8 best ways to get ad creatives (2022)
Great ad creatives are important! One landmark Nielsen study from 2017 found that strong creative was the biggest driver of in-market advertising success, especially on digital channels. Here and now in 2022, Meta believes creative is more important than ever.
When creative is strong, it’s the overwhelming driver of in-market success: up to 80% for traditional TV and 89% for digital advertising. Conversely, when creative is weak, the sales lift is weak across TV and digital, and other media factors are the main drivers.
But if you're an e-commerce business and need ad creatives, where do you start? Fiverr has over 2,000 freelancers offering social media marketing services... how do you find a good one? And the average cost to hire a full time Creative human is almost $100,000 a year according to Salary.com. To make this all even more difficult, you need ad creatives today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And you need as many creatives as possible so you can test and learn what works for you. Getting ad creatives for your business can quickly become an overwhelming task.
What are the different ways of getting ad creatives?
To make it easier, we've listed 8 ways you as an ecommerce founder or marketer can get great ad creatives.
In this post, we'll provide a little more information on each of them so you can make an informed decision based on your use case.
- Creative AI platforms like Pencil
- Template editors like Canva
- Creative freelancers on sites like Fiverr
- UGC platforms like Billo
- "Unlimited design" service providers like Design Pickle
- Creator management platforms like Grin
- Pro creative agencies like Creative Milkshake
- "Until it works" studios like TubeScience
- Bonus! Hiring an in-house creative team
How to choose where to get your ad creative?
Where you ultimately decide to get your ad creatives from will depend on the specific needs of your business.
In general we've seen that businesses tend to be motivated by one of the following three criteria when it comes to ad creative - they're looking to lower cost/effort, to achieve greater creative scale or to improve ad performance. Sometimes it's all three! But there are lots of hidden variables in any creative approach that can make or break it as a sustainable way for you to obtain ad creatives.
To that end, we've assembled 10 criteria that might influence your decision on how best to obtain ad creative for your business.
- Performance. Does the creative perform well on metrics like CTR, CPA or ROAS?
- Quality. Is the creative high enough production value? Does it quite simply look good?
- Effort. How much effort do you need to put in to get the ad creative? Lots of briefing/editing/revisions, or does it just nail it?
- Scale. How much creative can you get, either for testing, localization or versioning?
- Risk. What are the chances that undertaking a creative project never gets you quite what you need?
- Time. How long does it take for you to get the ad creative?
- Cost. How much does it cost - not just monthly but per piece of creative?
- Editing. Are you able to make fine changes so it's just how you like it?
- Brand. How closely does the creative stick to you brand?
- Pre-requisites. How much do you have to provide to receive back great ad creative?
The 8 best ways to get ad creative
There are quite a few different ways to get ad creative on the market, targeted at different business needs. We've researched the landscape and consolidated the information to surface the best options.
We've even ranked each way of getting creative according to the 10 criteria we shared before:
⭐⭐⭐ - among the best! If this criteria is important for you, try this.
⭐⭐ - this way of getting ad creative is generally OK
⭐ - not the best. If this criteria is important for you, try something else!
1. Creative AI platforms like Pencil
See also: Omneky or Magisto or Adobe Creative Cloud Express
AI ad platforms are a new way of obtaining ad creative. You simply connect your store and ad account, confirm your branding and assets, and click "generate". These platforms then automatically generate unlimited ad creatives predicted to work well for you. In addition to these kinds of automated services, some will also provide access to expert humans who can bridge the gap in terms of your creative or performance requirements.
- Performance. ⭐⭐⭐ AI platforms can "close the loop" and turn your data directly into new creatives in a way that's hard for humans
- Quality. ⭐⭐ AI platforms can't achieve the level of craft, detail or bespoke-ness that humans can. They're built for speed and scale
- Effort. ⭐⭐⭐ Once set up, AI platforms can generate new ad creative totally automatically without much effort from you
- Scale. ⭐⭐⭐ AI platforms can generate essentially unlimited scale of creative, this is one of their key benefits vs. manual approaches
- Risk. ⭐⭐⭐ AI platforms are beginning to get simple and good enough to offer free trials or very low price points
- Time. ⭐⭐⭐ AI platforms can generate ad creative, both statics and videos, in a few minutes or even instantly
- Cost. ⭐⭐ AI platforms have come down in cost considerably in the last few years. Many cost <$100/mo to get started
- Editing. ⭐⭐ AI platforms allow you to edit creatives directly without waiting for amends. They're a little less flexible than template editors
- Brand. ⭐⭐ AI platforms allow for "brand kits" with fonts, logos, colors and music but this isn't as comprehensive as a good brand manager!
