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Best Facebook Ads:
A Year’s Review Of The Top 14 Campaigns

by Sean Martin under PPC

Look for the best Facebook ads, there are quite a few that can give us plenty to discuss as we wade into the new year. Facebook has long been a powerful revenue stream for digital brands. So, let’s take a look at some of the best campaigns from last year.
 
Imagine the year is 2004, this new and exciting social platform has just emerged for Harvard students to connect.
 
Fast forward a decade and a half and we’re now looking at the most-used social site across the globe. Facebook averages over a billion users a day. And if it were its own country, it would be the most populated country on earth.
 
What does this mean for your business? It means if you haven’t already started advertising on the platform since the moment you read the title of this blog, you have already missed out on a potential 16 million customers. What I’m getting at is that Facebook advertising is a place to reach users of any demographic coupled with their interests or behavior.
 
You want a female millennial who’s single, loves her cats (all 7 of them), and lives in Los Angeles?
 

Boom, no problem. Just set your targeting options to fit your criteria.

Boom, no problem. Just set your targeting options to fit your criteria.


 
If you know what you’re doing with Facebook ads, reaching your ideal cat-enthusiast should be no problem.
 
Now that I have made my point on why you advertise with Facebook, let’s sit back and look at what Facebook has given us over the last 365 days and also explore some of the top performers in the space.
 
Who knows, you might get a new idea or two for your own campaigns.
 

What Came Out Of 2017?

2017 was a big year for Facebook. With Business Manager changing what seems like daily, Facebook introduced many new features to advertisers ranging from new audience targeting and lead nurturing options to funnel features and loads of new ad formats.
 
What new ad formats? I’m glad you asked.
 
Facebook launched a new product focused ad format called a “Collection.” Clicking on the ad leads users to an immersive, fast-loading shopping experience on Facebook that can showcase up to 50 products at a time.
 

Here’s a brief taster of what a collection ad can look like.

Here’s a brief taster of what a collection ad can look like. – image source


 
While this format is exclusively for mobile users, it’s pretty damn beautiful (Don’t worry, we’ll look at some in-depth examples later).
 
Now that I have you on a cliffhanger, let’s go ahead and begin crowning our top performers in each category.
 
It’s okay, Steve. I think we’ve got it from here.

It’s okay, Steve. I think we’ve got it from here. – image source


 

Top Performers of 2017 🏆

There are quite a few different ad types for you to choose from within the Facebook Ad Manager. These ad types vary from simple to complex. But the goal is the same throughout — and that is to generate strong engagement and CTRs from your targeted audience.
 
For a more in-depth walk through on refining your target audience in Facebook, you can check out this helpful guide on how to get more from your Facebook campaigns.
 
This top performance post will give our favorite examples from 2017 from each of these different ad types. So, let’s get started.
 

Photo Ad

Photo ads are the classic Facebook imagery we’re all used to seeing in our newsfeed. You can use these to promote brand awareness for your own Facebook page, or even a new product you’re offering.
 

A very clean photo ad that does a great job of catching user’s attention by MOO.

A very clean photo ad that does a great job of catching user’s attention by MOO. – image source


 
Keep in mind that Facebook newsfeeds are constantly flooded by different types of ads (especially photo ads). So, try to distinguish your product with an actual scene like the ad above.
 
As opposed to just a plain product image, MOO went with a nicely positioned, big photo of their cards with a color that really makes them pop. Just look at how that red sets the stage.
 
Why does this ad win for the Facebook image ad category? Because MOO did a great job with creating a unique photo ad (who would think of peppers?) that can really disrupt the user flow as he or she scrolls down the newsfeed (veering away from, say, a blue color which might not be contrasted enough from the main Facebook brand color).
 
You can even add links to these photo ads that lead to your actual site or landing page, if looking to go beyond just brand awareness for your Facebook page. But, as AdEspresso says in their ad types guide, don’t expect too many clicks out of these links. There are some other options for that and we’ll get to those soon enough.
 

Video Ad

Facebook video ads are technically a type of link-click ad, except instead of a static image for your creative, you use a video or animation. These can be great boosters for your Facebook ad campaigns. We all know how much time users spend watching videos on Facebook, so why not join the party?
 
