From Copy to Design: 10 Best Practices for Creative Testing (2024)

Ioana Cozma
May 21, 2024
February 3, 2024

Creative testing represents testing different ad creatives in terms of images and copy to zero in on the top-performing ads. These persuasive creatives will help you reach your advertising campaign objectives fast, maximizing your budget.

Pro tip: Creative testing also helps you understand your target audience better.

Therefore, you can guide potential customers through the sales funnel faster.

We’ll discuss all those benefits below, plus three different strategies for testing ad creatives. Afterward, we’ll take you on a journey through all the steps of creative testing.

Our performance-based Meta advertising agency has hands-on examples from the Facebook Ads Manager, so keep reading.

TL;DR

  • Creative testing involves testing different ad creatives to identify top-performing ads, enhancing advertising campaign effectiveness.
  • Benefits include eliminating ad fatigue, understanding the audience better, creating optimized ads, and maximizing budget efficiency.
  • Different creative testing methods: A/B testing, split-cell testing, and multivariate testing (enhanced A/B testing).
  • Steps to set up a creative test: Conduct a gap analysis, define goals, identify the test audience, select variables/assets to test, and validate results.
  • Creative testing best practices: Set the right budget, expect lower overall results, choose A/B testing for beginners, use new or cloned campaigns, avoid targeting the test audience with other ads, allocate budget evenly, perform ongoing testing, use a scientific approach, be patient, and keep data for future use.
  • Creative testing helps refine advertising campaigns, optimize ad creatives, and uncover audience insights for better marketing strategies.
  • Tools and software can streamline the creative testing process for improved results.

Creative Testing Explained

Let’s start with an example. Imagine you have an interview for which you must look professional.

  1. You go clothes hunting. You find the perfect outfit with the perfect blouse, trousers, and coat. That’s the creative concept.
  2. But then you also have your shoes, scarf, hair, watch – and all the other creative elements around your outfit. These are your optimization levers.
  3. Most people will try two or three pairs of shoes and scarves before leaving home. Those are your creative variations. And assessing these options bears the name of creative testing.

Now let’s make it sound professional for your marketing team:

  • Creative concept: The method you utilize to reach your business goals. This sets the tone of your ad creatives, from premise to copy and visual execution.
  • Creative optimization levers: The outer elements of the creative concept which you try to improve. These key elements can include formats, colors, fonts, ad placement, and more.
  • Creative variation: Different alternatives for one creative concept.
  • Iteration: How that single creative changes to zero in on the winning variant.

5 Benefits of Ad Creative Testing

Creative testing has several benefits:

  1. It eliminates creative fatigue: If your audience is exposed to the same ad over and over again, they’ll experience ad fatigue. Basically, they’ll get tired of your ad instead of being interested and emotionally invested.
  2. You understand your audience better: Testing different ad creatives gives you essential insights into your audience. You’ll know what copy elicits the most engagement and which leads to action.
  3. You create better ads: Creative testing allows you to launch an effective advertising campaign with relevant messages.
  4. It optimizes your budget: Testing different ad creatives helps you save money in the long run, after finding the best creatives for your marketing goals.
  5. Testing ad creatives now streamlines market research and decision-making down the line: Creative testing uncovers business insights about customers’ behaviors. Using these gems will save you time and testing for future campaigns.

Multivariate vs. A/B Testing vs. Split Tests

Before getting into the thick of it, it’s essential to know there are three main creative testing methods. Choose the right one according to your marketing strategy and goals.

  • A/B testing: You test different versions based on a controlled version. These versions differ by one single variable.
  • Split-cell testing: Your variations differ by more than one variable. Still, your creative team will compare these variations to the controlled version.

This is a neat example from language learning app Babbel:

Bumble in-feed ad

And here’s a second one:

Bumble in-feed ad

Notice there are two different elements between these two ads: the video and CTA. That means Babbel is split-testing its ad creatives.

But each of these ads has multiple variants. Consider the first ad; if you change just the video script, you perform an A/B test:

Bumble in-feed ad

Warning: A/B testing and split testing are often used with similar meanings.

Now you know they don’t mean the same. What about multivariate testing?

Multivariate testing:

  • Is an enhanced A/B testing approach
  • Exhaust-tests all combinations of ad elements, from images to colors, headlines, font, CTA, offer, and more.
  • Tells you which variant performs best and why.

These minute insights from multivariate testing streamline and accelerate ad optimization. But this approach is not free of drawbacks:

  • Multivariate testing spends more time and resources, so it’s best for larger-scale campaigns.
  • You get a heap of data to analyze.
  • You may get skewed results because you can’t always choose the same audience and budget for all variations.

