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Lessons from Traditional Advertising: the Other Kind of Facebook Ad Campaign

Published: December 10, 2012

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Jeff Sexton of BoostCTR.
People either talk about Facebook MARKETING campaigns, in terms of some kind of promotional push or contest that was conducted on the Facebook platform, or they talk about ad campaigns in the technical sense that Facebook uses in its advertising interface.

Facebook campaign
No, Mr. President, not that kind of campaign either.

But there is another kind of ad campaign, one familiar to anyone who works in broadcast advertising, that no one thinks about when advertising on Facebook.
And it’s this kind of campaign – the idea of a string of sequenced ads connected by a unifying idea and theme – that could actually make the most difference to your advertising success. Here’s why:
In general, buyers don’t use Facebook to find products and services that they are in the market for today. That’s what search engines are for, right? They’re the yellow pages of the 21st century. If you just need a plumber and don’t have a preference, you search Google for plumbers in your area. If you have a preference, you search Google for that plumber’s business by name. Either way, you’re far more likely to use Google than Facebook.
But what determines whether or not you HAVE a preferred brand or business for the item or service in question? What kind of advertising can influence that “short list” or companies you think of first and feel the best about?
Traditionally, that’s the role of broadcasting advertising.
Most TV and radio ads aren’t aimed at getting you to buy something today. They’re aimed at building the brand, at getting you to think a certain way about the advertised brand, so that you come to prefer that brand over competing brands. In other words, broadcast media ads are aimed at winning the battle of the short list.
Before that became the job of TV and radio, it was the job of newspapers and magazines and bilboards. And now it’s also the job of Facebook, whose ads bear a far closer resemblance to miniature magazine ads than anything else – especially now that the ads can be injected into the middle of the user’s reading “stream.”
In fact, I believe this is at least one reason Facebook mobile ads are proving so effective, as the smaller screen makes the ad proportionately bigger to the viewing frame, allowing it to more closely approximate the feel of a magazine ad.
At any rate, if Facebook Ads are best used to win that battle of the short list – as maybe a half-step between broadcast branding and direct response/content marketing – then shouldn’t we look at the lessons of broadcast advertising to help us with our Facebook Ad effectiveness?  Of course we should.
A partial list of broadcast advertising dynamics that deserve attention might be:

  • The importance of considering reach and frequency
  • The need for ads to “break through the clutter” to be noticed
  • How the creation of clever and entertaining ads that also sell are often the price required to gain attention
  • Why partial attention via the half-heard radio ad and the momentarily glanced ad is still valuable
  • And so on.

But the most valuable lesson is to think in terms of campaigns rather than single ads. And I’m using campaign in the traditional sense of the term: as a coordinated series of ads linked together by a unifying idea and theme.
Why campaigns instead of single ads?
Because forming a preference in the minds of readers usually requires longer-term exposure. And longer-term exposure to the same ad renders that ad invisible, just as it does for billboards. That’s why the only time you notice a billboard is when it changes ads. So long-term exposure to an advertised message requires keeping the message the same while changing the ad, even on Facebook. And that’s the job of a campaign.
Yet how many Facebook Advertisers plan out 6-month or year-long branding campaigns?  How many plan for exactly this kind of long-term exposure through unified-but-changing ads?
Darn few. Partly because we tend to think about Facebook Advertising more in terms of PPC than CPM, and partly because when we consider multiple variations on the same ad, we usually do so through the lens of ad optimization. We get a bunch of different ads, and then we test them against each other – which is good – and then run that winning horse until it falls down dead, rather than developing campaigns around it.
Want to get ahead of the curve on your Facebook Advertising methodology?
1)  Aim your ads at winning the battle of the short list. The more people don’t normally have a preferred brand for your industry, the easier this becomes. No Coke drinker is going to switch to Pepsi because of a Facebook ad, but plenty of people who don’t have a carpet cleaner might come to prefer your carpet cleaner if they consistently see your ad pop up in their Facebook newsfeed.
2)  Think in terms of campaigns. The same ad that was cute at first can become an annoyance with enough repetition. But a campaign of ads can hammer the idea home without wearing out their welcome. Burma Shave, after all, didn’t have a single sign that just said “Burma Shave” on it. They had their famous roadside billboards consisting of six consecutive small signs, all telling a single story – a campaign! – that ending with a solid plug for Burma Shave. Follow their lead.
3) Integrate online and offline campaigns. Running a killer broadcast campaign? Echo that same theme and idea in your Facebook ads while offering people a chance to drill down and learn more via content marketing.
Have any Facebook campaigns stood out for you? Leave a comment!
boostctr logo– Jeff Sexton is a frequent contributor to the blog of BoostCTR, which optimizes online ad creative across search and social platforms, boosting overall click-through and conversion rates through the creation and testing of superior ad creative.  

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