Creative Testing: Best Practices to Create Winning Ads in 2024

Manu Sheen
Manu Sheen
Customer Success Manager at Insense

To tell your brand’s story in the most captivating way so that it appeals to your audience, you need to make sure you’re making the right creatives. 

Creatives refer to key elements of your marketing strategy such as images, copy, and videos.

How do you then determine which creatives work?

Through creative testing! 

Wondering what this is and how you can get started? 

Look no further as we have provided all you need to begin creative testing in this guide. 

More specifically, we’re going to cover the following: 

  • Benefits of creative testing
  • Best practices 
  • How to do creative testing on social media

Without further ado, let’s get right to it.

Table of Contents

What’s Creative Testing?

Why Does Creative Testing Matter?

What are the Benefits of Ad Creative Testing?

6 Best Practices for Effective Creative Testing

How to Do Creative Testing on Facebook & Instagram (with Facebook Ad Manager)

How to Do Creative Testing on TikTok (with TikTok Ad Manager)

What’s Creative Testing?

Creative testing is a stage in the marketing process where a brand finds what appeals to its audience by comparing different combinations of creative elements to determine which is more effective.

Think of it as going into a studio for a photoshoot. How the photographer captures you describes the kind of experience you’ll have, which is known as the creative concept. 

But your overall experience and the outcome of the pictures are not only dependent on the photographer’s expertise. Instruments, setting, and lighting are other factors that come into play – let’s call them optimization levers

A combination of the creative concept and optimization levers forms the basis of success in creative testing.  

A brand growth study in Europe revealed that over 50% of marketers rely on their gut feeling to determine which ad works. 

But that might not be scalable or effective, right?

Creative testing takes the guesswork out of the process and helps you to determine which elements help convert your campaign.

What types of creatives can you test when creative testing?

Before we dive into how creative testing can be done, let’s take a look at the types of creatives that you can test.  

There are a number of them but we briefly discuss the following:    

  • Social media posts, images, and videos 
  • eCommerce product content
  • Content for paid ads

Social media posts

This covers any type of creative you create for your social media channels. 

It could be infographics for organic content, videos, images, or carousels for influencer marketing.

eCommerce creatives

Landing pages, eCommerce store design, and newsletters are part of the creatives that can be tested to see which ones are performing. 

You can test different combinations of them across separate audiences and see which produces the best results. 

Ad creatives

Ad creatives refer to any images, videos, or other assets used in your ad campaigns. 

They are key elements of your brand that your audience interacts with. 

What’s the difference between A/B tests and split tests?

The main difference between A/B testing and split testing is that the split test is more general than the A/B test. The variations being used for comparisons in each testing method are different. 

In A/B testing, single variable tests are compared to a controlled version, while in split testing a completely different variation is compared to a controlled version. 

Both terms are often used interchangeably so it can sometimes be difficult to spot the differences between them. 

Let’s take a look at examples of these tests in action.                                                                                                  

If you want to split test a landing page, a portion of your traffic is sent to the control page and another to the variation page. 

Both pages will have the same conversion goal but a different layout (headlines, text, videos, or images).

You can then use the winning page as a control page in an A/B test. 

Below is what a split test would look like. You can see the creatives (copy and video) are different. 

A/B testing example
Image Source: Facebook
A/B testing example
Image Source: Facebook


For A/B testing, the winning control page from the split test is tested against a single variable change made to the control page. 

In the image below, it was only changing the copy while maintaining the assets.

A/B testing example
Image Source: Facebook
A/B testing example
Image Source: Facebook

A new approach: multivariate testing

An emerging creative testing approach, called multivariate testing, gives you a granular look at your creative performance. It not only tells you which ad is a winner, it tells you why.

So what is multivariate testing? Think A/B testing on steroids. In the context of digital marketing, multivariate testing is commonly used to test every possible combination of copy, images, colors, offers, and more in an ad to determine which combination leads to the highest conversion rate. This can be a huge advantage over competitors who are not using multivariate testing, as it allows for a much higher degree of optimization.

