weights like bold, semi-bold, regular, and thin. Establishing a consistent typeface paired with your color palette is the best way to make your brand stand out from the crowd.

The best file types for fonts to provide a designer is OTF or TTF. These are easily downloadable to install across Figma and Adobe software (our personal faves). These files are also extremely useful for developers as these are easily able to upload and code into a typography system on websites. 

Tuff Typography Hierarchy

When you’re able to provide your typography hierarchy for Headings (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) and body text, it sets us up for success for creating landing pages and other web related content so everything is consistent. As a designer, establishing a hierarchy ensures font types and sizes are categorizing information in the right structure to create harmony. 

Again, like we mentioned above, if you’re in the relatively early stages of establishing your brand, this is something you might not have and something we’d be happy to help you out with!

Graphic Elements

Do you use graphic elements to communicate concepts at a glance? Brands often establish a particular icon style for clear representation throughout their identity. Icons are powerful tools when used correctly. They provide universal understanding without the use of language. People have short attention spans and often skim information, only stopping to read more in depth if a website or ad is eye-catching within the first blink of an eye. Successful icon illustrations allow designers to communicate concepts quickly without a lot of text.

Providing an icon library ensures that the designers have these specific icon styles to utilize across social ads, website layout, and other marketing materials. And, if we spot a need to create a new symbol to convey a message, it’s super helpful to have a clear style direction to ensure consistency is kept across the brand platform.

Brand Tone and Voice

What is your mission statement? What are your values? What are 5 words that sum up your brand? These all contribute to your brand tone and how you come across to your target audience. And, they’re super helpful for your new creative team when we’re getting to work on concepting—whether we’re dreaming up landing pages, email flows, or social ads.

You might be surprised to learn that your tone and voice can really positively influence a designer. Do you take a bit of a whimsical approach? Then we might choose softer colors. Do you make declarative, bold statements as part of your brand voice? Then we might lean on bolder typefaces. There are nearly endless ways to use your brand voice and tone.

Most organizations that we partner with either has an early version of brand tone and voice, or none at all! Take a peek at our value props exercise (spreadsheet number 11 in this lineup) to see how we’ll help a brand develop the start of a voice during the kickoff of every one of our partnerships.

Photography (Stock vs. Company Photography vs. UGC)

Imagery creates a high impact in design. It has the ability to evoke emotion and effects a user’s mood. When thinking about creative, it’s important to note when to use the right type of photography.

Stock photos are great for providing high-resolution visual assets on a budget to support your brand tone. The risk with free stock images is, hundreds if not thousands of businesses and independent establishments have more than likely downloaded the exact same photo. This typically hurts brand recognition, especially if competitors are using the same photos to communicate similar concepts. 

Do you have customers sharing images or reviewing your product online? This user generated content (UGC) may become valuable assets. Using random images on social accounts, such as Instagram or Facebook, for commercial purposes is a big no-no due to copyright violation reasons. It’s worth starting a list and reaching out to your customers to get permission regarding content you are approved to use. This type of content is proven to yield higher click through rates than common stock photography. Providing your designer with a pre-approved list of unique UGC assets will save so much time throughout the design process. Need a place to start with influencer creative? We share our top tips in this article.

Lastly, people LOVE to see who is behind the business. Featuring your leadership team or employees in different departments establishes more trust between your audience and your company. It’s worth investing in company-branded photography for individual headshots, team shots, and community photos during events to allow people a peek into your company culture. Showcasing your team instead of using stock photography creates a more memorable first impression and depicts your brand in a more authentic way. If you have taken the time to invest in company portrait photography, these assets will go a long way for your designer.

Raw Assets

Any raw asset files you have to offer from previous campaigns is a treasure trove to a designer. These may be existing vector files, image files, or video files that are extremely useful for a designer to analyze. Often, when raw Adobe After Effects, XD, Photoshop, or Illustrator files are provided, these can be repurposed and elevated for new content. Original files are always a lifesaver to manipulate and edit content with a quicker turnaround time. However, designers like our team, are used to getting scrappy with minimal MP4, GIF, or PNG/JPG files and are able to recreate or re-imagine elements from scratch.

Strict vs. Flexible

Are you a brand with an established style guide or a brand struggling to create a consistent recognizable identity? This is great information for a designer to know up front in order to determine what constraints they need to work within or if they are able to take more creative liberty to present something unexpected. 

Make it all the way through the list? Can you check off all the boxes? Do you have all of this information packaged up and neatly organized in your Google Drive to hand off to any new creative that might be making fun things for you? Thank you win 🥳. If you don’t, you’re still in luck! As we truly can’t say enough, we built our creative department at Tuff on the belief that creative doesn’t need to be a production. Even if you’ve just got the beginnings of a brand, we’ve got you. Let’s talk!

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.