How to optimize ad creative for the best ROAS

Tara Johnson
Tara Johnson

Tara Johnson is a Content Manager for Clearco partner Tinuiti

A design shows several images in circles: a woman with a shopping bag, a man looking at the camera, a person checking their phone, an airplane on a tarmac, a hand holding a Prada bag, a woman sitting on the beach

Ad platforms may have powerful targeting tools, prominent ad placements, and performance tracking tools, but they’re all mere novelties if you don’t have a compelling ad design

Compelling ad design makes users stop scrolling and take notice. It entices them to click through and see what you have to offer. 

But you don’t have to get it right on the first try - in fact, most brands don’t. Instead, they optimize it over time. While there are best practices that you should follow when first creating your e-commerce or app advertisement, you can also improve on it through multiple iterations. 

We’ve assembled some useful tips for creating powerful ad creative, and optimizing it for the best ROAS

Design ads with the platform in mind

Would you use the same creative for both a billboard and a magazine ad? 

Of course not! The two formats are so drastically different that it would be silly to reuse the same creative—even though they’re both technically “print.”

The same thing goes for digital advertising. Each platform has its own ad specifications, audience targeting tools, and ad formats. Beyond that, different platforms also have very distinct audiences and use cases. 

Before you design anything, make sure you totally understand your platform and the people who are on it. This’ll help ensure that your advertising dollars are being spent wisely, and deliver a good return.

Test intelligently and test often

You can’t just run an ad and hope for the best. Split testing, a.k.a. A/B testing, is crucial for any e-commerce marketer who wants to get the best results on their ad campaigns.

When you split test an ad creative, you should only alter one variable at a time. This is so that you can easily identify the specific change that leads to a positive result. You then keep testing, iterating a new element until you find the ad’s optimal configuration. 

Here are just a few of the things you can optimize using A/B testing:

  • Light vs. dark colors
  • Fonts
  • Illustration vs. photography
  • Iconography
  • Placement of elements in the layout

Check out The Brand’s Guide to Creative Performance & Instagram if you want to learn more. 

Use GIF and video assets

It’s a scientific fact that human eyes are attracted to movement. So why not take advantage of advertising creatives that utilize motion?

Ads that use animated GIF and short videos perform much better than static text or image ads. We’ve seen multiple clients switch their ads from static to animated, and gotten dramatic results. 

Take the case of Ownable, for example. By optimizing their promo ads to include moving elements, we saw a 45% higher CVR, which added up to 17% spend increase and 26% more revenue. 

But it’s not enough to simply throw animation in at random. All elements, whether static or moving, have to work together to increase focus on the product and the brand. 

Fast-paced messaging and concise text

Social media platforms have a lot of content, and users tend to speed through them as fast. Your ads should take this into account and be as quick to consume as possible. 

When making ads for Snapchat, we wanted to identify the ideal messaging length and pace. So we tested two formats: a 6-second ad, and a 15-second ad. 

We collaborated with Strayer University and discovered that 6-second ads resulted in 50% lower CPE and a 32% higher CTR. Our most effective ad used more concise text overlays and displayed the brand’s value proposition within the first 2 seconds. 

“Ultimately, what they found was that it’s so important to be using a faster-paced storyline to communicate your messaging.”

– Kelsey Miller, Paid Social Strategist at Tinuiti

Showcase customer reviews

Customers simply trust other customers. Data from multiple sources have proven the value of social proof time and again, so it makes sense that including customer reviews in your ad layout would be beneficial to your ROAS.

The review doesn’t have to dominate the entire ad layout, or even take significant amounts of space. The review just needs to be visible and readable, such as a small callout box at the bottom of your creative. 

Utilize collections

Don’t underestimate the value of product exploration. If your ad platform allows it, run Collections ads as a way of encouraging the viewer to easily wade into your product offerings. 

But don’t just take our word for it: ask Maurices

We ran a comparative test between Link Page-Post ads and Collections ads for the same product line. We found that product exploration resulted in a 67% higher CTR and a 51% higher ROAS.

Don’t make creative changes too frequently

If you’re selling an app on the Google Play store, you should be careful about how often you update your creative. 

Google App campaigns use machine learning and AI to optimize the campaign over a long period of time. You can accidentally interrupt this optimization process if you upload new creative assets. 

According to Kaitlyn Shimazaki, Paid Search Strategist at Tinuiti, “An overload of changes – in terms of types of changes as well as frequency – can shock the machine learning algorithms and cause performance to fluctuate.”

“Google recommends gradually replacing low-performing creative assets, waiting at least 10-14 days after making a rotation before doing so again. We want to give machine learning time to take our creative tests and make strategic decisions.

Segment creatives into ad groups

The more tailored an ad is for a particular audience, the better it will perform for that group. This is especially the case when selling apps on Google Play or the App Store. 

Fortunately, most ad platforms allow for this kind of segmentation, and you should take full advantage by coming up with hyper-focused creative that speaks to specific audiences. 

We recommend the following segmentation best practices: 

  • Have one “evergreen” ad group. This will communicate your overarching brand messaging that applies to all potential users 
  • Also develop different sets of creatives based on the features or benefits of your app that you’d like to show to different groups of users. For example, if you have a workout app, you can create one ad group for yoga and one for HIIT, etc.

“You want to target and optimize your creative based on where your visitor is in their journey.”

– Liz Emery, Director of Mobile App Strategy at Tinuiti

Top-served image dimensions 

This advice is mainly for those advertising apps on Google Play, although it could be applied to other ad platforms

If you want to reach the maximum number of users, then make sure your ad qualifies for as many placements as possible. 

Google has now simplified their ad dimensions from 30+ separate image dimensions, to just three. These ad dimensions are displayed across Google’s Search, Display, Discover, Play, and YouTube networks. 

  • 1:1 (Square) – 1200×1200
  • 1.91:1 (Landscape) – 1200×628
  • 4:5 (Portrait) – 1200×1500

Focus on these ad specs so that your app’s campaigns will be served across all applicable networks. 

Conclusion: Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do so intelligently

Running digital ads in the e-commerce and app space is not a set-and-forget process. You need to continually experiment and optimize your ad creative over time in order to achieve the maximum benefit. 

Doing so intelligently means changing things with patience and intent. It’s knowing why you’re making the change, being hyper-aware of its effects, and understanding the platforms you’re advertising on.