Another major advantage of multivariate testing is that it can provide insights into how individual creative elements affect ad performance. For example, you may find that one headline is a top performer, no matter what image it’s paired with. You could use these kinds of insights not only in your ad creative but across all branded touchpoints to increase performance.

There are also some potential drawbacks to multivariate testing that should be considered. First, it can be time-consuming and resource-intensive to test every possible combination of copy, images, colors, and offers. This means that it may not be feasible to test every combination for small-scale campaigns.

Second, multivariate testing can also produce a lot of data that can be difficult to analyze. This is because there are often many different variables that can affect test results, including ad spend and audience size.

If multivariate testing is so difficult to execute, how can you take advantage of using it to test your ad creative, effectively and efficiently? Look for a tool that automates the process. Creative testing tools that automate multivariate testing eliminate the labor-intensive aspects of the process, such as designing every ad variant and manually launching a structured test with even media spend.

Now, let’s see why creative testing is important.

Why Does Creative Testing Matter?

There is already so much responsibility resting on your shoulders as a business owner and adding creative testing to your to-do lists can feel stressful. 

But if you’re to win in today’s marketing game, you need to identify what interests your audience and that’s where creative testing and analyzing test results come in. 


These are some reasons why you should be testing your ad creatives:

  1. Create more engaging and impactful creatives
  2. Understand what types of assets your audience interacts with
  3. Understand what types of assets help take your target audience through the marketing funnel and convert
  4. Receive valuable customer insights
  5. Helps spend your budget as efficiently as possible

Make impactful creatives

The idea behind creative testing is to figure out what attracts your audience. As such, you’re able to come up with the right creative ideas that produce engagement and a positive impact. 

That’s what you want, right?  

You no longer have to doubt whether your ads would give high return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) as every creative would be backed by data from the creative tests.

Become aware of which asset appeals to your audience

There are creative elements your audience will only look at and there are others they will engage with. 

Creative testing makes it possible for you to identify such interactive assets including those that will convert into sales. 

You also get to obtain data on your audience’s thoughts about the campaign so you can make better decisions when designing creatives.

Get insight into what your next steps will be

Creative testing gives you customer insights that you can use for concept validation and finding the right medium for your campaign. 

The result obtained from testing creatives can be used to help you scale your business. 

Spend your budget efficiently 

Why spend so much on ads that don’t convert when you can pick metrics that would give you a successful campaign from creative tests? 

Results from testing help ensure every campaign you put out drives the outcome you desire, thereby helping you spend your budget more efficiently. 

All of these look like something you’ll want for your business, right?

Up next, we look at the benefits of creative testing

What are the Benefits of Ad Creative Testing?

The main benefit when it comes to ad creative testing is that it allows you to understand which assets perform better and those you need to get rid of.

Creative testing ensures you only launch ad campaigns that will be relevant to your brand and audience. You not only get to see what works but also understand why it’s performing well.

Imagine for a second that school tests or exams were not just graded so we know who’s the most brilliant and will be promoted to the next class, but also graded to help us identify where our strengths lie.

That would have been awesome, wouldn’t it?

We would not have spent so much time on courses that we never ended up using and perhaps the world would have had more happy people.

Creative testing is the realization of that imagination through the help of a creative team. 

It helps your business identify where its strength lies so you are automatically informed about what you shouldn’t waste time on. 

More specifically, ad creative testing comes with several benefits such as:

  • Optimizing ads
  • Saving time 
  • Saving money
  • Creating ad assets that resonate with your audience
  • Understanding user behaviors
  • Gaining insights for future campaigns

1. Optimized ads

When creative testing is done correctly, you can be certain of one thing: any ad campaign launched by your business will be relevant, appealing, and engaging to users who see your ad. 

That’s storytelling about your services they can’t resist. It’s still their choice though, but you get the point. 

2. Save money and time

Once you understand which creative works and what doesn’t, you can help your business save money by making only productive ads that deliver the right results rather than spending so much on wasted ad impressions. 

Time is an important asset for businesses and while testing might take a while to provide the required results, it saves you more time compared to when you run ads without testing them. 

