- The Performers
- I tried 21+ static images & here's what I found out
I tried 21+ static images & here's what I found out
Find out what worked and what didn't
I tried 21+ static images for one of my mobile app accounts which usually struggles with static images. Just for context, my competitors only run UGC ads so probably the images as an ad format don’t work for them. So, I challenged myself to apply marketing principles and psychology to find winning ads regardless.
I did find some and want to share them with y’all so you can learn from my experiments.
Before showing you the results, let me share that I launched at least 3 variations of each image and the winning messaging. For simplicity, we’ll stick to one brand.
At the end, we’ll discuss why they worked and what I learned.
Okay! Let’s go.
Ad # 1 – The ugly ad
Principle: The ugly nostalgic ad
Hypothesis: I thought that I’d be hitting nostalgia; a scroll stopper; a direct response ad; one that’s selling the benefit.
Why it didn’t work (what I think): The ad is for moms. Although it is a scroll stopper, moms don’t stop scrolling because moms are emotional when they buy. It didn’t hit the emotion.
Will I give up on this format: No, I think it could work, but only for certain products.
Ad # 2 – Patagonia “smart ad”
Principle: Hitting the logical brain with emotion.
Hypothesis: I thought that I’d be hitting the “smart” audience who would appreciate the copy and thinking behind it.
Why it didn’t work (what I think): It was a little too smart. Good for branding and marketers to gain attention on the internet. Not good for direct response ads.
Will I give up on this format: Yes, definitely. It’s just too much of a mental cognitive load.
Ad # 3 – FOMO ad
Principle: When everyone is talking about one thing – insert yourself into the conversation. Ride the wave – Ad Professor
Hypothesis: It hits parents emotionally and encourages them to make the most of the “present” moment. It’s about showing “change” would make a difference that emotionally resonates.
Why it worked (what I think): It does not look like an ad; it engages the mom’s emotional response to act now. The app and the ad have high relevance which gives enough motivation to take action.
Will I give up on this format: Definitely not, I will try out different video formats too. UGC will kill it with this concept.
Ad # 4 – Hitting the nostalgia to millennials
Hypothesis: This was the most liked ad on the internet by marketers. While it hits nostalgia, I thought about hitting the same psychological trigger with millennials.
Why it didn’t work (what I think): Showing the app as a product didn’t trigger an action.
Will I give up on this format: I’m not sure, I think showing a Word Art headline with emotional messaging and then showing a cute baby would work.
Ad # 5 – The permissionless advertising with celebrity naming
Principle: If you can't afford celebrity endorsements, hack your way there. I’m talking about this newsletter.
Hypothesis: Using big names will be a scroll stopper and perhaps by “smartly” hitting the admiration, they will take an action.
Why it didn’t work (what I think): Good for branding and marketers. Not for taking an action.
Will I give up on this format: Yes, I think authenticity works well on paid social. Do follow the authenticity principle.
Ad # 6 – Apple notes with the product
Principle: Familiarity principle with Apple Notes is a scroll stopper. It’s a user interface hacking – Ad Professor. This means we keep something familiar UX so the user thinks it’s a normal post, not an ad.
Hypothesis: This is taking Apple Notes ads to another level. It is a direct response ad with the product attached.
Why it didn’t work (what I think): Probably good for ecommerce but not for a tech product.
Will I give up on this format: Yes, I think “Apple Notes” are done dusted. I like the creativity but won’t rely on this format.
Ad # 7 – The outdoor persona ad
Principle: Pattern interrupt with “Husband Day Care”
Hypothesis: I’ll use a pattern interrupt with the outdoor ad; it will get their attention
Why it didn’t work (what I think): “Day care” creates an emotional response but “training center” does not. The font is too small in my opinion. The concept “Daddy training center” is nothing crazy. Fathers learn on the job.
Will I give up on this format: I don’t think so because it might work with another brand.
Ad # 8 – Ride the wave
Principle: When everyone is talking about one thing – insert yourself into the conversation. – Ad professor. It is also a pattern interrupt.
