Why This Duracell Hearing Aid Commercial Will Make You Cry

I was standing there at my desk when a Slack message popped up: “Check this out…” with an innocuous link to a YouTube video. 78 seconds later I was desperately trying to pretend I had allergies as I fought to keep tears from welling up.

What happened?

A commercial for one of the most mundane objects on Earth: a battery.

To find out how a pitch for such an ordinary item could cause so many feels to come out of my eyes, I decided to deconstruct the ad. Watch the Duracell hearing aid commercial below and then keeping reading to see why it was so effective.

When it’s over, go watch this video of Chuck Norris kicking some ass to restore your emotions back to normal.

[accordion title=’Click Here To View the Script of The Duracell Hearing Aid Commercial’]

Act 1:

Friend at dinner (muffled): “These seats are excellent, but unfortunately, they’re for tomorrow night.”

Co-worker (muffled): There’s cake for Paula’s birthday in the kitchen..

Daughter: Thank you.

James: Bye bye! She’ll be fine.

[Crying baby / sports game]

Jame’s wife: Can you hear her? The baby’s crying!

Act II:

Doctor: So let’s get you started today. These are the batteries. The tab makes it super simple. Flip it over the ear.

Wife: How’s that sound?

Doctor: Did you hear her?

James: I think so… that’s amazing.

James’ wife: Thank you..

Act III:

James (to son): Well, it’s a rule. I said, what.. what rule? I don’t know about baseball…

James: She’s doing great.

James’ son: Yeah?

James: Yeah

James’ son: Thanks dad.

Closing:

Duracell batteries are long lasting. So you don’t miss the moments that matter.

Trusted everywhere.

[/accordion]

WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Can you even read this through those watery eyelids? Wipe your nose and let’s see how some marketing genius was able to make the Energizer bunny look like a cold-hearted killer compared to Duracell.

Genius Move #1: Follow A Classic Story Structure

Here’s a dirty little secret: nearly every great story follows an established pattern. This Duracell hearing aid commercial is no different. In this case, it follows the classic three-act structure. It goes something like this:

  1. Setup: The hero is going about his business when some unexpected event turns his world upside down.
  2. Confrontation: The hero struggles to deal with this new challenge. When he’s all but defeated, some external intervention occurs, and he finds the courage/skill/answer/secret potion he needs to succeed.
  3. Resolution: With the conflict resolved, the hero finds himself even better off than when the story began.

Anything that doesn’t follow an established convention is either crap or is considered avant garde, which is a special type of artwork for people who are overly concerned about the source of wool in their $295 turtlenecks.

Here’s how our Duracell ad follows the structure….

Act 1 – Reality Hits Home

Our hero isn’t given a name, but since the most popular baby name of the 1950s was James, let’s go with that. In the first scene, James isn’t laughing at a dinner party jokes because he can’t hear. Either that, or the jokes are about him, and this ad just got off to an extremely awkward start.

In the next scene, James misses out on a crucial office ritual: cake for Paula’s birthday. Missing out on both jokes and cake kind of sucks for James, but he’ll survive… right?

In the final scene of the act, James’ hearing loss goes from a mere annoyance to a painful source of shame when he neglects to hear his crying granddaughter over the sports game.

Act 2 – Enter The Savior

Having fully realized the consequences of his hearing loss, James meets with an audiologist. Now enters our savior: the hearing aid, powered by (you guessed it) Duracell batteries.

While the story hasn’t quite resolved itself yet, James can at least imagine a brighter future when he whispers, “That’s amazing.”

Act 3 – Life Is Good

We find James at the kitchen table, yet this time, he’s able to hear his granddaughter crying. The story reaches its peak when James’s son says, “Thanks dad,” as James comforts his granddaughter.

James is not only happy with himself, he’s also able to live up to the expectations of his family.

Genius Move #2: Reinforce Emotions Through Production

Not only does the story itself follow the classic three-act structure, the production choices of the Duracell hearing aid commercial were all made to reinforce the message of each act. Take a closer look and you’ll see what I mean:

  • Music: Initially, a sole piano sets a sad and contemplative tone. As it the story transitions into act two, the music pauses to emphasize James’ realization that he can’t hear. But as he visits the doctor, the music cautiously resumes. As the tempo gradually increases into act three, a keyboard and synthesizer are added to convey energy and confidence. Way to go, synthesizer.
  • Lighting: The dim set of James’ house is a sharp contrast to the brightly lit audiologist’s office, reinforcing the idea that new things are taking place. Ok, “brightly lit” is an understatement… the audiology office looks the interior of the spaceship from Space Odyssey: 2001. Anyway, the story concludes with the soft, natural light, conveying a warmer, more familial environment.
  • Time of Day: The story begins in the evening: darkness increases along with James’ realization of his loss. Yet the story resolves in the full daylight, the start of a new day symbolic of new beginnings.
  • Emotion: Confusion and frustration take over the first act of the story, climaxing in full-on anger when Jame’s kids return from their night out. I would not want to be there to hear James’ wife chew him out afterwards. In act two, sadness is replaced with cautious optimism in the audiologist’s office. Love and laughter are shown in the final act that takes place in the family’s home, leaving no doubt to the outcome of the story.
Act by act breakdown of the Duracell hearing aid commercial
Each act of Duracell’s ad is reinforced through the production choices made in each act.

