3 Ways to Think Like a Successful Advertiser

And keep growth in mind

In my role at Facebook, I’m in daily discussions with leaders at large multinational organizations. These global brands are relentlessly focused on one key thing: growth. When I meet with them, the tone of the meeting is often set by the most senior person, saying, “Don’t tell us what we want to hear; tell us what we need to know.” They are impatient for progress. Typically, the questions asked are: How can we create a competitive advantage? Who can we learn from? Who’s doing it best creatively?

While this may not be the most popular answer, I’ve seen a common factor emerge to define the most successful advertisers. It’s those most focused on and committed to their own success. They see their performance as a dynamic relentless quest for improvement.

Here are three of the top ways they create this success:

New consumer behaviors are new opportunities for advantage

An example of a new behavior that has taken off like a rocket are Stories as a form of communication. Across our surfaces, there are over a billion Stories shared each day even though the format is less than two years old.

From an advertiser perspective, the typical approach to testing new platforms is to first determine if the new advertising channel works as well as existing media choices. The burden is on the new surface to prove itself worthy to rub shoulders with the proven. But with any new medium and surface, first tries at building creative, optimizing audience and delivery are unlikely to be optimal. Poor ensuing results can instantly label a surface as a poor choice for investment.

And while many advertisers pause progress until the data is definitive, the most successful marketers instead take this time to practice.

To these leaders, a new surface like Stories is a gold rush opportunity to prove their brand’s worth in the placement, knowing that first attempts at creative will be suboptimal. Their approach is not to test it once or twice to determine if it drove sales, but to instead test it until it drives sales.

Advertising in Facebook’s news feed is less than eight years old. Many marketers who grasped the opportunity for first-mover advantage in the news feed launched and built their entire business on the platform. The lesson is that when new surfaces present and scale, you want to be the first one practicing.

While this may not be the most popular answer, I’ve seen a common factor emerge to define the most successful advertisers. It’s those most focused on and committed to their own success.

Maximize your upside

Facebook’s advertising solutions remind me of the Swiss Champ, the largest and most diverse Swiss Army knife, with 33 functions and countless possibilities. Yet many brands and agencies, in search of simplification, find it easier to position Facebook as playing just a singular role in its mix. This desire for simplification mostly comes in the form of comparisons to familiar media. For example, a brand may define Facebook as their digital billboard strategy.

Since the average impression is generally viewed quicker than forced view impressions, one could conclude that most people are essentially driving past ads in news feed like they would with ads on the highway. Billboards serve an excellent purpose—but you cannot hold a billboard’s advertising in your hand, scroll through dynamically delivered choices, message the brand directly or buy the brand instantly with a click.

The most successful marketers don’t limit their upside. They want to learn how it works, which functions perform which jobs and then design advertising and experience accordingly. Those who are mastering a new platform don’t self-limit their upside by designating that the system play a role only comparable to the familiar. They maximize their upside, seizing all the opportunities available.  

Design for mobile, don’t optimize for it

While the vast majority of brands and agencies have made significant strides creating experiences and advertising for mobile devices, at quarterly reviews, the summary is often the same: “We’ve made progress to be proud of, but we’ve got an awful long way to go.”

When we experience desktop or TV thinking and it’s cut and pasted into mobile, we feel the dissonance instantly. The best advertising for mobile is crafted for mobile, not optimized for it, resized for reformatted from TV to check the mobile box.

Asking the most successful marketers about whether their creative is built for mobile is like asking whether they like breathing. They see it as an imperative, not an option.

It’s 2019, 12 years after the launch of the first iPhone. The average U.S. adult spends almost three hours a day on their phone, and creativity remains the No. 1 driver of effectiveness in all mediums. Yet, astonishingly, designing and building for mobile-first remains the single biggest opportunity to create a competitive advantage.

Ambitious clients and agencies want and demand more. The best talent wants to engage. The constraints of the medium are embraced. Speed, choice and relevance are primary.

The most successful advertisers focus on playing offense on mobile surfaces. They’re without a handbook with all the answers and are instead on a dynamic journey. But they know this: to meaningfully connect with audiences and grow, they have no choice but to keep pace with consumer behavior in this new, complex landscape and design for our mobile reality.

What is holding you back? Just how committed are you to your success?