In such an overly saturated Facebook environment, it’s important to distinguish your brand from the rest of the hoard when trying to grab your users’ attention.
 
This is where following a few video best practices will pay off (especially in social media).
 
In terms of which video ad performed best in 2017, let’s take a look at the example below and why it’s so awesome.
 

Antonia Saint New York’s Video ad for their new high-tech heel

Antonia Saint New York’s Video ad for their new high-tech heel – image source


 
Antonia Saint New York created an incredibly effective Facebook campaign in 2017 around their kickstarter page. This high-tech heel brand wanted to generate pre-purchases of their new heel line for their kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
 
 
Image of the heel brand’s Kickstarter page

Image of the heel brand’s Kickstarter page – image source


 
This Facebook ad campaign resulted in some huge growth for the high-tech shoeline. By tracking who clicked on their link-click and video ads, and who visited their website or Facebook page, Antonia Saint NY was able to create custom and lookalike audiences for successful remarketing campaigns.
 
This resulted in over 700% ROI (return on investment) and nearly 2000 sales from Facebook alone. That’s a big winner for 2017, alright.
 
The shoe brand was able to leverage videos’ high click rate to generate strong engagement for their campaigns where it mattered.
 
By using video as a base insight for them to create more targeted audiences for remarketing campaigns, they could generate actual sales growth instead of just brand awareness. The primary Facebook video campaign focused on explaining the high-tech quality of their heels while the secondary remarketing focused on closing actual sales. And close sales it did.
 

Gif Ad

Yes, believe it or not, last year, in February, Adweek announced that you can use GIFs in your animated video ads on Facebook. But still so many people don’t take advantage of the option.
 
Buffer was quick to hop on top of this innovative and engaging method of Facebook advertising. After all, most of us love GIFs. They actually used GIF ads on two different types of campaigns — the first being a download campaign (link-click ad) focused on generating conversions for their “Ultimate GIF Guide.”
 

Note that blue is the color of creativity (most FB ads use this color).

Note that blue is the color of creativity (most FB ads use this color). – image source


 
The second was a lower friction, delight-based GIF ad playing off some Harry Potter branding. Playful ads like the house-theme GIF below are a great way to develop strong brand awareness and followers for your Facebook page.
 
 
Which House would you be in?

Which House would you be in? – image source


 
Building up your Facebook community gives you more direct access to your target audience to leverage audience insights for more powerful optimization.
 
Each type of Facebook ad holds its own unique strength and goal it should most often be used for. And – as is the case most of the time – when it comes to GIFs, the goal for that ad type is delight. Buffer killed it in 2017 with these ads by leveraging delight with relevant content offers for big wins.
 

Carousel Ad

Carousel ads are a great Facebook resource that allows you to show multiple products or offers on a single ad, each with their own link. Now, there are multiple ways to leverage carousel ads to increase Facebook engagement, link clicks, or even eCommerce conversions (sales). But they’re also a great opportunity for you to show off some unique creative branding chops.
 
This is what Sumo did so well with their 2017 carousel ad campaign.
 

Some of the best Carousel ads connect their cards with a single image.

Some of the best Carousel ads connect their cards with a single image.


 
Carousel ads can be a great resource for A/B testing certain features of your ad campaigns. For example, in the images above and below, you can see that the ad creatives are nearly the same. But, each discrete panel has a different CTA (while the offer also remained the same).
 
 
The second and third cards extend the same image throughout the ad.

The second and third cards extend the same image throughout the ad.


 
This way, Sumo marketers were able to A/B test their CTAs to see which converted at a higher rate, and use those insights later on in their social advertising.
 
Keep in mind that there’s a 2 card minimum for carousel ads, but a 10 card maximum. However, the sweet spot tends to be within the 3-5 range as this is enough cards to ensure that the user has to scroll a bit, but not too much where it bores them.
 
Slideshow Ad
 
These ads are essentially automated carousel ads that will play through your selected images instead of the user having to click through and scroll left-to-right.
 
