Native versus Non-Native Visual Creative – Which Works Best for Facebook Ads?

visual creative

When I worked at the ad agency we had a dedicated in-house team of graphic designers. One day, the Head of Creative asked each designer an interesting question. Here’s what he asked:

“Do you love advertising? Or do you want to make art and get paid for it?! 

Across the board, the designers’ answers were telling. Without exception, every single designer said they were artists first and advertisers last. In fact, most of them were only working at the agency to bank-roll their artistic passion projects.

Now I mean no disrespect when I say this, but this kind of dedication to artistic expression probably explains why most Facebook visual creative fails to blow the lights out from a conversion perspective.

It’s also why I always look for marketing-focused graphic designers to partner on ad projects. What do I mean by that? Well, when I work on Facebook Ad visual creative, I want the visual creative to tie into the hook or sales message in my ad copy.

This is something art-centric designers don’t often take into consideration.

Now, at the simplest level there are two styles of visual creative you can harness in your Facebook ads – Native style or Non-Native style.

Both have their place, and both can work. But it’s important to know how to use each style of ad creative, so you have the best chance of running high-converting ads

What is Native-Style Ad Creative?

Native-style ad creative is any kind of image or video that could be mistaken for organic content a non-business owner might share in the newsfeed.

The idea behind native-style ad creative is to conceal your sales message within the photos… memes…graphics…news stories or videos shared between Facebook Friends.

It means your ad creative should blend in to stand out – by NOT looking like an ad.

What Does Native Creative Look Like?

As I just mentioned, Native Creative should blend in with the posts that consumers are used to seeing and sharing in the newsfeed. That’s not to say they should blend in so much they’ll be ignored.

But they mustn’t shout, “Hey you, I’m an ad!” (unless you follow the Non-Native Creative advice I’m about to share in a minute).

Here are some Native Styles you can try in your Facebook Ads:

  1. The selfie or face-to-camera photograph – People love looking at photos of other humans’ faces (or dogs or cats or llamas etc).

We’re wired that way. In fact, research using eye-tracking software found that website visitors are most drawn to images of faces when asked to look at a web page.

The same is true on Facebook. And I’d hazard a guess that our love of faces is even more intense on Facebook due to the nature of the platform. Think about it, Facebook is a social platform. Users go there to see what their friends, family and peers are up to.

Which is why simple selfies or face-to-camera photos work so well in Facebook ads. Bonus points if your photo shows a person making direct eye contact – or doing something unusual or story-worthy.

But be warned! You should avoid using stock photos where possible. Either use your own face or the face of real customers (if you can get them).

Stock photos scream, “I’m an ad” which is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve with our Native Creative.

visual creative

This image actually creeps me out. But I remember it stopping me in my tracks. Plus I remember reading the equally in-your-face ad copy and thinking it would definitely resonate with the right audience. 

It also generated a ton of engagement and social proof, which is always a win on Facebook! 

visual creative

You should also aim for the same face-to-camera style for video creative. Whether it’s you speaking to the camera – or a customer speaking to the camera…the key is to look natural! 

2. The Meme – I’ve noticed a lot more businesses running ads with meme-style graphics in recent months. It’s not surprising, given how popular memes are as a vehicle to express emotions and opinions on social media. 

Meme-style graphics blend in really well with native content – and can also be a super effective way to communicate:

  • Pain points
  • Benefits
  • Before and after transformations
  • Unique mechanisms
  • Competitor de-positioning  

Problem-focused memes:

visual creative

The great thing about expressing a pain point through memes is that they allow you to express the problem in a light-hearted, often humorous way. This helps satisfy the Facebook Gods who want to keep the newsfeed happy like Disneyland.

You’re also more likely to generate positive engagement and shares because people love to laugh – instead of having their wounds poked by insensitive ads. 

Before and After Transformation Meme

visual creative

3. The News Story – This Native Style has been a little overdone in the last few months, but it might be worth trying it just to see if it still works. 

visual creative

Notice how this image looks like a newspaper article. It looks like an article Facebook might organically show you as ‘Suggested Content’. Or it looks like an article one of your friends might share to their profile.