Genius Move #3: Use Supporting Characters To Frame Emotional Transitions

James’ wife

James’ wife has a simple role in the story: show you how you should feel as you watch James deal with his challenge. She starts off with anger at James’ failure…

Duracell hearing aid commercial act one: James' wife gets upset
James’ wife isn’t exactly going to nominate him for AARP’s Grandfather of the Year Award.

… and later displays gratitude for at possibility of James getting his hearing back.

Duracell hearing aid commercial act two: James' wife is optimistic
This shot takes less than a second but it drives home plenty of optimism.

Finally, she shows joy as she see James thrive again. Observe your own emotions as you watch the video… are you feeling the same way? James’s wife plays a minor role but she telegraphs the emotional transitions really clearly.

James' wife is happy
James’ wife is relaxed and happy now that James can hear again.

James’ Son

The Duracell hearing aid commercial isn’t really about James’ ability to hear. After all, who really cares if he misses out on office birthday cake because he’s a bit deaf? It was probably some crummy cake from the grocery story, anyway. No, the story really has to do with James failing his family, specifically his son.

Take a look at the conclusion of Act 1. As James’ son and daughter-in-law gather around the crying infant, James looks at his son with embarrassment and sadness. To make things worse, James’s son doesn’t even make eye contact with him:

Duracell hearing aid commercial act one: James is embarrassed
Worst. Babysitting. Ever. James was a major disappointment to his son that evening.

Finally, the closing scene shows James, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law seated together, signifying that the family is healthy again. When James picks up his granddaughter this time, James’ son smiles directly at his father. The father-son relationship is restored and James receives the trust and love he years for as a grandfather.

Duracell hearing aid commercial act three: James' son is smiling
All is well, and James’ son can once again look at his dad and smile.

Genius Move #4: Don’t Make It About The Product

This is the most important part of all.

People aren’t interested in watching advertisements. They want to watch stories. And this Duracell hearing aid commercial is exactly that – a story about a new grandparent who lets down his family because he can no longer hear. Even if most viewers can’t empathize with hearing loss, nearly everyone can relate to the hurt caused by strained family relationships.

As lesser writer would have been tempted to introduce the Duracell brand right at the start. Since so many videos are skipped after just a few seconds, the temptation is understandable.

But doing so would only tell the viewer, “This is an advertisement. Nothing to see here!”

Instead, an engrossing story is used to break down any resistance a viewer might have towards seeing a branded message. It’s only until the last 8 seconds of the video that the product being advertised is finally made clear.

In this case, it’s a simple battery.

Perfect example of the maxim: “There are no boring products, only boring writers.”

P.S. Random Observations

I had to watch the Duracell hearing aid commercial more times that I care to admit to do this deconstruction. And it the process I noticed some things that you probably missed…

  • The doctor gives James a package of 16 hearing aid batteries. The package notes that each battery lasts 4 years. That means James has enough juice to last him 64 more years. I guess there’s nothing wrong with being optimistic.
  • In Act 3, I really can’t tell what meal the family is eating. The lighting suggests breakfast, as do the oranges on the table. But the Coke (tea?) and Chinese takeout contain suggest either lunch or extraordinarily usual eating habits.
  • James’ coworker seems overly disturbed that he didn’t hear her the first time. What if James was just “in the zone” as he processed his expense report from that craaazy insurance conference in Tampa? Don’t most people just call your name again before donning an expression of utter confusion?
  • The interior of James’ living room looks like it was inspired by an outdated Motel 6. Come on James, you can afford a painting or two on those walls!
  • Why did the custom designer have James wear that copper bracelet? It’s given tons of prominence in one of the scenes, and since those things are proven not to work, it’s strange that they would have him sport one.

What Do You Think of The Duracell Hearing Aid Commercial?

Maybe you watched the Duracell hearing aid commercial and thought it was a crass attempt to get people to pay more for a branded commodity.

Or maybe you didn’t even finish reading the article because you immediately ran to the nearest Walgreen’s to buy their entire stock of Duracell batteries.

Or perhaps you’re convinced that this is really a super secret conspiracy among Big Audiology, Coke, and Duracell: it proves that drinking soda causes deafness, and all these companies out there to profit off the suffering they induce by making you consume their products.

However you feel, let me know if the comments below.

6 Reasons The Facebook Ad Platform Is Really Just A Terminator

Saying, “The Facebook ad platform is the most powerful ad network in the world,” sounds a little crazy. It also happens to be true. Do you know why?

It’s because the Facebook ad platform is actually an experimental software-only version of Skynet’s artificially intelligent autonomous war machines, also known as Terminators. Here are the six pieces of evidence that prove it.

Facebook Ads Can Adapt To Any Situation

The Facebook ad platform could be hiding an ad right behind you.
Turn around… there’s a Facebook ad behind you.

When I first heard the term “machine learning”, I immediately though of the Terminator. Turns out, it’s a practice Facebook employs as well.

Unlike most forms of traditional advertising, Facebook ads have the uncanny ability to identify and respond to new circumstances. Thanks to the power of its advanced ad delivery algorithms, it constantly makes informed guesses on what it thinks will be effective, measures the results, and adapts accordingly. Facebook will not only optimize for demographics, device, placement, and time of day, it will also show successful ads more frequently than unsuccessful ones. Scary.

Just like a Terminator, once you activate a Facebook campaign, it will quickly do everything in its power to terminate your enemies generate ad results.

