226: Can Facebook Ads Settle Your Office Arguments?
I utterly admire the tolerance for speculation that auctioneers demonstrate day in and day out. My clients and their peers work so very hard at just the chance they might get a decent payday. Few professions I know swing for so many home runs, especially when knowing there’s already a strike or two on much of what we’re selling. As someone who gladly squares up every day for bunts and singles, I don’t know whether to chalk bid caller risk-tolerance up as bravery or insanity.
But that seemingly inherent trait of the folks I serve comes in handy when there’s a disagreement about the content of our advertising. Several of my clients are uncomfortable using text that gets my other clients cheap clicks—words like “liquidate” and phrases like “Buy at YOUR price!” And other customers want details or phrases in their ads that I find superfluous or even counterproductive.
For almost two decades, I have often acquiesced to the man or woman signing my check (or lost them as a client). Over the last few years, though, I’ve found a compromise that appeals to the go-big-or-go-home mindset of the auction industry. I make a wager of sorts with them: let’s try the advertising BOTH ways, and let the best-performing version win.
Facebook ads offer A/B testing on steroids. At the time of this writing, Facebook’s Dynamic Creative tool allows advertisers to test up to 1,250 versions of a single ad per audience. We can include up to 10 photos or photo collages in the image area, and we can include up to five versions (each) of the sales copy, the bold headline, and the secondary headline.
On a typical ad campaign, I’ll use multiple options each for the image area, the bold headline, and the secondary headline. (I rarely upload alternate versions of the sales copy.) As my regular clients can attest from my launch reports, it’s common for us to leverage between 18 and 45 versions of each ad in a campaign. Facebook’s artificial intelligence tests each variation to learn which one(s) get the most efficient clicks and then adapts each ad accordingly. So, our ads for the same auction with the same text options can look different to different audiences because each group of people responds differently to different photos and text. That’s especially helpful when we’re advertising the same asset(s) to multiple prospect pools.
Using this tool, we can test whether “liquidate” works better than “sell” or whether “no reserves” outperforms “regardless of price.” I regularly test “online auction” vs “online bidding” as well as “bidding closes” vs “bidding ends.” If it were my auction, I wouldn’t put the location in ads for online personal property auctions, but I’ll gladly include the pickup/shipping location as an option below the photo. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to be wrong. It’s hard to argue with thousands of people who respond to the location instead of my other headlines. The same holds true the other way. If an audience of 283,000 people choose my “Everything must go!” over the location, well then location isn’t as important for that auction as the auctioneer had thought.
Variable content makes advertising democratic in that it allows the consumer to determine how our ads appear to their peers. Without knowing it, potential bidders are voting for the best version of each ad—just by whether or not they engage with the option they’re shown. They’re the best people to settle your advertising disagreements because they’re the ones determining your commission.
So, it goes back to the “person signing the check” after all; and I’m here for it. Facebook’s artificial intelligence won’t help you solve disagreements over whether the new company truck should be Ford or Chevy. The Dynamic Creative tool won’t help you and your partner decide whether or not to keep your mistake-prone nephew on staff. But it will help you settle disagreements over photos and headlines—and give you cheaper Facebook ads with only the best bait on your hooks.
Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com