3. Create the right ad assets

The right asset is one that resonates with your audience. 

So how do you know if your images or copy is perfect?

Through testing!

4. Understand customer patterns

Your audience is unique and understanding how it behaves provides business insights that are valuable for market research, decision making, and other purposes.

5. Provides valuable insights for future ad campaigns

By testing and iterating, you become more familiar with the creatives that work for your audience. This helps you optimize future campaigns so there are no mistakes or wastages. 

Now that we’ve outlined the benefits of creative testing, how about we jump right into the best practices of creative testing?

6 Best Practices for Effective Creative Testing

By best practices we mean methods that have been proven to be superior to alternatives because their results are superior.  

Every business is distinct; as such, no creative tests are identical.   

Best practices for creative testing are methodological and involve a lot of creativity that you need to follow if you want the right results. To get the preferred ad performance, you have to treat every creative test with the right creative strategy.

The good thing about it is that your results are backed up with visible data. 

As a general rule, you can ask as many questions as you like, if you ensure that they are followed up with hypotheses and tests to answer your questions, so you can be certain of the validity of your assumptions.

Beyond that, we’ve identified best practices for creative testing to get you started.

They include:

  • Setting goals
  • Testing hypotheses
  • Identifying your audience
  • Iterating the results
  • Being patient in terms of the process
  • Validating the results

1. Set specific business goals

This practice is a pretest that should be done before any work is carried out by your creative team. Your goals determine how the creative assets or ad will be evaluated and how it aligns with your KPIs. 

More practically, there are three goals you can select from.

Awareness: Do you want people to learn more about your brand? Awareness would be your goal in this case. 

Here you’ll be more concerned about the cost per mile (CPM), which is how much you spend on every 1,000 impressions, than the number of people who click your link a.k.a click through rate (CTR).

Purchase: You want new customers or existing users to make purchases via the ad. Metrics for a purchase objective are cost per lead or cost per purchase. 

Revenue: With a revenue goal in mind, quite a number of metric counts here from CPM to CTR, and cost per like (CPL). 

2. Be specific about your testing hypotheses

Rather than running a new creative ad set and comparing the performing creative to its previous results, build hypotheses that support your brand’s message and set your campaigns to test creative elements and your audience against each other.  

When testing your hypotheses, assume the ad elements being tested possess no impact until the results prove otherwise.  

That’s why it’s important to be specific about testing your hypotheses. Let your focus be on one creative element. 

3. Make sure to test your audiences

The next practice you must take seriously is making sure your ads are being targeted at the right people

The truth is, you can’t afford to miss this one because if you do, your ads will not produce the kind of results you expect, irrespective of how appealing your creatives were.

It’s also important for you to ensure the audience you want to reach is targetable and large enough to perform tests with. Once that is settled, your campaign structure for this audience should be developed and tested, specifically tailored to appeal to them.

Plus, you shouldn’t allow an audience to see different variants of your ads. In other words, a new set of people should be targeted for a new variant, or ensure the audience for every test is exclusive. 

This testing strategy would provide a control group against which results can be compared.

4. Keep your testing efforts going 

This practice is so underrated and it’s because continuous testing can seem like hard work when what you have is working. 

Why should your creative team keep testing if there’s an ad that’s performing and bringing in a high conversion rate?

Enter…Creative fatigue!

It happens when your audience has seen the same ad over and over again. The aftermath is a high budget with fewer results and higher cost per action. 

When creative fatigue happens, even top-performing creative assets can drag down performance. You have to avoid it at all costs if you want top ad performance at all times. 

How can you prevent creative fatigue from ever happening?

Keep making creatives and testing them. That was what Estee Lauder did–refreshed 9 creatives in one month and saw conversion rates go up by 69%

5. Move step by step

Creative testing can be an overwhelming process because there are just so many elements to test against multiple variations. At the same time, you want the process to be iterative

That’s why you need to move step by step. 

It’s understandable if you want to speed up the process and get to the part where your brand starts realizing its ROAS. 

But it may not get you the right results your business needs.  

Creative testing, when carried out using a scientific approach, can help brands organize their creative testing for optimized results.