Facebook Ads Are Nearly Impossible To Get Rid Of

terminator_tx
Facebook views setbacks to its ability to serve ads with curious disdain.

Think that running AdBlock Plus on your laptop is going to make Facebook ads go away? It’s not – 80% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile, where ad blockers have little to no effect. Furthermore, Facebook has 1.65 billion users who each spend 50 minutes per day on the social network. They’re using that time to serve about 2.8 trillion ad impressions per day.

80% of Facebook's ad revenue comes from mobile. Click To Tweet

You might eliminate one or two Facebook ads, but the reality is that you’re way outnumbered. Just like Skynet and its Terminators, your only real option to eliminate Facebook ads entirely is to destroy Facebook itself. Good luck, John Conner.

The Facebook Ad Platform Knows Everything About You

Just like Skynet, the Facebook ad platform knows everything about you.
Your knowledge about yourself pales in comparison to what Facebook knows.

Facebook Ads obtains a tremendous amount of information about who you are and what you’ve done. It uses that information to hunt you down and show you an ad it thinks you’ll click. Just like Skynet (except without the whole “wanting to kill you” objective). Just take a look Facebook’s Data Use Policy to see what’s being tracked:

First, every Page you Like, post you click, photo you share, and every other action is tracked by Facebook. Did you just take 37 seconds to stare at that photo of your ex-girlfriend on vacation in Panama City? Facebook knows.

We collect…  the location of a photo…  the types of content you view or engage with or the frequency and duration of your activities.

Secondly, Facebook collects data from you devices, learning where your are, what type of phone you use, and EVEN IF YOUR PHONE IS LOW ON BATTERIES.

We collect information from… [the] devices where you… access our Services… [such as] operating system, hardware version, device settings, file and software names and types, battery and signal strength, and device identifiers… Device locations… the name of your mobile operator or ISP, browser type, language and time zone, mobile phone number and IP address.

Any site that uses Facebook’s Like, Share, or login platform also provides data back to Facebook:

We collect information [from] third-party websites and apps… about the websites and apps you visit… as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.

Finally, Facebook enlists the help of other Terminators 3rd party data providers:

We receive information about you and your activities… such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them.

Facebook Is Constantly Testing New Prototypes

The Facebook ad platform is constantly evolving.
What started off as a simple ad product, Facebook now offers more than a dozen campaign objectives. Fortunately, none of them have red eyes or a mimetic polyalloy frame.

When Facebook’s ad product first rolled out, it was a “basic model” that only delivered ad placements on the right hand side of the desktop News Feed. Almost like the “rudimentary” T-100. But fast forward a few years, and things have gotten way more sophisticated. Placements now extend to both Desktop and Mobile News Feeds, within Instant Articles, across Facebook’s Audience Network, and even to Instagram.

Not only that, but the types of ad units has proliferated as well, with images, videos, carousels, canvas ads, and plenty of other variations. Evolution indeed.

Facebook Ads Are Occasionally Prone To Glitches

Terminators and the Facebook ad platform are error prone.
Neither the most advanced Terminators nor Facebook ad products are error-free.

Even the most sophisticated machines are prone to glitches. Like the time my team tried to set up Facebook’s new “Reach & Frequency” delivery tool and and were told that we needed to come up with a budget that was both greater than $761.77 and less than $761.77. Oh, and Facebook’s support team told us that it would take “about 2 months” to fix the issue.

Just like that time Power Editor didn’t work. Or like that other time Power Editor didn’t work. Which was exactly like that day when Power Editor wouldn’t work at all.

Facebook Fails When It’s Submerged In Molten Steel

Terminator melting
We were completely surprised to learn that Facebook’s ad servers were also non-functional after being submerged in molten steel.

This one surprised us, too. But sure enough, when we placed one of Facebook’s ad servers in a vat of 1600° C steel, it was unable to maintain delivery of our ad campaigns. I guess no ad platform is without its shortcomings. We plan on conducting repeated tests to see if this is issue persists.

Surprise: when we submerged a Facebook ad server in 1600° C steel, it stopped delivering ads. Click To Tweet

Update: after we destroyed 17 additional ad servers, Facebook asked us to discontinue our tests. While sensitivity to extreme heat may be a shortcoming in the current iteration of the Facebook ad platform, expect that issue to be resolved with future prototypes.

Scared? Don’t Be

No doubt that the Facebook ad platform might seem a little frightening. Who wouldn’t be a little intimated by a constantly adapting and evolving system that uses machine learning to target 1.65 billions of people it knows nearly everything about?

The good news is that the Facebook ad platform is really just a tool. As a marketer, it’s up to you to determine how to use it. Advertise responsibly. And if you get frustrated, try putting out your cigar on your monitor.

Cigar put out on Terminator.
Facebook is not amused by your attempts to destroy it.

Facebook Campaign Objectives: Here’s How To Choose

Understanding Facebook campaign objectives is a bit like buying a vehicle: you know that they all basically do the same thing, but picking the wrong one can lead to misery and frustration.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t do much to illustrate the differences between each of objective. Here’s an example. The help text for the “Increase engagement in your app” objective reads, “Use the app engagement objective to increase engagement in your app.” Wow.

To make picking the right Facebook campaign objectives easier (and far more entertaining), I’ve matched each objective with it’s vehicle counterpart. If only buying a real car were this simple.

What’s my marketing objective? I’ll tell you, Facebook… it’s to make sense of this chart.

