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A (Good) Picture is Worth 1000 Clicks

Published: September 22, 2014

Author: Bill Cleere

With the recent style change that gives consistency to the look of app and desktop ads, it’s more important than ever that ads stand out to quickly represent what they are for. The grabbing headline, clear call to action, and quick pitch ad text summary as important as ever before, but the user has to stop at your ad first to get into all that, and a picture says a 1000 calls to action.
So when running a campaign, it’s not only important to test images and put the winners up front, but also to optimize the images themselves.
One winning image can be 5 winning images if we look at what makes that particular creative stand out. As a test, we ran a campaign with a series of varied images, and found one to be a clear winner. It showcases a policeman giving a young motorcycle rider a ticket. The spin on the creative is that the cop is actually giving the young man $100 for safe driving, a “positive prank” presented by the Prank it FWD Facebook page.
This page is well liked and quite viral due to its positive messages. However, other traditionally happy images we tried were simply not performing. Typically we would create various versions of this ad with different headlines, etc., in order to optimize. We did that with success, but what we found most engaging to users was optimizing the image itself.
We created several iterations of the same image, flipping it horizontally, altering contrast, and ultimately isolating and saturating the most prominent features and colors. The two images below ran head to head; the top was the original, which was the best performer at the original launch. We reiterated 3 versions of that image, and with the second image we saw a 30% drop in the cost per website click we were driving at.
original vs optimized
As you can see, the image was zoomed, the colors were saturated, and the image was horizontally flipped. As we continued to iterate with different texts and headlines, we saw decreasing CPC.
Facebook continues to improve the ad experience with changing ad formats, image size adjustments, and social context buttons. But in the end, it’s about grabbing the user’s attention, and just plugging in slight variations to existing ads is not always enough. The creative is the ultimate billboard, and when you have one working, I recommend continuing to optimize that, or those images themselves.
Do you reiterate and optimize winning images? We’d love to know what strategies you’ve seen that work!

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