Pro tip: If multivariate testing is the best solution for you, save time and resources using creative testing software. Plus, these free ad mockup generators help you create different versions of the same ad faster thanks to intuitive filters and easy-to-use design.

Get the most out of you paid media with inBeat TikTok Ads Agency

How to Set Up a Creative Test

Setting up a creative test takes a learning curve, but we’ll explain all the steps below with plenty of examples to get you started.

1. Conduct the Creative Gap Analysis

This step entails analyzing your creative concept and ad creatives to highlight current challenges. Consider your:

  • Current marketing funnel stage
  • Creative placements
  • Format
  • Message
  • Budget distribution
  • Number of ads
  • Timeline for new ad creatives
  • Creative refresh interval
  • Audience
  • Culture and language

Potential problems can be:

  • You don’t refresh the ads in your ad sets often enough.
  • The messages don’t appeal to the target audience.
  • You are not allocating enough budget for retargeting ads.

You should also analyze your competition to see their winning strategies and identify the opportunities they’ve missed. Use:

  • The free Facebook Ads library
  • Google search
  • A paid software

2. Determine the Goal of the Test

The previous step outlines different challenges for your advertising campaign. To set up the creative test’s goal:

  • Build creative concepts that would solve these challenges.
  • Test these concepts to see which one your audience prefers.
  • Zero in on the winning strategy until you have five creative concepts.

Remember that creative concepts are the backbone of your advertising campaign. The five winners should reflect your brand style, respond to your audience’s needs, and address your goals.

Remember: Use these goals to set clear testing hypotheses.

These hypotheses will dictate the whole creative testing process, from the variables you analyze to how you interpret the results.

You can’t simply change the fonts or headings without a premise. Those are your hypotheses.

An example of a hypothesis would be:

“Faster-paced videos appeal to a younger audience.”

Side note: That is exactly what we found when designing effective mobile app ad creatives for the inbox decluttering app Unroll.me.

The ads were part of a TikTok campaign. TikTok’s algorithm decided to target the faster ads with pro lighting and editing to 18-24-year-old men. Conversely, the slower ads with more in-depth explanations targeted a 55+ audience.

Insider tip: We always use multiple ad creatives during the same campaign to appeal to different segments and reduce ad fatigue.

Unroll.me ad creative

To conduct A/B testing using Facebook Ads manager, you will first have to create a new campaign, like so:

Facebook Ads Manager

Next, choose your objectives:

Facebook campaign objective

3. Identify the Test Audience

Next up in your standard operating procedure, you’ll have to identify your test audience.

Pro tips:

  • Use Facebook Audience Insights and Custom Audiences to profile your target market.
  • Ensure the target audience is large enough for this test.
  • Allow one audience segment to see just one ad creative variant. After all, you need a control group to compare results better.

You probably have some insights into your audience from the initial stages of creating your ad campaign. Here’s what that looks like in Facebook Ads Manager for a new leads campaign:

Facebook Ads Manager Campaign name

You can also choose socio-demographic data, interests, and behaviors:

Facebook Ads Manager demographics

4. Pick the Right Variables / Assets to Test

Let’s assume you have already created a control ad and a few variants. Go to A/B testing in the Facebook Ads Manager and choose to compare two ad creatives:

Facebook Ads Manage A/B testing

Alternatively, you can test existing campaigns:

Facebook Ads Manager Existing campaigns

Facebook will prompt you a slew of creative variables you want to change in your new ad iteration:

  • Creative
  • Audience
  • Placement

The fourth option they give is “custom, ” meaning you can personalize your creative testing based on tailored variables.

Where can you get ideas for creative tests?

Go back to the initial gap analysis and competitor analysis to brainstorm ideas. Look at your:

  • Past campaigns
  • Any creative testing you performed
  • Industry trends
  • Behavioral trends in your target market
  • Customer motivations and blockers

Pro tip: Use your imagination and intuition to pick the best insights.

Insider tip: At inBeat, we found that testing hooks is a recipe for success.

A creative hook represents the first sentence of your ad, and its goal is to raise your potential customers’ curiosity.

We noticed that a good hook could considerably decrease CPAs (costs per acquisition).

And it helped us slash Unroll.me’s CPAs by 91% on Facebook and 83% on TikTok.

Insider story: Our Hopper campaign featured influencers that created UGC ads based on our brief. Each had to send us three different hooks for the same copy.