By the way, to make things even more confusing, Facebook campaign objectives have slightly different names in Ads Manager and Power Editor. The name you see in the headline is what’s visible in Power Editor; the Ads Manager equivalent is listed below.

Page Post Engagement: Top Fuel Dragster

top_fuel_dragster
Like a top fuel dragster, there’s no confusion about what boosting a post does.

Ads Manager name: “Boost post.” Simple. Powerful. Boosting posts does one thing and one thing only – it gets your page posts in front of more people. With only about 10% of your Facebook followers seeing your posts organically (if you’re lucky), boosting your posts is almost a necessity.

While boosting a post is probably the simplest way you can advertise on Facebook, that doesn’t mean it’s a tactic just for beginners. If you already have your audiences defined, boosting your posts right from your page is still a go-to tactic for many marketers.

Page Likes: 1965 VW Bug

vw_bug
No longer practical, but great at getting Likes.

Ads Manager name: “Promote your Page.” I’m not entirely sure why people still pay for Facebook Likes, but if you think that’s the best investment of your marketing budget, Facebook can make that happen for you.

That’s why getting Page Likes is kind of like driving an old-school VW Bug. There’s no real practical reason to do so, but if you want people to simply like what they see, it’s the way to go.

Clicks To Website: 2002 Honda Accord

Honda_Accord
Like the Accord, Click To Website is nothing special, but it will get the job done.

Ads Manager name: “Send people to your website.” Ah the Honda Accord of Facebook campaign objectives. New Facebook marketers, start here. If you really can’t decide what to pick, it’s hard to go wrong with this choice.  You can always upgrade to something fancier later.

And there are even some situations when Clicks To Website is the best choice. Here are a few:

  • You don’t have Facebook’s Conversion Pixel installed yet.
  • There truly isn’t an objective beyond getting people to view a web page.
  • Your budget doesn’t allow you to generate more than five conversions/day (more on that below).

Website Conversions: UPS Truck

UPS_truck
Facebook’s Website Conversions objective and UPS trucks share one thing in common: they both use sorcery to reach unreal levels of efficiency.

Ads Manager name: “Increase conversions on your website.” Here’s the thing about UPS trucks… they rely on sophisticated systems to choose their routes and get packages delivered as efficiently as possible.

The Website Conversions objective works the same way. No one is really sure what Facebook does to “optimize” for conversions, but if you set things up right, it will. That’s what makes Website Conversions the most prized of all the Facebook campaign objectives.

That being said, you can’t just dive right in. You’ll first need to install and configure Facebook’s Conversion Tracking pixel, a task only slightly preferable to filing your taxes. You’ll then need the patience to ride out the storm while Facebook figures things out.

Finally, the Website Conversions objective doesn’t work well if you have a relatively low budget. If your campaign doesn’t consistently get five conversions per day, Facebook will stop running the ads altogether.

Mobile App Installs: 2008 Tesla Roadster

tesla_roadster
Tesla’s Roadster didn’t exist prior to 2007. And you definitely weren’t playing Pokémon Go then, either.

Ads Manager name: “Get installs of your app.” There were two things absent from the early 2000s: any car produced by Tesla and Apple’s App Store. The Mobile App Installs objective wasn’t around either. Though not the newest Facebook campaigns objective, it’s certainly the one most related to modern technology.

If you’re an app developer, you’d be hard pressed not to use this objective in your campaigns. Everyone else can basically ignore it.

Mobile App Engagement: Morgan 3 Wheeler

Morgan 3-Wheeler
The Morgan 3-Wheeler and the Mobile App Engagement objective: for niche audiences only.

Ads Manager name: “Increase engagement in your app.” There’s only one possible reaction you can have when you see a Morgan 3 Wheeler: what the f*%k is that? That’s also what most people say when they come across the Mobile App Engagement objective.

However,  those who do market mobile apps (not me) know exactly what this is for and how to use it. Just like that automotive aficionado for whom a three-wheeled, motorcycle engined, open top, and fire-breathing car is the perfect choice. Just don’t expect your friends to understand.

P.S. In Power Editor, you’ll also find Desktop App Installs and Desktop App Engagement listed among the Facebook campaign objectives. 

Local Awareness: Parade Float

lego_parade_float
A Lego campaign float cannot be improved upon. And like Local Awareness ads, its perfect for getting the attention of people nearby.

Ads Manager name: “Reach near your business.” The Local Awareness objective has some cool tricks up its sleeve. Not only can you target people who are physically near your business at that moment, but you can use some very relevant CTAs to encourage a response. Facebook lets you choose from Like Page, Call Now, Get Directions, Learn More, and Send Message.

This objective can only be used to reach people within 50 miles of your business. Just like a parade float, it may not reach very far, but it’s great at attracting the attention of those nearby.

Event Responses: Postal Service Truck

USPS_truck
Postal Service trucks may be the only vehicles that look slow at any speed. Fortunately, Facebook Event Responses work a bit faster.

Ads manager name: “Raise attendance at your event.” You’re getting ready to host Paducah’s 7th Annual Poodle Show, Shrimp Boil, & Trike Rally. Last year was a huge success, but you really want to blow things out of the water this year. Where do you turn? If it was 1987, it would be the Postal Service. Fortunately it’s not, which means you’re going to use Facebook’s Event Responses campaign objective instead.