Hypothesis: I saw this ad in Ad Professor; Threads were getting popular; Since the ad will be on Instagram; We can catch a ride on this wave.
Why it worked: Dark mode Threads is a pattern interrupt. The ad seems like someone has authentically asked this question. It just gets into the innate need to try a “new” type of product that already exists. It’s also not selling too hard but still gets a direct response.
Crazy that both “ride the wave” ads have worked out.
Will I give up on this format: Obviously not, it is my most recent winner.
Ad # 9 – What’s in these days (another ride the wave)
Principle: When everyone is talking about one thing – insert yourself into the conversation. – Ad professor. It is also a pattern interrupt.
Hypothesis: We can enter the conversation with ChatGPT. The quickest adoption of a product. We’ll also use the interface.
Why it didn’t work: Probably moms aren’t into ChatGPT. Although, we tried to boost the ego of our audience.
Will I give up on this format: Yes, because although we think ChatGPT is the hottest shit, it only attracts a certain audience.
Ad # 10 – The proven ads in similar vertical
Principle: Cuteness + social proof + funny will drive attention. Plus, if it worked for a company that targets the same audience, it might work.
Hypothesis: I have tested the image and it has worked if I attach a message with social proof. It will get an action.
Why it didn’t work: We need to figure out a good testimonial, like in the ad. We don’t have anything like that. It did work for Tonies, which is a BIG brand so that could be a reason (hey Nick!)
Will I give up on this format: No, I think if we find a funny messaging and cuter image. We might hit the string.
Ad # 11 – The proven ad with a twist & testimonial
Principle: Social proof with “end desire” state; Moms want to develop a bond and have happier lives; Our product can give that.
Hypothesis: Perhaps, just a baby image isn’t enough. We need to show a state where our product leads them to. Plus, a genuine testimonial might work too.
Why it didn’t work: We haven’t found a winning testimonial and the image does not trigger an emotion properly. While the other image does.
Will I give up on this format: No, but I need to find better images.
Ad # 12 – The search ad format
Principle: The use of hand psychology: Tactile features felt by the hands affect a person's subconscious perception of the quality of an object and its benefits – something that feels good is good (literally).
Hypothesis: If we combine this with a search ad that answers a question, we will get the scroll stopper.
Why it didn’t work: Perhaps, the use of hands subtly helps a physical product but not a virtual product. Or our ad didn’t show enough of the hand, only the thumbs.
Will I give up on this format? Yes, I have tried the search format so much that it is time to sunset it.
Ad # 13 – The cute picture with value props
Principle: Pictures of cute babies cause the release of dopamine, which is the same chemical released when you fall in love, have sex, or take drugs. Pictures of babies trigger our nurturing instinct. Humans are wired to protect babies.
Hypothesis: This first frame of the actual ad came from a winning ad. It has a 95% retention rate. If we combine it with the cute baby.
Why it didn’t work: I think we could have better value props attached to it. Perhaps it will work.
Will I give up on this format? No, I’ll re-try it with better copy, typefaces, and different babies or poses showing super activities.
Ad # 14 – The chat format ad
Principle: Chat format leads with familiarity with UX principles with a leaked message as a testimonial.
Hypothesis: If we authentically share a UGC creator’s social proof. It will lead to conversions. And the chat format will be a scroll stopper.
Why it didn’t work: I feel that chat formats don't feel authentic unless they are actually written by someone.
Will I give up on this format: No, I will ask my UGC creator to share an actual screenshot.
Principle: Again it also hints at the familiarity of UX principle with actual social proof.
Hypothesis: If we use the winning copy in X/Twitter format. We could repurpose it to get conversions.
Why it didn’t work: I think it felt too branded with the colors and all. Also, it was not a social proof, just a direct ad.
Will I give up on this format? No, will ask some customers to tweet about us with benefits.
Ad # 16 – The Barbie meme
Principle: Memes are fun yet relatable. Memetic marketing is relatable. On top of it, you’re riding on a trend that is in this case the Barbenheimer phenomenon (This summer Barbie and Oppenheimer movies opened the same weekend and instead of canceling each other out because they were so different, they each boosted the other astronomically thus creating an instant trend everyone can meme.)