6. Apply your learnings to other marketing efforts

After every round of testing, there is so much data available mainly about your audience–their interests, age groups, job roles, and a whole lot more.

Everything you learn from the creative testing process can be applied across your business in various ways and it is good practice to do just that. 

Let’s now see how creative testing can be done on social media.

How to Do Creative Testing on Facebook & Instagram (with Facebook Ad Manager)

It’s time to get practical. 

We already know creative testing helps you identify what you’re doing right; let’s see how you can do that on Facebook and Instagram.

Why Facebook and Instagram?

Facebook is one of the leading social media platforms in the world. Business owners and several marketers have agreed that it is where they see the most return on their investments. 

Both platforms are owned by Meta (formerly Facebook) and reach approximately 2 billion people. Plus, Facebook offers multiple ad options for business owners to choose from. 

These ad options include photo, video, carousel, dynamic product ads, canvas,  slideshow which can be seen in the news feed or sidebar, and stories. 

Having access to multiple ad options means that you have multiple creative variables to test against each other which sounds like A/B testing has a better chance of being used here. 

Access Your Ads Manager On Facebook

The first step would be to access your ads manager on Facebook. It looks like this if you’re not familiar with it:

Next, you’d see a Create button in green at the top left corner of your Facebook ads manager page; click on it to start creating your social media ad. 

Select A/B Tests (New Campaigns)

Once you’re in your Facebook ads manager and creating a new campaign, you’ll see the option for A/B test. 

It’s right after you select a campaign objective. 

….and this is what you’ll see next if you’re creating a new campaign: 

You can now choose the variable you want to test depending on the goals of the campaign.

A/B Tests (Existing Campaigns)

In case you already have existing campaigns, you can simply duplicate them for an A/B test. More specifically, you just need to change single variables of an identical campaign when using this testing approach.  

A continuation from the previous step….

Next, select the variable you want to test.  It’ll look just like this:

There’s an on-screen instruction that would make the process easy for you.

By the way, we didn’t forget about Instagram. 

Really, how could we?

A/B testing for IG is practically the same process as for Facebook. 

But, you will need to choose an objective that supports Instagram. This would get your ads automatically published and you can also get data on ads run on Instagram.

How about running tests on TikTok?

We discuss how to do that next!

How to Do Creative Testing on TikTok (with TikTok Ad Manager)

Ads on TikTok can reach 884.9 million users around the world. 

While your ads may not reach or interest all these people, you want to make sure that they are appealing and engaging to those who come across your campaigns

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, TikTok’s digital marketing option is limited to videos. 

What methodology can you then use for creative testing on Tiktok?

Split Testing.


Because it’s a tool already available on Tiktok Ads Manager that can provide you with accurate results.

Plus, you get to optimize your spending.

Below we have broken down the four main steps to test your creatives on Tiktok.

  1.  Create a campaign and click on Create Split Test under settings:
TikTok ads manager campaign set up
Image Source: TikTok
  1. Finish updating the settings under the Ad Group (it will be your Control page): 
TikTok ads manager campaign set up
Image Source: TikTok
  1. Select a variable to test and add your key metric for this campaign:
Image Source: TikTok
  1. Set up your test ad group and complete. 
Image Source: TikTok

Before we wrap up, we’ve got a few things you shouldn’t forget to do when split testing on TikTok: 

  •  Ensure your ad runs for a minimum of 7 days so you can collate sufficient data
  • Set a high daily budget for your ad so testing is thorough
  • Select a large audience to see the impact of a creative across different demographics
  • Avoid changing the tests mid-way so the results aren’t affected 
  • Set up test ad groups each having different variables so you can determine the winning ad

Think you are ready to start testing your brand’s creatives? 

One last thing before you go. 

Now Over to You

We do hope this guide has provided you with everything you may need to start testing your creatives.

Now, how about partnering with experienced creators for making those killer ad creatives?  

Book a free demo with Insense and see your ad creatives switch to the next level when you collaborate with the best creative minds out there.  

Thank you for reading!

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Manu Sheen

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