- Pre-requisites. ⭐ AI platforms need lots of image and video assets of your products, and data, to generate the best ad creative
2. Template editors like Canva
See also: Invideo or Offeo
Template editors have been around for a while, and everyone's used one to make a presentation or a social media post at some point. They're super easy, intuitive, cheap and tend to have huge libraries of stock images, video and graphics if you need them. You can definitely use these tools to make ad creatives, you'll just need to spend time finding a template, uploading your products each time and making edits without much data to go on.
- Performance. ⭐ Template editors are designed to be easy and flexible. There isn't much in them to help ensure ad creatives perform well
- Quality. ⭐⭐ There's generally a mix of high and low quality templates. Quality is also dependent on your skill as an editor!
- Effort. ⭐⭐ Template editors are really easy to use. But it does take time to edit ad creatives one at a time, especially at scale
- Scale. ⭐ Template editors are designed to create one piece of content, not many, and there aren't many with automation features
- Risk. ⭐⭐⭐ Template editors are often totally free, so very low risk to try out, and you can create pretty much anything you want
- Time. ⭐⭐ It can take a few hours to make an ad creative, which can increase to a few hours or even a day a week if you're testing a lot of ads
- Cost. ⭐⭐⭐ Template editors are really low cost, often <$10/mo
- Editing. ⭐⭐⭐ Template editors are made for editing! They give you tons of control over every aspect of your ad creative
- Brand. ⭐⭐ Some template editors allow for "brand kits" with fonts, logos, colors and music
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ Editors don't need you to provide anything, which makes life easy, if you're OK with ads using stock images and video
3. Creative freelancers on sites like Fiverr
See also: Upwork or Behance
Creative freelancers have long been the primary means of obtaining ad creatives for small and midsize ecommerce businesses. More recently, professional graphic design or video editor freelancers have been replaced by "creators" - a term referring to people who are prolific or skilled at producing their own social media content, and who can be open to producing content for brands as well. Creators can be absolutely brilliant - authentic, skilled and many come with their own communities to boot. However creators can be expensive, difficult to contact and negotiate with. Getting good results often requires a great brief as well as some patience and persistence.
- Performance. ⭐⭐ Many freelancers "know what works" intuitively, but this isn't universal and isn't data-driven or specific to your brand
- Quality. ⭐⭐⭐ Authentic creator-made content can be truly fantastic. High production value, authentic and original
- Effort. ⭐⭐ Although freelancers are doing the work for you, the best results come when you spend time working with them closely
- Scale. ⭐ Most freelancers or creators don't work on a scale basis. They make content manually and have limited time
- Risk. ⭐ Finding a great creator who'll work with you over the mid to long-term is hard. It's not uncommon to get burned once or twice!
- Time. ⭐⭐ Freelancers are faster than agencies but you'll need to ship them your product and work with them on revisions
- Cost. ⭐⭐ Freelancers can be expensive, often charging a few hundred $ to many thousands of $ for a few pieces of content
- Editing. ⭐ You'll need to work with your freelancers, giving feedback through rounds of amends, before they fully understand your brand
- Brand. ⭐⭐ Good freelancers will capture your brand well and learn it over time. Make the effort to find a good one!
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐ Freelancers want to produce great work and will often insist on a solid brand and product assets up front
4. UGC platforms like Billo
See also: Bambassadors
UGC platforms go beyond connecting you with creators - they productize the process of getting net new content made by creators. This includes briefing, creator selection, logistics, payments and often editing and QA. With their low cost, low effort and contemporary style of UGC content from a wide range of creators, these services are becoming incredibly popular.