Hypothesis: If we use memes, it will evoke emotion with benefits. We’ll see conversions.
Why it worked: I think we were super clear on the value prop and with the meme. The cost per add to cart increased but this was a clear win. It hits differently for new moms. They are not used to seeing this meme with a baby app. It’s a pattern disruption.
Will I give up on this format? No, I will try more memes.
Ad # 17 – The negative testimonial
Principle: The negative testimonial stands out to those who really like one key benefit that most people hate.
Hypothesis: This negative testimonial is against the enemy aka toys. Toys have been our pet peeve. This will lead to more conversions.
Why it didn’t work: I think it was not very intuitive. The actual ad has a post that’s a scroll stopper and clearly shows the value prop visually and with text.
Will I give up on this format? No, I just need to make an ad with toys vs Kinedu.
Ad # 18 – The smart billboard ad
Principle: This is a psychology of contrast. The contrast effect in psychology happens when the difference between two or more items appears greater than it actually is.
Hypothesis: The billboards have worked for me. If we make it smarter, it will lead to conversions.
CTR: didn’t get any traction in the ad set.
Why it didn’t work: We were trying to be too smart with our wording. Again, don’t be clever, be clear. Also, the original ad used more contrast in the copy tones so that the darker words stood out more and made me curious about the lighter words, and the darker words were individual words that together, spelled out a catchy phrase: "choose a play that's smarter" giving me a direction for action too.
My ad did not employ as much contrast. I also highlighted more than one word at a time. Overall, the two colors were in competition and it was hard to know the color to which to focus on.
Will I give up on this format? Yes, I need to make simpler ads.
Ad # 19 – The second meme using Homer Simpson
Principle: Relatable messages cut deep with permissionless advertising.
Hypothesis: This ad worked with one of my newsletter clients. I want to double down on “wasting hours in research” which is our enemy. We should see some good conversions.
CTR: 0.49% (even the winners don’t have higher CTR)
Why it worked: Ads that don’t look like ads and deliver the message.
Will I give up on this format? No, I will double down on memetic ads.
Ad # 20 – The features callout with pricing framing
Principle: Price framing, we're talking about changing the context of a price presentation—without substantially changing the price itself—in order to encourage more purchases. This also clearly tells them what the benefits are.
Hypothesis: By using $0.22 per day psychology, we’ll see more moms starting a trial.
Why it didn’t work: Stock images don’t work. The message doesn’t emotionally resonate with moms.
Will I give up on this format? No, I will still use price framing with other ads and tweak the format. It will work if the image is evoking emotions.
Ad # 21 – The Apple Notes agitating the app
Principle: Leaning to UX familiarity by agitating the pain.
Hypothesis: Apple Notes has worked for other brands as they show the desired life. It should get us conversions.
Why it didn’t work: It did get us conversions but the CPA was too high
Will I give up on this format: Not sure yet, but simplify: How I said goodbye to new mom anxiety. I need to find more ads using this format. Plus, this kind of copy wasn’t proven.
What I learned so far:
Triggering an emotion is more important with this kind of client. But also in general.
Being too “smart” does not work. Your messaging has to be clear, not clever.
Authenticity attached to your ads works better. Don’t try to “hack” your way.
Don’t give up on ad formats. Try at least 50+ variations before giving up.
You can tell the same message in hundreds of different ways.
Have an experiment mindset like a scientist.
Lean into memetic & relatable ads more.
Clickthrough rates don’t matter that much.
It is important to lean into existing UX familiarity.
Cute ads work well if they align with the value props
Use authentic testimonial screenshots, instead of faking it.
Don’t make your audience do the work by running “smart” ads.
Don’t trust what marketers share on the internet, actually try it yourself.
Don’t give up on ad formats until you’ve tried all the messaging and concepts.
Hope you can apply these lessons, insights, and ad formats – So we can all win.
This is how you make ads that don’t look like ads.
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