Does creating Facebook ads feel like a guessing game? Or do you just throw something out there to see what sticks? It doesn’t have to be that way! Fortunately, some researchers out in Israel discovered some secret recipes to create better ads.
Editor’s Note: This article explains how to create highly effective Facebook ads. If you’d rather learn how to build a Facebook marketing funnel, see The Inbound Marketing Funnel Template.
In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath explore what makes ideas “sticky.” The whole book is worth a read, but one study they mention in the introduction is especially interesting.
The study is called “The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads”. It describes six creativity templates that can drastically improve the quality of your ads.
The best part is that the results show that you don’t have to be a pro to use these templates effectively.
These templates will work for any ad medium, but we’ll focus on using the templates for creating Facebook ads, because that’s one of the most popular digital advertising platforms at the moment.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- An overview of the study
- Explanations of each template (with examples)
- How you can use these creativity templates for creating Facebook ads that get results
Six Templates for Creating Facebook Ads That Work
When you picture a marketing team developing ideas, you might envision a bunch of suits in a brainstorming session. Or average joes in a focus group, watching ads and filling out surveys. Or, if you’re like a some digital marketers out there, you might not picture much of a process at all. Just toss a link into an ad, make sure the image gets pulled in OK, add a couple lines of text and hope for the best. Maybe you split test some different graphics or headlines, and hope you’ll eventually land on something that works.
What if there’s a better way?
Three professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Business Administration found that there is.
Led by Jacob Goldenberg (coauthor of Inside the Box), these professors conducted studies to determine whether patterns might exist to “help in ‘organizing’ the creative process by promoting routes that have been proven to lead to productive ideas and avoiding those that do not.”
In other words, is there a way to develop effective ad concepts more efficiently?
First, the researchers looked at 200 awarding-winning ads and 200 ads that had not received awards. They found that the award winners all fit into one of six templates.
After that, they had three groups of people make ads.
- One group was left to their own devices,
- one was taught a free association technique for brainstorming, and
- the third group was taught about the six templates.
The ads created by each group were then judged on likability and memorability.
The study found that viewers liked and remembered the ads created with the six creativity templates much better than the others.
So whether you’re the owner of a mom-and-pop store or a 21st century Don Draper, you should know these templates. They don’t dictate the content of a creative ad, and they aren’t set in stone, but they should be used to inform your creative decisions in order to develop ads that are more memorable and enjoyable.
These templates are based on award winning ads. In my opinion, winning an award doesn’t mean anything if the ad isn’t actually effective. However, the research shows that ads created with these templates have a positive effect on brand attitude judgments and recall.
While these templates have been shown to be effective, I wonder if there may be other schema that are as (or even more) effective than these. Perhaps the most effective ads just aren’t awards show material.
That said, while there may be other effective templates out there, these have been scientifically proven to get results. So if you want to increase the odds of success when you’re creating Facebook ads, these templates are worth a try.
1. The Pictorial Analogy Template
“The pictorial analogy template portrays situations in which a symbol is introduced into the product space. This template has two versions: The replacement version and the extreme analogy version. In the extreme analogy version the symbol is taken to the extreme whereas in the replacement version it is merely transplanted.”
The pictorial analogy template combines some element of your product with a symbol of the benefit you’re highlighting. Here are some examples:
2. The Extreme Situation Template
“The extreme situation template represents situations that are unrealistic in order to enhance the prominence of key attributes of a product or service. This category includes three versions: The absurd alternative version, the extreme attribute version, and the extreme worth version.”
The Extreme Situation template uses outlandish circumstances to demonstrate a highlighted attribute.
3. The Consequences Template
“The consequences template indicates the implications of either executing or failing to execute the recommendation advocated in the ad. There are two versions of this template: the extreme consequences version and the inverted consequences version. The inverted consequences version warns against the implications of not executing the recommendation of the ad.”
This template exaggerates the consequences of using (or not using) your product in a way that highlights a key attribute of your product.
4. The Competition Template
“The competition template portrays situations in which the product is subjected to competition with another product or event from a different class. The selection of the other product or event is guided by its expected superiority over the advertised product. There are three versions of the competition template: The attribute in competition version, the worth in competition version, and the uncommon use version. The difference between the ﬁrst two versions relates to whether the competition pertains to a product attribute or whether it challenges the worth of the product.”
It’s important to note that this template is not referring to a competition between your products and others in the same space (e.g., the Pepsi Challenge campaign). It’s a competition between your product and something outside your product space.
5. The Interactive Experiment Template
“The interactive experiment template induces realization of the beneﬁts of the product by requiring the viewer to engage in an interactive experience with the medium in which the ad appears. This can be achieved either by actually engaging in an experiment (the activation version) or by just imagining the performance of such an experiment (the imaginary experiment version).”
The Activation Version
The Activation version of this template usually requires more time and money to execute well. It requires an advertisement that is interactive in a way that highlights a key feature of your product.
Imaginary Experiment Version
6. The Dimensionality Alteration Template
“The dimensionality alteration template manipulates the dimension of the product in relation to its environment. It has four versions: The new parameter connection version, the multiplication version, the division version, and the time leap version. In the new parameter connection version of the template, previously unrelated parameters become dependent (e.g., the speed of a new aircraft is demonstrated by reducing the size of the ocean). The multiplication and division versions are executed by multiplying the product and comparing the duplicates,or dividing the product into its components and creating some form of relationship between them.”
