Are your best video ads failing to launch because of a bad thumbnail?

In 2022, Inspire Brands Group Senior Media Buyer Marin Ištvanić discovered the impact that thumbnail testing could have on his Facebook video ads.

And in a recent speech at Affiliate World Asia, he revealed a few secrets that marketers can use to turn this obstacle into an opportunity.

Why Thumbnail Testing?

Marin’s journey down the thumbnail rabbit hole started with a simple video ads test on Facebook. While running some dynamic creative tests, he noticed that one of his ads was receiving 90% of the ad spend and getting better results.

After a bit more digging, he noticed that the winning variations had thumbnails with logos or close-up product pictures.

Next, Marin brought the issue to his Facebook reps. They said that Facebook’s algorithm isn’t optimized to analyze videos per se, but that it does a decent job of recognizing what’s in a static image, which is why the ads with content-rich thumbnails performed better.

Even though the auto-play function only shows the thumbnail for a moment, that’s enough for the algorithm to recognize the content and use it for more effective targeting.

Effective Thumbnail Styles

After testing a variety of thumbnails over time, Marin found three proven performers:

  1. Close-ups of faces, especially when they look like your target audience or buyer persona
  2. Close-up patterns also performed well – even better than product images
  3. Naming pain points with an “X” sign in the thumbnail also seemed to cue the algorithm and incite better performance.


Testing video ads with at least two thumbnail variations, especially in new campaigns, can provide an algorithm-driven boost that helps you reach more prospects and convert more effectively – even if that audience doesn’t realize they even saw the thumbnail.

Testing Variants & Picking Winners

Marin recommends testing different thumbnails in Facebook Ads video campaigns in addition to other components like headlines and hooks. He also suggests testing these variations without social proof, because the Facebook algorithm tends to divert away budget to ads with that element.

Marin has been finding winners consistently by testing different versions of proven concepts in dynamic creative campaigns. These campaigns use about 12 different combinations (e.g. two thumbnails, three headlines, and two different video lengths) to gather statistically significant data.

When you find a winning variation, you can capture the post ID, incorporate social proof, and run it as a new video ad with a high likelihood of success.


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