These hooks were about “secret travel hacks” and finding the best deals. Here’s one of Hopper’s TikTok ads using that type of hook:

Bumble in-feed ad

5. Validate Results

The last step in your creative testing campaign is validating your results. To ensure you’re not biased:

  • Keep notes of the best-performing concepts.
  • Note all elements you tested, such as colors, CTAs, dimensions, and so forth.

Here are three possible situations you are likely to find:

  • Scenario 1: Different results between your creative variations. Select the top-performing ads. Continue to optimize levers for these variations to zero in on the best.
  • Scenario 2: The creative variations have similar results. That means the different levers you tested don’t have statistical significance in your creative strategy. So pick whichever variation you like best and continue testing it.
  • Scenario 3: The creative variations have different results, but you don’t know why. In this case, you want to get back to your drawing board. Perform gap analysis again, look at your audience, and review your hypotheses.

10 Creative Testing Best Practices

Now that you’re here, you know the steps of the creative testing approach and how to perform it on Facebook. Plus, you have a few insider tips on what to test first.

Now’s the time to fine-tune the whole process with these best practices:

1. Set the Right Budget

If you’re doing A/B testing (also known as 2-cell split testing), you need at least 1, 000 conversions.

Pro tip: You can determine your ideal budget for this split test by multiplying the cost for each acquisition by the number of conversions.

For example, if you set $20, 000 conversions and a CPA of $2, your ad study’s budget would be $40, 000. A budget template on Google Sheets, for example, can help with such calculations.

2. Expect Lower Overall Results

Remember that creative testing aims to find the best ad creatives. That means some audience segments will be exposed to lower-performing creatives.

And because of that, your overall key performance indicators (KPIs) will decrease.

Remember: Compare results only between different ad variants within this creative testing campaign. Don’t refer to results from former advertising campaigns.

3. Choose A/B Testing If You’re a Beginner

A/B testing allows you to focus on a single difference between study cells. Therefore, seeing which ad variation triggered a specific result is easier.

And that will help you be more sure of your decision-making process as you narrow down on the winning strategies.

4. Use New or Cloned Campaigns

Comparing your current campaign against an older, more successful one creates an unfair situation. That’s because a previous campaign may already be better honed and funded than this one.

So, create a cloned campaign to prevent tainting your data. That brings us to the next point:

5. Don’t Target Your Test Audience with Other Ads

Let’s assume your target audience sees ads outside the creative testing campaign. This can:

  • Increase their ad fatigue, or:
  • Convince them to take action.

Either way, being exposed to those ads changes your audience’s behavior. That means it taints the results.

Pro tip: You should also set a new audience each time you perform a new round of creative tests.

6. Allocate Your Budget Evenly

Each study cell should have a similar budget. Otherwise, better-funded ads may bring you more conversions or impressions.

Besides, your budget also impacts CPAs, CPIs, and other important metrics.

7. Perform Ongoing Testing

Test different variations of an advertising creative even when your assets bring in the desired results. That’s because ad fatigue can ruin even the ads with the highest conversion rates.

Remember: Keep refreshing between five and ten individual creatives per month to keep your conversion rate high.

8. Use a Scientific Approach

Start with a thorough gap analysis, set your goals, and establish hypotheses. Take your time choosing the different variables you want to test to ensure they have statistical significance.

Taking all proper steps allows you to organize your creative testing process, identify what’s working, and optimize your creative testing efforts.

9. Be Patient

We know you want to see results fast, but actual testing takes time. The more complex your advertising campaign is, the more time it will take.

At inBeat, most campaigns run for approximately three months.

  • The first is for research and ad creation.
  • The second month is campaign implementation and testing.
  • We use the third month to optimize the campaign, fine-tuning it as best as possible to maximize our results.

10. Keep Your Data

Creative testing helps you uncover a slew of insights into your audience. Keep and organize that data; most likely, you’ll apply it in other marketing campaigns. Or even during product creation.

How to Do Creative testing strategies Like a Pro

Creative testing has a steeper learning curve than other marketing activities. However, establishing a working procedure allows you to perform effective split testing.

So, use the guidelines and best practices above to set up your process.

Pro tip: Consider all creative testing tools and software needed to streamline your process.

inBeat can help you maximize your creative assets. Our full-service agency can implement your split-cell testing process, optimize your ad creatives, and help you get an eagle-eye view of your campaign.

Let’s schedule a free strategy call, and we’ll take you through all that and more.

Want more examples of successful influencer marketing strategies? Check out our case studies.

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