To get the most of this objective, you’ll need to create a Facebook Event first. When people click “Join” on your ad, Facebook will automatically add the event to their Facebook calendar. You’ll also be able to measure how many people have responded. Time to buy some shrimp.

Offer Claims: “Free Candy” Van

Free_Candy_Van
Just like this van, Offer Claims ads are short and to the point.

Ads Manager name: “Get people to claim your offer”. You’ve got a discount, some special offer, some promotion that people gotta know about. Then Offer Claims is your ticket. Unlike like that “Free Candy” van you are still skeptical about (“But what if it’s Twix?….”) , Offer Claims ads are legit.

In fact, of all the Facebook campaign objectives, this one allows some of the most creativity in how it’s used. You can create some very specific offers, using the following settings:

  • Offer type: Percent Off, Amount Off, Buy One/Get One, Free Stuff
  • Percent Value
  • Offer Title/Description
  • Expiration Date
  • Discount Code
  • Terms and Conditions

Video Views: Bluth Company Stair Car

bluth_stair_car
Like the Video Views objective, Michael Bluth’s go-to vehicle is sure to get stares wherever it goes. Yes, of course, the pun is intended, sheesh.

Ads Manager name: “Get video views.” If you have a video, you want one thing: for people to sit there and stare at your creation. This leaves no other option but to select the Bluth Company stair car as the representative of the Video Views objective.

The Video Views objective is perfect for retargeting, because Facebook will automatically build an audience of people who have watched some or all your video. And if you want to go completely crazy, Facebook will let you upload videos up to 60 minutes long. That’s 2.72 Arrested Development episodes.

Product Catalog Sales: Food Truck

Just like a food truck, Facebook's Product Catalog Sales objective allows you to show what you're selling and drive sales.
Just like a food truck, Facebook’s Product Catalog Sales objective allows you to show what you’re selling and drive sales. Although at the time of this writing, food trucks still smell better.

Ads Manager name: “Promote a product catalog.” If you’re an ecommerce site, the Product Catalog Sales objective gives you a powerful way to create ads that are far more descriptive than typical formats.

You can even go a step further with something called Dynamic Product Ads. This tool allows you to automatically generate ads from your product catalog, and use Lookalike audiences to find more people who might be interested in a product, and create different calls to action based on previous user behavior.

Dynamic Product Ads are a bit too technical for this article, but Social Media Examiner has a great tutorial on how to use them.

Lead Generation: 1985 Toyota Hilux Pickup Truck

toyota_hilux_pickup_truck
If only you could just drive around town and pick up leads.

Ads Manager name: “Collect leads for your business.” Sometimes you don’t need anything fancy, you just want an email address. Or, a truckload of them. Enter the Lead Generation Facebook campaign objective.

Instead of sending people to your landing page, Facebook users can enter their information directly in the Facebook app. This is the only one of the Facebook campaign objectives that allows you to do this. By default, you’ll collect their name and email address, but Facebook will let you ask up to three additional questions.

The only thing challenging about the Lead Generation objective is that you must set up a Lead Form prior to using this option. For some unnecessarily complex instructions on how to set up Lead Forms, visit this resource from Facebook.

Brand Awareness: 2007 Hummer H2 With Body Wrap

hummer_vehicle_wrap
If you have to do a vehicle wrap, promise me you won’t choose a purple Hummer with chrome wheels.

Ads Manager name: “Increase brand awareness.” Sometimes you just want to let people know who you are. Thankfully, Facebook offers a classier way of promoting your brand besides wrapping a chrome-wheeled Hummer H2 with a gaudy vinyl wrap. It’s called the Brand Awareness objective, and it’s basically just fancy way of saying that Facebook will optimize your ads for impressions.

There’s not a whole lot to do with Brand Awareness objective – define you audience, set your budget, add your creative, and Facebook will show you ad to as many people as it can.

Which Facebook Campaign Objectives Do You Drive?

Have advice on using Facebook campaign objectives? Let’s hear it in the comments below. If you’ve thought of a way to use an objective in an unorthodox way, I’d love to learn about it.

Facebook Relevance Score – Why Marketers Should Love It

If you’re like many marketers, you may not have given the Facebook relevance score much attention.

It might be tempting not to. After all, if your ads are converting and you’re happy with the numbers, then does relevance score really matter? You’d better believe it. Keeping reading to find out why.

Facebook Must Serve Two Masters

Like an aging rock band that must keeping nurturing its fan base if it wants to keep selling $275 concert tickets, Facebook must keep its users happy if it wants to keep them around. And what’s a sure-fire way to turn away people in droves? Other than producing crappy albums, it’s too much advertising. Especially if those ads are seen as unrelated or annoying.

Secondly, Facebook must also serve its dark (but wealthy) overlord: the advertising industry that provides it with over $20 billion of revenue each year. (By the way, I just realized that I’m part of the advertising industry, so does that make me a dark overlord? I sure hope so.) As advertisers, we want as much ad inventory as we can get our hands on.

Does that put advertisers at odds with Facebook users? Maybe not.

The advertising industry provides Facebook with over $20 billion of revenue each year. Click To Tweet

Users And Advertisers Want The Same Thing

On the surface, it might seem that Facebook users want absolutely no ads, while Facebook advertisers want all the ads. But neither statement is really true.

As a Facebook user, you do need to see some advertisements, unless you want to start paying for access. Which you’re not going to, you cheap bastard. And since Facebook stated years ago that its platform will always be free to use, that’s unlikely to be an option anyway.

