New Year, New You, New Ads: Actionable Tips to Make Your Advertising Stand Out in 2021

Editor’s Note: This article is a guest contribution from Fran Boyd, art director at Underwaterpistol, a Shopify Plus agency that’s helping to design, build, and grow best-in-class eCommerce brands.

Advertisements used to be a rarity that only some brands could afford as part of their marketing budget.

These days, advertising is everywhere and is no longer just a challenge in terms of grabbing people’s attention. An excellent ad campaign should boost brand engagement and provide you with audience insights, too.

But, how do you deliver ads that truly convert and stand out in a competitive space? It’s time to dust off your acquisition tactics for 2021 and follow these tips

For the beginner: The psychology behind creative advertising

The first goal of any ad campaign is to capture people’s attention. As human beings, our brains are still wired to identify threats and opportunities in our environment—including those on the web. 

This reflex is something you can utilise when beginning to experiment with traffic-driving ad creatives, from scroll-stopping images to memorable video content.

1 | Make every frame count

With just a few seconds to lock people into video ads, you’ve got to make every frame count. The average ad on Facebook is viewed for 2.5 seconds on desktop. On mobile, that number drops to 1.7 seconds. 

Open with a visual “bang”, then hold their attention by telling a compelling story, offering a great bundle price, or presenting your products to your target audience by one of their favourite influencers.

2 | Prioritise production quality

Another must-have element of ad creative is production quality. Ensure your ad is filmed, photographed, or animated (as well as edited) in a way that makes your product stand out—loud and clear. 

Poorly-produced assets will have a direct impact on brand equity, so it’s worth investing in higher quality creative that will ultimately drive higher conversion rates.

3 | Establish and follow brand guidelines

If you’re a growing ecommerce store, it’s important for customers to start recognising your brand. This can be done by establishing brand guidelines early on in terms of fonts, colours, and a distinguishable logotype.

Soon you’ll have a signature style that keeps your ad campaigns looking consistent. Potential customers may then memorise visual details, even if they don’t interact with your ad at the first opportunity.

Larger retailers with strong brand guidelines should also consider what message each ad is communicating—perhaps even making their ads play a part in an even larger “brand story” or integrated marketing campaign.

Intermediate advice: How to make your products stand out

Let’s look at inspiration from the giants of the advertising industry and see what you can learn from their clever marketing strategies. 

Here are some example tactics your brand may want to imitate in 2021:

1 | Utilise UGC

An example of a company with ad-creative swagger is social media platform TikTok

With the tagline ‘It Starts on TikTok’, they’ve created a show-stopping 30-second ad that leverages user-generated content (UGC) from more than 30 different content creators. 

Acting as a “highlight reel” for the platform, the campaign features celebrities and grandparents alike—helping attract a wide user-base to their platform. 

Not only does the campaign spark both inspiration and fear of missing out (FOMO) in potential future users, but it also highlights the power of UGC to generate trust and understanding of a product’s value proposition. 

Ecommerce brands can take a page out of TikTok’s book by asking customers to submit post-purchase video reviews or run a photo competition on their social media channels. 

The best submissions can then be used in advertising campaigns further down the line (as long as you’ve asked for appropriate consent).

Image Source: TikTok

2 | Rev up that post-purchase vibe

Sometimes all you need to build brand love and get people to notice you is a catchy song and a furry friend like with this woolly coated dog from The AA’s advertisement

The clever twist to this ad strategy is the recognisable feeling conveyed by this protagonist pupper and the way it plays on the heartstrings of the target audience. 

The actionable tip for retail brands is to identify the “golden moment” a customer may experience when they get their paws on your product and to convey that feeling in your advertising.

Image source: The AA on Youtube

3 | Make an eye-popping appearance 

If your brand is looking to stand out, consider how you can appear in places where people least expect it. This is something that Ciaté London did brilliantly in pandemic-ridden 2020. 

By projecting a huge smiley face onto the Houses of Parliament in London, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, it made people look up and smile at a challenging time. What’s more, the London-based smiley was displayed opposite St Thomas’s hospital, just to spread that cheer in the right place.

This tour de force campaign promoted the launch of their new makeup line and was debuted on World Emoji Day. 👏

Image source: @ciatelondon on Instagram

4 | Reference customer pain points and location

Nike’s sassy “Nothing beats a Londoner” campaign specifically targeted sports enthusiasts living in London, highlighting the background of different athletes and how they’ve engaged in sports within the cityscape. 

Backed by a great cast, their use of local and relatable stories is a great way to engage with their target audience.

The campaign was eventually pulled from Nike’s YouTube channel due to a legal challenge over the use of “LNDR” (an abbreviation challenged by a number of sources, including activewear brand LNDR). 

Bonus learning: Always research your campaign names, people.

Image source: SportsOnScreen on YouTube


For the ad-vanced: Dive into the future of creative advertising

Looking to the future, there are plenty of opportunities for ecommerce brands to stand out and stay ahead of the game. All it takes is some innovative thinking and a willingness to experiment.

1 | Use CGI to optimise campaign costs

The number of ads created using computer-generated imagery (CGI) and animation has increased in recent years—particularly in the beauty industry, where creative product visuals are, in some places, replacing more elaborate photo shoots.

It’s not only an eye-catching way of presenting products, but it allows for flexibility when altering small details, too.

This type of production process can also prove more cost-effective than traditional campaign shoots, as you may save yourself time organising everything from schedules of actors and staff to finding the right film set. And with COVID-19 restrictions making it difficult for some crews to meet up, CGI product-focused projects can prove a lot smoother to organise.

Additionally, new product lines aren’t always ready on the day of your planned shoot, but that’s nothing a good 3D modeler can’t help you get around. And while we’re on the topic, animating a non-existing product line can also help you test audience interest and attract investment before you start actual production. 

2 | Innovate through your platforms’ capabilities

Depending on what platforms you’ve got at your disposal for ecommerce and social media, it’s worth keeping up to date with the newest features. For example, many platforms are experimenting with the use of augmented reality (AR) to increase sales. 

If your ecommerce store is running on Shopify, for example, the platform now supports 3D models on product pages.

Such innovations mean tech-savvy brands are offering online services that “melt together” digital and reality, making it possible to try on everything from lipstick colours to shoes or glasses—all via one’s phone or laptop.

You can see other good use cases of this technology with furniture and home decor brands, as AR allows for the “projection” of products in a home before you buy them, proving useful for wallpapers, artwork, and more. 

Image source: Shopify

Final thoughts: Where many brands go wrong with their ad creative

Since you’ve already started learning from the likes of Nike above, there are a few final lessons. Let’s review the most common mistakes brands make when advertising:

First, a common misconception about ad creative is that you have to follow some “big” idea’. Don’t be too hard on yourself and your creativity—a lot of ads are compartmentalized from other ideas; we all have to be quicker, more agile, and authentic. 

Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot, but it’s by no means necessary for success. You won’t always need a storyline backing you up—people are often pleased with great visuals.

Our final piece of advice is to work with people who can make sure your ads stand out so that the right people are targeted at the right time — with the right message!

Interested in more digital marketing advice? Discover the 3 elements you should optimize before you put a cent towards paid advertising.

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