For slideshow ads, you can use a pre-existing, self-made video slideshow, or you can upload distinct images to Facebook and select which ones you want to use in your slideshow. You can get pretty granular with your slideshow design as well, including things like:

  • Image ratio on each image
  • Fade element/style
  • Time each image will show
  • Total images shown
  • Total slideshow length

 
One of the slideshow ad best practices includes taking successful carousel ads and transforming them into slideshow campaigns. Which is exactly what Sumo did:
 

Slideshow ads (as opposed to carousel) show each card more individually.

Slideshow ads (as opposed to carousel) show each card more individually.


 
This way, after optimizing which CTA and offer works best via your carousel split testing, you can select a singular CTA to use on the slideshow app. However, you get to keep the different ad copy elements you used in your individual cards in the slideshow to convey more and more value (while keeping the user focused on a singular goal per the entire ad).
 
This is how slideshow ads can one-up their carousel counterparts. The best social media campaigns will build off one another to leverage more data from the previous campaign to build a more efficient and targeted campaign in the next level of ad type.
 

Collection Ad

The newest of the bunch, collection ads help retailers showcase their products to mobile users in a new way.
 
Think of this as a “digital catalogue,” allowing consumers to browse products straight from your ad. This is leading to a new era of mobile shopping in that it eliminates the headaches of long load times and ugly mobile sites, which in turn will reduce friction and drop-off.
 
Creating a collection ad is simple and similar to creating other ads. Simply choose the option of “Collection” when creating a new ad.
 

You can find this under the “Format” section on the “New Ad” page.

You can find this under the “Format” section on the “New Ad” page.


 
From there, you can choose from one of the various templates Facebook offers:
 
 
Note the new “Lifestyle Layout” lets you promote multiple products in one lifestyle photo. 

Note the new “Lifestyle Layout” lets you promote multiple products in one lifestyle photo.


 
Once you choose your template, continue creating the ad as you normally would with Headline, Text, etc. For a more in-depth description on how to set up a collection ad, visit Facebook’s nifty “How To” page.
 
The 2017 winner of most epic collection ad goes to Adidas.
 
 
Adidas uses this collection ad by featuring a compelling (dope) video above products in a specific line.

Adidas uses this collection ad by featuring a compelling (dope) video above products in a specific line.


 
According to a March 2017 Facebook case study, Adidas saw a 5.3x return on ad spend (ROAS) through this campaign.
 
By using the collection ad for a specific product line or matching theme, rather than all products, Adidas was able to tailor their ad content solely around promoting it’s new Z.N.E. Road Trip hoodie.
 
Adidas was able to take advantage of the cross-selling capabilities the collection ads offer by including complimentary Adidas products that would add even more swagger to their offer (and their sales revenue).
 

Canvas Ads

Canvas ads are a great mobile asset for brands trying to prioritize their mobile engagement with their Facebook audience. These ads are mobile optimized and load instantly. And, on top of that, they’re designed specifically to capture the complete attention of your mobile users.
 
How? By taking up the whole screen and creating an interactive ad experience. How interactive your canvas ad experience is, however, is up to you.
 
The big winner for canvas ads in 2017 is Volkswagen for their awesome campaign advertising one of their new models.
 
You can check out a video reproduction of the VW canvas ad below.
 


 
This campaign utilizes all the capabilities canvas ads offer. The user first sees an attention grabbing video encouraging them to click through to the actual canvas ad. Then, after clicking, they help navigate the VW car from an aerial view around a winding mountain road. Along the ride, the VW makes certain informative stops where users can read up on the new model’s features and perks.
 
These are a great way to create an immersive ad experience that walks your user through the different aspects of your offer. This should ensure they see all the value your conveying — which should hopefully lead to a boost in conversions.
 
For a helpful guide on how to create canvas ads, you can check out Facebook’s guide here.
 

Lead Ads

Not all Facebook campaigns are focused on generating direct sales from their ads. Some are focused on filling the funnel for the brand’s actual marketing and sales team to go to work on. This is where Facebook Lead Ads come into play.
 
With lead ads, you can encourage users to sign up for different courses and special offers you’re advertising. With Facebook being such a powerful platform for eLearning industry brands, these ads can be a huge asset to boost your key gated content campaigns.
 
So, which brand best used this sign-up option in 2017?
 
The prize for the lead ads category goes to LeadsBridge for their awesome use of lead ads for downloading their app.
 

They even used emojis to boost engagement.