Now, as an advertiser, do you want your ads to be shown to fewer people? Or pay more than necessary? Of course not. In a perfect world, your ads would be shown at the top of the News Feed, where they’d receive a 100% click-through-rate and a cost per conversion of just pennies. Sure.

With either too many or two few ads, the Facebook ad ecosystem dies.

How Many Facebook Ads Are Users Willing To See? It Depends

If I were in charge of Facebook’s ad platform, a big part of my job would be maximizing Facebook’s sustainable inventory of ads. How many ads is Facebook serving today? It’s easy to find out. If the average cost of advertising on Facebook is $7 CPM, and Facebook generates $20 billion in ad revenue, then they have about 2.8 trillion ad impressions to serve each year. At 1.5 billion users, that’s about 5 ads per person/day.

Let’s pretend that Facebook wanted to increase the number of ads per person/day from 5 to 5.5. Let’s look at a few options to see if any would work:

  • Show more ads. Nope. This would worsen the user experience and may cause people to spend less time on the site. This might actually reduce ad inventory. After all, if people aren’t visiting Facebook in the first place you can’t show them an ad.
  • Change placement to make ads less prominent. Wrong again. Facebook would have to reduce CPM for their ads, as advertisers wouldn’t be willing to pay as much for a less prominent placement.
  • Show ads that are more relevant. Bingo! If you’re only seeing ads that are tailored to your interests, you’d be willing to put up with more of them. And that’s exactly what the Facebook relevance score is for: to encourage advertisers to show ads that are less annoying more valuable to its users.

Facebook Relevance Score Helps Advertisers And Users

Ultimately, the Facebook relevance score helps get advertisers get better results from fewer ads. If your advertisements are being shown to the right audience, you shouldn’t need to generate as many impressions to  get the same result.

And it gives users a better experience by encouraging advertisers to show them ads that relate to their likes and interests.

Ultimately, the Facebook relevance score helps get advertisers get better results from fewer ads. Click To Tweet

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Facebook rewards and punishes advertisers based on the relevance score of their ads. After all, if they were able to increase ad inventory from 5 to 5.5 per user per day (without sacrificing CPM), that could potentially add $2 billion of advertising revenue to Facebook’s pockets each year. Not bad.

That may be part of why, according to a recent report by AdAge, the number of ad impressions Facebook served increased by 29% from 2014 to 2015.

Improving Your Facebook Relevance Score

Hopefully you’re now convinced that you need to pay attention to improving your Facebook relevance score. However, just because you care about hitting a high relevance score doesn’t make it easy. In fact, I’ve often found it pretty tough.

Facebook_relevance_score_bad_ads
If ads could get a negative Facebook relevance score, these probably would.

I’ll cover some tips on improving your relevance score in a future post, but in the meantime, if you’ve cracked the code on consistently getting a high Facebook relevance score, and I’d love to hear how you do it. Leave your advice in the comments below.

 

Facebook Ads Not Working? Fix Them Now With This 14-Step Guide

When I was a kid, there was a sure-fire way of getting Super Mario Bros. to work on NES when the game wouldn’t load: take out the cartridge, blow into the end with all the electronic bits, and retry. Nine times out of ten you’d be back in business. Unfortunately, Facebook ads are often just as finicky. Except that blowing on your computer screen won’t get you very far. That’s why I wrote this guide: to give you a 14-step guide for when your Facebook ads are not working. Because nothing is more frustrating than seeing your Facebook ads not working.

Tip #1: Double Check Everything

The Apollo module might be slightly more complicated than Facebook campaigns.
So many buttons, so many things to go wrong.

Remember when you called your Internet provider because you couldn’t get House of Cards to play on Netflix? And they told you to first check if your cable modem was plugged in? This is that step. Except it’s more like piloting the Apollo space capsule: there are a thousand switches to check, and if you bump the wrong one, bad things happen.

If you’ve made any of the mistakes below, you won’t be the first person:

  • Used the wrong URL for you ad’s target destination
  • Forgot to add a your Facebook tracking pixel to your landing pages
  • Didn’t set the right objective for Facebook to optimize on
  • Left a campaign, ad set, or ad set to “OFF
  • Sent traffic to a landing page you haven’t published
  • Used an expired credit card to pay for your ads
  • Hit a budget limit on our account or a campaign
  • Pre-pay for a full tank of gas at $5.63/gallon when renting your Kia Forte from Hertz

Check these first before diving into the more difficult fixes below.

Tip #2: Pick The Right Objective

Right now, Facebook offers fifteen campaign objectives to choose from. That makes things complicated. Heck, ordering from McDonalds feels like taking a multiple-choice test from a sadistic 3rd-grade teacher, and they only have nine Extra Value Meals to pick from.

Facebook offers no less than 15 ad objectives.
Facebook ad objectives : choose wisely.

If you’re unsure of what objective to pick, Clicks To Website is probably your safest best. When you’ve got the basics figured out, consider moving to Website Conversions. This will allow Facebook to send traffic to people it thinks are most likely to take a certain action on your site. Like downloading your latest ebook, The Beginner’s Guide To McDonald’s Extra Value Meals: What To Choose, How To Eat, And Best Places To Get Sick After Consumption.