- Performance. ⭐⭐ UGC content naturally performs well, especially in authentic, emerging channels like TikTok and Instagram
- Quality. ⭐⭐⭐ UGC is relatively high production value, authentic and original. With the lower cost though comes some variability in quality
- Effort. ⭐⭐⭐ In addition to briefing well, you'll need to select creators, provide feedback and ship your products out
- Scale. ⭐⭐ Lower cost of this kind of UGC makes scale possible, but each piece of content comes with additional effort
- Risk. ⭐⭐ The ability to select from multiple creators reduces risk compared to working with individual creators
- Time. ⭐ It can take 2-3 weeks to get content this way, which is the tradeoff for the high quality and low effort
- Cost. ⭐⭐⭐ Getting UGC this way is very cost effective, at well under $100 for each ad creative
- Editing. ⭐ You have some creative control but you're largely reliant on the creative decisions of the creators you select
- Brand. ⭐⭐ This style of content tends not to feature branding heavily, although you can pay extra to have it edited in
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ One of the best things about UGC is that you can start with nothing except your product!
5. "Unlimited design" service providers like Design Pickle
See also: No Limit Creatives or Konstant Kreative
"Unlimited design" providers have sprung up over the last few years and become quite popular. All the benefits of an agency or employee, like being able to be relatively hands-off, without the headache or commitment of finding a good one. They're particularly good if you need a variety of creative tasks done regularly in addition to ads. The downside of course are that they aren't ads experts, are still quite expensive for SMBs and they require you to spend a fair amount of time briefing and reviewing the work. They're also only "unlimited" in the sense that you can create an unlimited queue - most will only work on one brief at a time.
- Performance. ⭐ These providers generally don't claim to help with performance and aren't experts in performance ad creative
- Quality. ⭐⭐ As these providers don't use automation but commit to high volumes & short turnaround, expect a tradeoff in quality
- Effort. ⭐⭐ You won't need to do any creative work yourself, but you'll need to brief well and be available for frequent reviews and feedback
- Scale. ⭐⭐ Despite the "unlimited" claim, you'll typically get 1 brief worked on at a time with a 1-3 day turnaround. That's ~10 creatives/mo
- Risk. ⭐⭐ Many providers will allow you to rotate creatives until you find one that gets your brand and works for you
- Time. ⭐⭐ Turnaround is relatively quick, most offering 2-3 day turnaround and many a 24 hour/Slack channel express service
- Cost. ⭐⭐ These providers typically charge $500-$1,000/mo depending on how much creative and what complexity of creative you need
- Editing. ⭐⭐ You can't edit the creatives yourself, but you can often provide fast feedback via Slack. Many providers will share working files
- Brand. ⭐⭐ You'll be working with a creative who'll learn your brand over time
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ Very often these providers will work from templates and stock images/videos without needing you to provide much
6. Creator management platforms like Grin
See also: TikTok Creator Marketplace or Fanbytes
Creator management platforms are new and have sprung up around emerging platforms like TikTok. They aim to centralize the process of working with individual creators (it can be laborious and flaky if you do this manually!) These platforms don't typically guarantee delivery of content, they just make it easier for you to find and build your own network of creators, negotiate with them, brief them, pay them and measure their results. This is especially valuable if you are looking to build long-term creator partnerships or work with creators who are essentially influencers with their own communities you can use to get content seeded.
- Performance. ⭐⭐ These platforms generally don't claim to help with performance, but the UGC style of content they enable performs well
- Quality. ⭐⭐⭐ You can get access to higher profile creators who can produce higher quality ad creative
- Effort. ⭐⭐ You'll still need to screen, negotiate with and and brief your creators well, and creators often have very variable turnaround times
- Scale. ⭐ There's no automation here and creators tend to prefer large single pieces rather than bulk-asset projects
- Risk. ⭐⭐ While there's the opportunity to work with many creators, there's a fairly large time and cost commitment to creator programs
- Time. ⭐ Many creators are working on multiple projects including their own and turnaround times can be highly variable
- Cost. ⭐ Creators aren't cheap and neither are creator management platforms!
- Editing. ⭐ You can't edit the creatives yourself, and creators will often have their own vision for pieces of content
- Brand. ⭐⭐ Creators prioritise content being channel-native (and how it reflects on them) as much as they care about your brand
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ Creators most often focus on producing original content from scratch
7. Pro creative agencies like Creative Milkshake
See also: Ready Set or Aura Ads
These folks are the experts. Totally focused on social ad creative, they know what's trending, what's working and how to produce it to perfection. They are still human though and high quality trades off with cost and time. Many also operate without automation, meaning scale is kept relatively low. All of this means that they tend to work with larger DTC brands with larger testing budgets.