With this template, you’ll change some dimensional factor (e.g., time) in a way that highlights a key attribute of your product. For instance, showing a shiny lock in the dirty old door of a rundown shed in the middle of a post-apocalyptic landscape would tell the consumer that your locks stand the test of time.
How to Use the Templates When You’re Creating Facebook Ads
Before creating Facebook ads with these templates you’ll need to decide what attribute of your product you want to highlight with your ad. Then you’ll have to make some lists.
The first list is a list of all the components that make up your product space. The second list is a list of elements that fulfill the template-specific component. Then, you’ll determine the best way to connect an item from the first list to an item in the second list.
Your product space list is made up of “internal components of the product and the objects that interact with it”. The second list will depend on the template you choose to use.
For the Consequences template, the second list would be a list of consequences that could result from using or not using your product. For the Pictorial Analogy template, the second list would be made up of symbols that represent the attribute you’re attempting to highlight.
Determine the elements you’ll need when you’re creating Facebook ads with these templates by asking yourself the following questions:
- Key Attribute. What benefit are you highlighting?
- Product Space. What elements make up your product? What does it interact with?
- Template-Specific Components. What symbols, consequences, situations, etc. could you use to emphasize the key attribute?
- Linking Operator. How will you tie an element from your product space to one of your template-specific components?
Since you only have to define your product space once, you should develop a list of template-specific components for each template. That way you can decide which template to use as you develop different links between the product space and the template components.
So, what are these template-specific components?
This template requires:
- An element from your product space
- An element from a symbol set
- A linking operator to unify the two
But first you need to determine the message your trying to send with your ad. For instance, in this Nescafé ad, Nescafé wanted to show that Nescafe will help you wake up in the morning.
The product space consists of coffee, coffee beans, coffee mugs, and anything else that makes you think of coffee.
The symbol set is comprised of any symbols that relate to waking up. Alarm clocks, the sunrise, a bugle playing Reveille, etc.
Then they linked the two as an alarm clock with a hot cup of coffee instead of a clock face.
Create an ad for your company with this template by asking yourself:
- What symbols represent my product?
- What symbols represent the benefit I want to emphasize?
- How can I combine the two?
For this template you need:
- An attribute of your product to emphasize
- A set of situations in which that attribute is necessary
- An exaggerated situation to show the benefit of that attribute
The Absurd Alternative version of this ad is exemplified by the “Frogs Forever” ad above. The Vancouver Aquarium emphasizes frogs place in our ecosystem by showing how things would be without them (insectageddon).
The Extreme Attribute version is exemplified by this Ford ad (which also demonstrates the Competition template).
Ford exaggerates the gripping power of new tires in this ad for their service department.
If you want to use this template, you’ll need to ask yourself what attribute of your product you want to emphasize, and what situations lend themselves to that emphasis.
The consequences template requires:
- The key attribute you want to emphasize
- A situation where you would utilize that attribute
- An extreme consequence
You should begin by developing a list of situations in which your product might be used. Then, develop a list of exaggerated consequences.
For instance, noise cancelling headphones might drown out the sound of a waterfall or an airplane. Loud speakers might damage the foundation of a building.
Then you combine one of the situations from your situation set with one of the consequences from your consequence set.
When you’re creating Facebook ads with this template, you’ll need:
- The key attribute you want to highlight
- An item outside of your product space that exemplifies that attribute
- A way to demonstrate your product competing with that item
As noted above, this isn’t like one of those Verizon ads that shows their coverage map vs. AT&T. It’s a competition between your product and something outside of your product space that the consumer would expect to beat yours.
For example, a car beating a speeding bullet, or the grip on new tires competing with the ice in the Arctic.
When you’re creating Facebook ads with this template, determine the feature of your product you want to emphasize, and think of objects outside your product space that also demonstrate a similar feature.
As mentioned earlier, this isn’t referring to Pepsi Challenge ads, or Febreze’s ads with blindfolded people in smelly environments. It’s referring to ads that actually allow the user to interact (or imagine interacting) with the ad medium in some way.
For instance, a black patch on a print ad that allows people to test themselves for dandruff by shaking their hair onto the ad. (Gross, I know. But apparently that was a real ad.)
This ad for a wine bottle opener brings this creativity template into the digital age by using a QR code to allow the reader to interact with the ad through their smartphone.
To create an ad with this template you’ll need to ask yourself what senses consumers use to realize the benefit your focusing on. Then you’ll have to figure out a way to bring that home through an interactive ad on Facebook.
This one is the toughest to pull off, which would explain why it was the least used template in the 200 ads included in the study.
This template twists reality in a way that highlights a key attribute of your product. For instance, the time lapse version shifts time. In the Rubik’s Cube ad above, time is shifted to show Rubik’s Cube’s long lasting, classic status.
In the Navy ad, a ship is divided into its parts (the individual sailors) to emphasize teamwork.
When you’re creating Facebook ads based on this template, you’ll need to determine your product space, the attribute you want to highlight, and, depending on which version of the template you choose to use:
- Time Leap. Past and future elements involving your product. The study uses an example of a husband and wife arguing about life insurance. This past element is tied to the future element of her husband’s death, by having the argument take place at a seance.
- Division. What components make up your product? Which of these components can be displayed in a way that demonstrates the key benefit of your product?
I hope these templates help you when you’re creating Facebook ads for your company. At the very least, I believe you’ll find they direct your thinking in a way that will allow you to develop more creative advertisements (even if the finished product doesn’t fit neatly into one of the templates).
And if you’d like to read more about these templates and others, check out Cracking the Ad Code, co-authored by Jacob Goldenberg and other researchers who worked on this study.