One word of caution when using Website Conversions… 

If you aren’t getting at least five conversions a day, Facebook will consider your campaign unsuccessful. Facebook will then stop running your campaign “to keep you from wasting money.” You won’t find this listed anywhere in Facebook’s help articles, but I can confirm this both from personal experience and conversations with Facebook support.

Tip #3: Check Placement (Don’t Use Audience Network)

Facebook ad placement is one of the most important aspects of campaign performance.
Placement matters. A lot.

Facebook offers four ad placements: Desktop News Feed, Mobile News Feed, Desktop Right Hand, and Audience Network (aka the 5th Circle of Hell).

What is this Audience Network? It’s a smorgasbord of ad placements on external sites and within mobile apps. It also includes ads placed within Facebook’s Instant Articles.

The problem with Facebook Audience Network ads is they offer a very poor user experience, since the ad layouts vary greatly. You also are subject to the “fat finger” problem, where users inadvertently click on an ad when navigating on their phone.

The problem with #Facebook Audience Network ads is they offer a very poor user experience. Click To Tweet

You’d think that Facebook would simply show your ads on the best-performing placements, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, when I wasn’t paying attention, I’ve seen Facebook spend nearly all of my budget on Audience Network.

So to be safe, turn off Audience Network placements. Completely.

Outside of Audience Network, your mileage may vary among the other placements. If you see one that’s underperforming, take a look at how your ads are presented. Maybe your creative doesn’t work well in small sizes. Maybe your headlines are too long for mobile. Whatever the case, either turn off an underperforming placement or revise your copy and creative to make sure it presents well in all formats.

Tip #4: Get The Right Audience

The best ad in the world won’t convert if it’s delivered to the wrong audience. And you’d be surprised at how very similar Facebook audiences can perform quite differently.

Try testing different versions of your target audience, to see which works best. Here’s an example of how to create three different audiences:

  • Build your first audience using Facebook Likes and Interests. Try to find things that only people in your audience would have an interest in.
  • Create a based on Facebook’s Behaviors options. Dig deep into the choices Facebook offers. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  • Finally, try a “Lookalike” audience of your existing customers or leads.
Facebook's behaviors tool offers some interesting ways of targeting people.
There are 156 million people interested in computer servers?!

Next, take a look at the audience size relative to your budget. You may have created the “perfect” audience. But if it’s made up of only 35,000 people and your budget is $500/day, you’ll wear out that audience in just a few days.

Tip #5 Check Your Relevance Score

Creating a good user experience is a big focus for Facebook. That means they don’t want ads that are spammy, annoying, or well, irrelevant.

That’s why you need to pay close attention to Facebook’s Relevance Score. A high relevance score of say, and 8 or 9, means you’re doing it right. A low score means your audience and your message are never, ever getting past a first date. 5 or 6 is about middle ground.

Remember that Facebook Relevance Scores can change over time. If you’ve found a winner – great! Just keep an eye on it – if relevance declines, it may be time to shut things off and move on to a new ad.

Tip #6: Don’t Compete Against Yourself

Your Facebook ad campaigns can compete against each other when they target the same audience.
Fighting yourself is so awkward.

Seriously, this is a thing you can actually do with Facebook ads.

It happens when you have more than one campaign targeting the same audience. When that occurs, Facebook gets… well, confused. And when Facebook gets confused, it will either stop delivering your ads or it will charge you more than it should. Either scenario is bad.

Thankfully, Facebook has a Compare Audience Overlap feature. Just select two or more audiences and you can see how distinct they are. As a rule of thumb, anything with more than a 50% overlap is probably going to cause you problems. If the overlap is between 25-50%, you’re still probably OK, as long as the audience size is large enough.

Tip #7: Be Patient

Here’s the real challenge with Facebook ads: they don’t work right away. Here’s an example:

I recently set up a campaign for website conversions. I was willing to pay up to $20 per conversion, a number I’d consistently hit before.

But did my first conversion magically come through once I had spent $20? Nope. How about $50? $75? Keep going. The first conversion didn’t happen until I had spent nearly $100. But a short while later, I got my second, bringing the average cost per conversion down to about $80. A third brought the average down again, to about $60. And so on.

Once I gave Facebook some time to optimize, everything fell in order, and I got plenty conversions well under my target. #epicwin

The lesson: don’t make changes until you’ve given Facebook plenty of time to optimize.

Facebook ads not working? This is what an optimized campaign looks like.
Facebook can take a few days to optimize, but when it does, it works!

Tip #8: Evaluate Your Landing Pages

Sometimes your ads are just fine, but your landing pages are sucking you dry. How do you know? If you answer “No to any questions below, you still need to work on your ads. All “Yes” responses and you can safely move on to your landing pages:

  • Is your Cost Per Click (Link) healthy? Don’t get confused by regular ol’ Cost Per Click, as that includes any click on your ad, not just those that go to your landing page.
  • Is your Click-Through Rate (Link) above 0.5%? That’s just rough target, but if you’re seeing numbers below this, you probably need to make some changes to your ads or your audience.
  • Is Frequency below 5? Frequency is the number of times people have seen your ad. If your audience has seen your ad at least five times already and they still haven’t responded, they’re not about to start now.
  • Is your your Relevance Score a 5 or above? Anything less and Facebook thinks that your ads are not very pertinent to your audience.
  • Do you have enough data? Don’t assume thing aren’t working if you only have a few clicks or a few hundred impressions.