They even used emojis to boost engagement. – image source


 
LeadsBridge is the big winner for 2017, because they truly optimized this campaign for ideal performance. Not only did they use the best form of Facebook ad for their ideal goals, but they took it a few steps further:

  • First off, they optimized for actual app downloads instead of simple lead lists.
  • Secondly, they used a very unique and value-driven creative to catch user’s eyes.
  • Thirdly, they used emojis to radically increase their conversions by 2000%.

 
With a boost in conversions like that, it’s no wonder that LeadsBridge was the big winner for this category.
 

Dynamic Ads

Just as lead ads are best used for lead generation campaigns, dynamic ads are best used for remarketing campaigns across the Facebook platform.
 
When properly integrated with your product catalogue and your eCommerce platform, dynamic ads will automatically promote products to users who’ve already expressed interested in your website, brand, or app.
 
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that these ads are technically a form of remarketing, so there’s a bit of technical setup required. This will include tracking pixels, so make sure to follow the best practices for dynamic ads if you want to see success. As for the big winner for 2017 dynamic ads, the prize goes to…
 
The Kooples’s Facebook remarketing ad campaign.
 

Perfect for Facebook eCommerce

Perfect for Facebook eCommerce – image source


 
The Kooples leveraged these perfect-for-remarketing ads to target users who had viewed, liked, or engaged any products on their new trouser line. Then, they retargeted them with this 50% special deal in a remarketing ad using dynamic ads.
 
Especially if you’re looking to target previous visitors or users who failed to complete their transactions, offering deals or savings is always a great way to close the deal. So, keep your eCommerce campaigns supercharged with these dynamic ads.
 

Link Ads

Link ads are probably what you’re most used to in regards to Facebook content flooding your news feed. These are the ads that are often times promoting blog content or actually clicking through to visit the brand’s actual website.
 

An example straight from Facebook’s Link Ad Best Practices

An example straight from Facebook’s Link Ad Best Practices – image source


 
There are some best practices that ought to be employed to ensure you don’t burn through your budget without generating any actual clicks. These best practices become all the more important the simpler your ad type is. So, with a simple link click ad, following them is rather vital. This is why the big winner for this category gets kudos for their excellent use of headlines and ad copy:
 
 
Using urgency to encourage clicks is a classic for a reason.

Using urgency to encourage clicks is a classic for a reason. – image source


 
SCC Academy used urgency and FOMO to generate higher engagement and CTR from their Facebook ads leading to their actual website. They offer all the necessary info. on their service, but their headline is really what draws users in and encourages them to click through the link. The clean design and quality photo doesn’t hurt, either.
 
From simple to complex ad campaigns, you can check out this post for some nice examples.
 

Promotional/Offer Ads

You can also leverage Facebook’s advertising features to promote special offers that your brand is currently giving away. Those running the ads actually altered their CTAs to include “Get Offer,” which can be a huge conversion booster for eager savers. You can see the difference between our winner’s before and after examples below:
 

The left is a normal post. The second CTA prioritizes the special deal.

The left is a normal post. The second CTA prioritizes the special deal. – image source


 
As I said earlier, the best Facebook ad campaigns build on top of the data that is accumulated via lower stake campaigns. So, emphasizing the actual deal you’re offering should make for a huge jump in conversions once you know to target deal-hungry users.
 

What’s to Come for 2018 ?

The social network has changed a great deal since Mr. Zuckerberg first graced us with his creation.
 

Always a big fan of sarcasm, weren’t you Mark...

Always a big fan of sarcasm, weren’t you Mark… – image source


 
So, it’s important to keep in mind that ad types and best practices will change as the platform continues to evolve. Facebook Business and Ad Manager will continue to update going into the rest of 2018. And with that, new Facebook changes that affect your audiences, reach, relevance/affinity, and engagement will roll out.
 
Remember to stay on your toes, or you be caught up in some old school practices that leave you lost in the crowd. If you’re looking to keep your campaign fresh and uptodate, you can always really on Facebook’s own inspiration gallery for help.
 
If that doesn’t cut it, you can always come back here for more tips :).

Klientboost Blog Author Sean Thomas Martin Junior III

Sean Thomas Martin Junior III

Director of Content

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