How To Make Meta Ads Work in 2023

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    Looking back on the past 3 years, from pre-Covid to post covid, the ‘good old days’ to the post-iOS hellscape, there is one constant in paid media. There are no playbooks.

    If you spend time developing your own playbook you’ve trapped yourself into proving that you are right, rather than exploring, texting, experimenting your way to success. Anyone pitching you a playbook is telling you what worked yesterday, not where you will find your wins tomorrow.

    This is not a playbook.

    Rather, this is a breakdown of the core elements we are focusing on at ATTN Agency to drive sustainable improvements within Facebook and Instagram ads to hit our clients big picture goals, and how you can apply them to your own strategy.

    Know Where You’re Going Before You Start

    “If you have no destination, you’ll never get there”

    Harvey MacKay

    Before the year starts you should be clear on what your end of year target is and why it’s important to your business.

    Every business is not built for the same goals, and goals will change based on the business’ positioning. Last year many brands focused on acquisition at any cost. Next year we expect most brands will focus on profitability over everything. Some brands focus on new customer acquisition, others prioritize retention and loyalty.

    Before you start breaking down your single, multi, or omni channel strategy you should first know what your revenue goal is, what your growth goals are, and how those tie to channel KPIs. Once you know this you can hold channels to specific accountabilities.

    Lead With Creative

    iOS updates demolished data integrity and the understanding of the customer journey. As a byproduct it also eliminated lazy marketing. Looking forward, marketers cannot light up a product flatlay with a text overlay and expect to drive engagement on Meta.

    To make sure prospecting and pre-purchase retargeting ads resonate, brands need to focus on performance-based storytelling to drive clicks over views. This doesn’t mean focusing on user-generated content as your go-to, instead it means focusing on the fundamentals of performance and growth marketing.

    Make Ugly Ads

    There is a perception that the prettier the ad is the more thought and effort must have gone into it. The problem is pretty ads don’t convert well. Pretty ads are built to fill graphic designer’s portfolios, not to drive conversations or conversions.

    “Ugly” ads work better. They are designed to feel organic, natural, like they are native to the platform.

    Video First Asset Mix

    Meta has put a tremendous focus on Reels to compete with TikTok. With massive organic reach and bottom of the barrel CPMs, Reels should be a huge part of your strategy. Considering that 75% of brand posts on Instagram are single images, Reels also presents a blue ocean for brands willing to invest into content.

    Creative Strategy

    Creative strategy is defined by the ability to find new angles and opportunities, and methods to communicate them. It is also the ability to read data and make decisions about creative iteration to drive growth and performance. The incorporation of creative strategy is essential to driving incremental conversions across Meta.

    Core Messaging Strategies

    • Testimonials – People trust people. Use your customer voice to help build trust and sell your product to your next customer
    • Social Proof – If your brand has been featured in a trusted source within your community, showcase it in your ads to build trust quickly. If you haven’t been featured, start contacting publications, influencers, and thought leaders to get your product or brand exposed to in market audiences while also leveraging the brand 
    • Features, Benefits & Value Props – What do you think differentiates your product or brand? Why do you think people buy your product over your competitors
    • Value – Discounts & Promos – This should be used sparingly and for audiences who have not resonated with other messaging. You do not want to rely on price breaks to drive purchases.

    Top Ad Variations

    • Us vs Them – Highlight what you think differentiates your product or brand from competitors.
    • Before & After – Showcase how your product or brand will solve your customer’s deepest pain points.
    • FOMO – Make your audience feel like they are missing their shot to be a part of something bigger than them. Build assets that put your brand into the zeitgeist.
    • X Reasons Why – This is one of the best ways to highlight features, benefits, and value props in a video.
    • User/Creator Generated Content – People buy from people. Show real customers talking about or using your products. This asset class has driven direct response over the past year, so our suggestion is to keep it in the asset mix but don’t make it primary, when you do what everyone else is doing you will get lost in the noise.

    Follow With Data

    Without beating a long-dead horse, following iOS data degradation first party data is and will be essential to sustainable success. To be clear, first party data is any information your brand collects directly from your customers and owns.