However, if you are getting clicks to your landing pages at a decent cost (aren’t you proud of yourself?), then check out Unbounce’s The Most Entertaining Guide To Landing Page OptimizationYou’re welcome.

Tip #9: Understand Who You’re Talking To

If you don’t know what’s important to your audience, good luck getting them to click anything. Here’s the good news: if you aren’t sure which of your product’s benefits will resonate, you can test. Heres how:

  1. Start by creating a persona of the person you’re trying to target (let’s call him Greg). Click here for a handy resource on creating personas.
  2. With this vivid picture of Greg in mind, identify 5-6 benefits your product can provide that will help him. Does he want to save money? Sleep better? Collect every Star Wars action figure ever produced?
  3. Create an ad for each benefit, using unique copy and creative.
  4. Test all of these ads together – the winner should tell you what benefit resonates best with Greg.
  5. To optimize further, continue making new variations centered around that winning benefit.

Tip #10: Say Exactly What You Want To Communicate

This Facebook ad from Nature box is exactly what copy should look like.
There is no confusion about what this Nature Box ad offers.

Copy is one of those things that everyone can write, but few can write well. Your word choice can make a tremendous difference in how people respond to your ad. Here are three questions to evaluate the quality of your copy:

  1. Is it clear? Choose clarity over cleverness, and succinctness over length.
  2. Are you triggering the right emotions? Whether you want the reader to feel curious, excited, anxious, or whatever else, pick words that match that emotion.
  3. Does the reader know what to expect next? Make sure your copy clearly states what the reader should do (click, download, etc). and what she can expect once she takes that action.

If you’re stuck, here’s a great resource from copyblogger.com on writing great copy.

Tip #11: Run The Right Number of Ads

Did you just stay up all night making 67 variations of your ads to test? Hold on there, hombre. Running all those ads at once won’t help you.

Like a nervous first-year high school basketball coach picking his starting lineup from players he knows nothing about, Facebook can’t optimize your ads until it knows which of them are the best performers. 

Facebook can't optimize your ads until it knows which of them are the best performers. Click To Tweet

And if you have too many ads, it will take Facebook a long time to figure that out. Or worse, Facebook will pick a “winner” before it’s given all your ads a fair shot, leaving a potentially great ad stuck in the dust bin.

You run into a different, but equally bad, problem with two few ads.

Let’s say that for every 100 ads you create, 30 are solid, and 70 are duds. Nothing wrong with that. But if you only test a few ads, you’re not giving yourself a good chance of finding a solid performer.

To avoid both problems, shoot for 5-6 ads within each ad set.

Tip #12: Get (The Right) Creative

If Bob Ross made Facebook ads, they'd be unstoppable.
If Bob Ross made Facebook ads, they’d be unstoppable.

Developing the right creative is often the scariest part for many marketers. It’s the part where we have to rely on an actual artist to develop art, something most of us can only pretend to know much about. That, or rely on some crummy stock photography. Not even your mom would be proud of you then.

Here’s the good news: developing creative isn’t that much different than developing copy. Identify who you’re targeting, the message you’re trying to convey, and any emotions you want to trigger. Share these with your designer. Ask him to copy up a few concepts to see if you’re both speaking the same language. If one of those looks good, create 3-5 final variations that you can test.

Don’t have a designer on hand or the budget for a freelancer? Try a free tool like Canva or use a service like Fiverr to hire one for a little as five dollars. Exchange rates are your friend when there are skilled Photoshop ninjas in Romania. Just make sure you specific exactly what you want designed.

Tip #13: Try Rebooting

Resetting your Facebook ad campaigns isn't fun but it's sometimes necessary.
More things in life could use a reset button.

Sometimes Facebook just needs a good kick in the pants. With a steel-toed boot. If you’ve made a bunch of changes to your campaign and nothing seems to be working, then clone your campaign, burn the old one to the ground, and start over.

If this sounds stupid, it’s be because it is. Rebooting your campaigns should not be a viable solution to getting your ads to perform, but it is. It’s as though Facebook’s ad delivery algorithm sometimes turns into a bipolar robot who huffs glue when you’re not looking. Once brain damage sets in, there’s no turning back. The only way to fix things is to toss your campaign in the incinerator and begin anew.

Sometimes Facebook just needs a good kick in the pants. Click To Tweet

I hate trying this technique because it’s so blunt and unscientific, but sometimes it’s exactly what needs to be done.

Tip #14: Be Human

This is the least concrete but most important concept. Ads that are are pushy, gimmicky, or disrespectful won’t get results. Even if they do, do you really want to be that type of marketer?

If you aren’t sure how your ads will be perceived, show them to a friend, your mom, your boyfriend… anyone who’s a reasonable human being. Ask them how the ads make them feel. For bonus points: tell your friend that the ads were created by someone else. You’ll get much more objective feedback.

If your ads consistently get negative feedback from others, keep working at it. No one got great overnight!

Facebook Ads Not Working? All You Really Need To Know Are These 5 Points

Hopefully points above give you some new ways of getting your Facebook ads working again. But if it all seems like to much, remember that there are only five things you need to be successful with Facebook ads:

  1. Understand the mechanics of the ad platform
  2. Offer something of value
  3. Respect the user
  4. Have the persistence to keep going until you get things right
  5. Oh, and read this article when you need a reminder.

Have other advice for getting your Facebook ads to perform? Share what you’ve learned in the comments!