What makes a creative strategy work?

According to Mirella Crespi (Founder, Creative Milkshake), one of the most important skills affiliates can have today is knowing how to read ad performance results and formulate a hypothesis for what to do next. She shared the unique metrics her team uses to analyze creative assets and the tactics they employ to improve results.

Creative Analysis Metrics 🧐

In addition to hard KPIs like CPA and ROAS that tell you about the overall health of your campaign, you’ll need to track specific metrics to determine how your creative assets are performing. Mirella provides a high-level view of those metrics here:

Creative analysis metrics

Tracking metrics like thumbnail retention, thumb stop ratio, hold rate, average watch time, and drop-offs gives you a more granular look at how your ad creatives are performing. What’s more, each metric can also indicate what tactics you should try to improve performance in future iterations.

Let’s look at a few specifics:

1️⃣ Low Thumbnail Retention and Thumb Stop Rates 

These two metrics are designed to determine whether or not your ad is making users stop scrolling. If users don’t stop scrolling, they aren’t not going to watch, and if they aren’t going to watch, they aren’t going to click and they aren’t going to buy.

That said, thumbnail retention and thumb stop ratio aren’t readily available metrics in Meta. Mirella uses a tool called Motion to track one-second views divided by total impressions. This metric matters because it measures how many people who were served your ad actually stopped and watched that first second.

If your ad’s thumbnail retention is less than 90%, that’s a strong indication that your hook isn’t working. Analyze your ad’s first-second frame by frame to ensure it’s extremely engaging, and test variations that will target specific audiences.

Hook testing

Similarly, the thumb stop ratio formula divides three-second views by impressions to measure how many people watched the first three seconds of a video. If that metric is below 30%, do another frame-by-frame analysis of the first three seconds to see how you can make those moments more engaging.

Tactics to overcome low thumbnail retention and thumb stop rates typically include new visuals, copy, and audio, as well as split testing thumbnails.

2️⃣ Low Hold Rate

Hold rate, average watch time, and dropoff rates are important on Meta channels because the algorithm rewards you for keeping people in the app longer and providing an engaging user experience. In Mirella’s experience, a strong hold rate and high average watch times in a campaign correlate strongly with performance results.

Hold rate measures how many people who saw your ad watched through the ThruPlay mark. An ad’s hold rate should be above 25%, and if it’s not, try reordering your clips and adding new shots after three seconds. Shortening the ad or changing its editing flow can also have a positive impact on this metric.

3️⃣ Low Click-Through Rate or Conversion Rate

Now that you have a better understanding of how the creative assets are performing, you can look at benchmarks like click-through rate, conversion rate, and ROAS with new eyes.

When click-through rates are low but the creative assets are performing well, that’s often an indicator to ‘intensify’ your call-to-action. Iterations here can include adding urgency through a time-sensitive deal or scarcity, agitating pain points, or highlighting social proof.

Similarly, a low conversion rate at the end of a high-performing ad could indicate a lack of congruency between the ad and the landing page. In these cases, testing variations of the landing page that the ad leads to could be the final piece of a winning puzzle.

Iterating on Winners 🏆

When you find a winning ad, you can take additional steps to expand your reach and gather more data. For example, Mirella recommends making shorter and longer versions of winning ads to get those ads served into different placements. You can also use that data to find out if the audience needs more or less information to convert.

Winning ads also give you a good foundation to test variations on music, special effects, voiceover, captions, and other features unique to video ads like Reels. These high-performing Meta ads can also be repurposed on video-forward platforms like TikTok – especially if you rework them so that they appear native to those channels.