- Performance. ⭐⭐ Performance here is often driven by human expertise and testing rather than data or machine learning
- Quality. ⭐⭐⭐ Very hard to beat these folks if quality is a priority - every piece of creative t is concepted, shot and edited by experts
- Effort. ⭐⭐⭐ You're in good hands here. Provide your brief and they'll take care of the rest
- Scale. ⭐⭐ There tends to be no automation here, but many agencies have "unlimited" plans at higher price points (5-figures monthly)
- Risk. ⭐⭐⭐ You likely won't be disappointed as long as you can afford it. Make sure your working/non-working spend ratio is in range (80/20)
- Time. ⭐⭐ Agencies will typically turn around batches of ad creatives monthly, including shooting of new material
- Cost. ⭐ Expert agencies are expensive for a reason!
- Editing. ⭐⭐⭐ Most agencies will spend time understanding your needs deeply and offer multiple rounds of amends
- Brand. ⭐⭐⭐ Good agencies care about their clients' brands as much as they do, and often know the guidelines better!
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ These agencies will take care of everything. Just brief them well
8. "Until it works" studios like TubeScience
See also: ...
Famous for putting their money where their mouth is. With huge warehouses and assembly lines of production facilities, these providers charge a (large) percentage of media spend in exchange for producing as much ad creative as is needed to crack the creative code and find winners. They can only take on a certain amount of clients however, so they tend to be accessible only to the largest ecommerce advertisers.
- Performance. ⭐⭐⭐ They will keep creating until something works. This brute force approach is effective but only if test budgets are large
- Quality. ⭐⭐⭐ Dedicated facilities, on-site specialists and high-budget brands mean the best possible quality
- Effort. ⭐⭐⭐ Often even a brief isn't required as your data and assets are sufficient to inform testing
- Scale. ⭐⭐⭐ Even without automation, efficient processes and large budgets can address the scale problem
- Risk. ⭐⭐⭐ You don't pay if the ads don't perform. But if they do perform, fees are high!
- Time. ⭐⭐⭐ Time isn't a concern when creative is constantly being produced in response to data rather than your briefs
- Cost. ⭐ While it may be true you don't pay if the ads don't work, you need to be ready to scale to 7-figures to be a client here
- Editing. ⭐⭐ You won't have to (or want to) provide feedback on every piece of content produced, meaning you do relinquish control
- Brand. ⭐⭐⭐ Expert creative teams will ensure your brand is followed (and even evolved in response to performance) at this price point
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ You only need to provide your product, data, budget and very little else
9. Bonus! Hiring an in-house creative team
See also: ...
Hiring an in-house creative team is easier said than done. Even larger businesses who build creative teams do so as a central function, serving all of marketing as well as other departments. Performance marketing teams rarely get sufficient creative resource (or sufficient expertise) to meet their scale and testing requirements. Additionally, internal creative teams are often brand-dominated and focused on protecting the brand rather than experimenting with it, which can be counterproductive for performance ad creative projects. This leaves performance ad creative as a missing link for organizations.
- Performance. ⭐ In-house creative teams often prioritize brand over experimentation and performance
- Quality. ⭐⭐ In-house creative teams are often generalists focused on producing quality work across the board, not specifically for ads
- Effort. ⭐⭐ In-house creative teams understand the brand extremely well, but may need to be briefed (or even persuaded) on the ads need
- Scale. ⭐ In-house creative teams are often stretched, meaning scale is difficult
- Risk. ⭐⭐ The main risk is that because in-house teams are stretched, ad creative projects can even be deprioritized altogether
- Time. ⭐⭐ In-house teams being generalists often do not have ads-specific automation or processes needed for fast turnarounds
- Cost. ⭐⭐⭐ Hard to beat an in-house team for cost!
- Editing. ⭐⭐ Many rounds of amends can be painful with very busy in-house teams who need to move on to other projects
- Brand. ⭐⭐⭐ Nobody understands your brand like an in-house team... they probably worked on the project that developed it
- Pre-requisites. ⭐⭐⭐ Quite likely your in-house team will already have access to everything they need other than your brief
Weighed the options and think Creative AI might offer you the best balance of cost, time, effort, performance and quality?
Check out pricing plans, get started with a free trial or book a demo with us to find out more https://www.trypencil.com/pricing