The first time I saw this type of ad image, it definitely make me do a double take because it looked so much like actual Breaking News.   

Now that you’ve seen what Native Creative looks like, let’s take a look at some Non-Native Creative styles.

What is Non-Native Creative?

Non-Native Creative is any visual creative which looks different from the content which civilian users (i.e. not business owners!) post and consume in the newsfeed. 

In effect, Non-Native Creative is anything that looks like it’s probably an ad. So, unlike Native Creative it doesn’t disguise itself in the newsfeed and ‘trick’ scrollers into paying attention. Non-Native creative is unashamedly an ad-tastic. 

Which is why you need to work that little bit harder when running ads with Non-Native Creative. Think about it this way…

If your ad looks like an ad, your target audience will – by default – try to ignore you. That’s because nobody wants to be sold to. Especially when people are innocently scrolling on social media. 

So how do you make Non-Native Creative work for your business? 

The Secret to Successful Non-Native

Ad Creative

When faced with an audience that wants to ignore you (which is basically everyone on Facebook) you need to give people a reason to care about your ad. And so, your Non-Native Creative needs to achieve one of these goals:

  • Entertain
  • Educate
  • Inspire 
  • Communicate a pain point
  • Show a desirable transformation
  • De-position the competition
  • Demonstrate the before and after 
  • Showcase a unique mechanism

But here’s the kicker. When you craft visual creative that satisfies these goals – it has to be done in a way that appeals to your audience.

How to Appeal to Your Audience

Through Visual Creative

  1. Striking colours – If something looks bright, fun and attractive we’re more likely to stop and pay attention. Of course the message must also be appealing but colour can go a long way to attracting initial attention. The image below does a great job of harnessing Facebook’s Candyland appeal with its saccharine colour scheme.

2. Clever visual story-telling – I love this image because it uses a clever Lego analogy to illustrate a transformation from messy, disorganised and meaningless data…to data explained through story.

3. Humour – When I first saw this image in the newsfeed I did a snort laugh. Of course, I do have a juvenile sense of humour but how much more fun and engaging is it to communicate a problem with a silly image like this, than a boring photo of a rubbish-looking website?

4. Emotional Appeal – This image isn’t from a Facebook Ad but I love it because of the way it triggers an immediate emotional response. You can feel the child’s emotion and instantly see the message communicated in the image. 

visual creative

5. Provide Education Value – The graphic before is great for two reasons. First, it looks like it was drawn by a child so it instantly disarms the viewer who thinks it looks cute. Second, it sums up the educational message which is in the ad copy. It’s extremely shareable and has educational value for your prospect. 

You now know what you should do when it comes to crafting high-converting visual creative on Facebook. But I couldn’t leave you without showing you what you absolutely should NOT do! 

The images you’ll see below contain ad creative that screams, “I’m an ad – please ignore me!” at the same time as failing to deliver any kind of value to your audience. 

I hate to call these guys out because:

  1. a) they’re an awesome company
  2. b) my son is in the second image and he looks fab

But this carousel is so obviously an ad, that it’s very easy to scroll past. Sorry guys!

This next ad is wrong on every level. The copy is so weak it fainted at the sight of an orange. I mean, “achieve your goals” has to be the most vague benefit I’ve ever heard. Plus the image. Oh the image! 

  • Company logo front and centre (hint: nobody cares about who Google is, even if you’re a tech giant)
  • Cheesy stock photo you’ve probably seen at least 1,000 times before 
  • Offer right on the image which screams ‘I’m an ad’

But hey, it’s Google so I imagine they’re not too fussed about their CPAs.

And finally…

This ‘me, me, me’ centric image from Hubspot is so boring I’m dying just looking at it. 

What’s interesting is how quickly I found these 3 boring ad creatives. In fact, they were the first 3 ads I came across when I opened up Facebook.

What’s not easy is finding great graphics which satisfy ANY of the requirements I mention at the start of this blog. That tells me almost every ad I come across will be terrible. 

Which is good news for you.

It means you have very little competition when it comes to thinking through your creative a little more deeply, and running ads that grab attention and generate sales. 

Want the secret to cranking out profitable Facebook Ad Copy in minutes

…even if you’ve never written a Facebook ad before?

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