To keep a campaign healthy and avoid ad fatigue, you need to refresh creative weekly, sometimes even daily. Most ad platforms like Meta recommend a 3-5 variations per ad set or group, and so you need creative ready to go when performance dips. It can take anything from a few hours to several months to procure new ads – depending on what design and copywriting resource you have in place – and getting the timing wrong can cause performance to degrade by 30-60% over a matter of weeks.
One finance client had me clear every new ad with legal, who gave me 1 hour every 6 weeks, billing my client $500 for the privilege. When you’re running an operation, and a bottleneck appears ahead of a capital-intensive part of the process, you must overwhelm the bottleneck or your entire operation will suffer. That means never turning up to a creative approval meeting empty handed, and always leaving with more creative approved than you need. Stockpile approved creative like winter is coming, because you never know when something unexpected will happen to grind the process to a halt.
The right way to think about creative production at scale, is to disconnect production from publishing: build up a ‘Creative lake’ of approved ad variations you can draw from when needed. If your campaigns call for 4 new variations per week, overproduce until you have 8 in reserve – now you have a 2 week buffer before performance starts to suffer. To scale this strategy further, build modular components that can be combined to create thousands of variations. What value propositions, key phrases, video footage, stock images or illustrations do you have at your disposal? How can they be remixed and recombined to make new variations?
Some creative strategies are more inherently remixable than others, and if you build for this from the start, you can quite quickly produce a vast number of variations. With 5 images, 10 lines of copy, and 2 call-to-actions, you can generate 100 different variations, so long they were designed to work in any arrangement. For example, for a restaurant booking website creating ads for hundreds of thousands of restaurant listings, the copy line “Called ‘Majestic’ by Time Out Magazine” applies only to one restaurant, whereas “Rated [x] stars” is more reusable: you just need a feed of user reviews to fill in the [x]. Note there’s usually a tradeoff in terms of creative freedom, and it may still be worth creating custom assets for your largest campaigns.
The key to making a creative lake strategy workable in practice, is achieving agreement that ads won’t need to be approved in situ. Meaning the decision-maker should get comfortable approving the atomistic components of an ad, that might combine together in different ways, without having to see the end product of each combination. If you can work together to define what types of changes that need approval, and build up an arsenal of pre-approved assets, your campaigns will never be left wanting again.