    • First Party Data – We are constantly testing Shopify and Klaviyo analytics and audiences. Your brand owns this data, use it to help build loyalty and find new audiences through lookalikes.
    • Sharing First Party Data – We have recently been testing sharing pixel data with complimentary, non-competitive brands to target new audiences and create lookalike audiences.
    • Third Party Data – Third party data solutions like Black Crow and Disco Network are popping into the ecosystem daily. Not really, but you get it. While these solutions come with big caveats – costs, quality, and audience overlap – they are worth testing to discover new opportunities.
    • Third Party Analytics – It goes without saying that the best third party solution to layer data analysis is Triple Whale. We have brought Triple Whale onto nearly all of our clients to supplement the in channel reporting and assist with cross channel optimizations

    How Should You Structure Your Account?

    If you asked 100 marketers for their account structure strategy you would likely get 100 different answers. This makes account structure the most contentious topic among performance and growth marketers.

    Should you build your account out vertically or horizontally? Which method will allow you the most scale but with deep insights into what is working?

    There are no right or wrong answers, because every account is different and will need variability in the way the account is structured. But we have found consistencies across start ups, scale ups, and unicorns.

    Should You Give Meta Control or Give Meta Options?

    At ATTN Agency we believe in maximizing reach without cheating. This means,

    • We do not run reach campaigns. Instead we build horizontal structures with big, broad audiences – 100 million – 1 billion.
    • Test all placements but also drop in placement specific sizes. We want to give Meta enough autonomy to drive down CPM and CPA, but also build in 
    • We believe in a broad asset mix, incorporating statics, gifs, and videos, with on-model, flat lays, lifestyle, and user-generated content.
    • We test wide value props to constantly explore what will drive the next conversion. We test our value props in traffic campaigns looking for landing page clicks as our primary success KPI.

    Vertical or Horizontal Structuring

    Meta tends to recommend vertical structure. This means less campaigns with more consolidation at higher budgets. This was previously known as the Power Five.

    In our experience horizontal structuring still works better for two reasons. The first is the ability to get to your best performing audiences faster, the second is controlling ad spend distribution between new and existing customers.

    What About Performance Max?

    Advantage Plus is Meta’s latest roll out in another move towards consolidating control and simplifying marketing tactics.

    In our analyses powered by Triple Whale, we consistently find that Advantage Plus hunts for the lowest hanging fruit. It will prioritize past purchasers and retargeting audiences to show the highest return on ad spend. If you choose to lean into Advantage Plus we recommend making sure you have your exclusion lists in place so you push Meta to discover new audiences. 

    Landing Pages

    We find many brands send their prospects to product description pages (PDP’s) expecting them to “just get it” and purchase. The reality is that those prospects are still at the beginning of the decision tree trying to understand why they should want your product in their life. They still need to know what makes your product so great. Often a PDP will just show variations, sizes, colors, and a brief description.

    To improve conversions, we find that driving top of funnel audiences from Meta to sales pages containing product specific add to cart blocks or exclusive offer calls to action drives significant improvement in conversion rate. Some of our top performing pages are,

    • 8 Reasons Why – This listicle style article should come from the voice of a consumer and highlight the key value propositions from ads. Tagged correctly you should also be able to gain insight into which value prop your prospects are attracted to most.
    • Us vs Them – Call out your competitors! If you are better, say it and say why. Show your prospects why your product is the one they need in their life.
    • Brand Story – Every story is unique and customers love hearing about the blood, sweat, and tears you put into building your brand. These stories are endearing and foster connections with your customers.

    If you explore using sales pages, we recommend testing them through third parties like Fascination and on your owned website. Third party sites will build more credibility in the content while your owned site will provide better insights and clearer results.

    Tools for Success

    There are two tools we are recommending to all of our clients, Triple Whale and KnoCommerce.

    You likely already know why Triple Whale is the solution of choice for data analytics and creative analysis. It is a powerhouse tool to supplement in-platform data. We use it to understand performance across channels and to find missing success indicators.

    KnoCommerce post-purchase surveys help us validate the information we are getting from Triple Whale and in-platform reporting through the customer voice. We can quickly learn where incremental conversions are coming from by asking customers where they discovered the brand.

    Promotion Planning

    Treat your full year as a discount and promotion sandbox environment for Q4. Everything you test should be tracked for what worked and didn’t work. If you execute on this through the entire year you should know exactly what type of promotion resonated the most with your customers to drive the deepest impact when it matters most.


    I hope our anti-playbook playbook has been informative and that you’ve found at least one insight or suggestion that can help you evolve your business in 2023.

    If nothing else, the biggest takeaway from this is to stay antifragile. Build your marketing strategy around testing, learning, and iterating. Do not buy into playbooks – even when it comes from Meta itself. Instead, constantly seek out new opportunities, lean into what’s working when it’s working, and always be testing.

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