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  • Writer's pictureJason Burlin

Why I Never Use Templates For Ads

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

The use of templates for ad creatives was something that I wanted to write about for quite some time, but always slipped my mind. Last week, I saw an ad on my Facebook newsfeed for a design tool that lets you create “killer” ad creatives in 30 seconds. People are becoming so impatient that even when it’s something that can potentially make or break their business, they are still looking to get it done in 30 seconds? Why would someone want to invest only 30 seconds on the ads that they are going to spend small or large amounts of money on?

Not everything needs to be done fast. It’s perfectly fine to not look for shortcuts for critical tasks. The creation of your ads doesn’t call for shortcuts. The purpose of an ad template is to provide you a ready to go, creative mockup that you simply plug in your own assets and info such as image, price, and product info, and bang! Within a click your million dollar ad is ready! Well, that sounds a little too easy. It always amazes me how many advertisers out there use template software for their ads, thinking there is a visual recipe for their advertising success. Best practices? Sure, there are a bunch, and they vary based on different markets, platforms, and environments. But to think that using templates for your creatives that will only minimize the amount of resources and time you devote to your ad creatives feels to me like a lack of focus on one of the most important aspects of your marketing. If you read any of my other posts, then you know how much importance I give to the creative aspect of your marketing and how it should be the center of your focus.  

How are templates created.

Templates are not just offered by third-party tools. Platforms like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and others also offer templates as a quick way to get decent looking ads up and running. Templates are created based on massive pools of data across different ads in a wide variety of industries. In simple terms, the platforms create an algorithm that analyzes and compares all available ads and finds what successful ads have in common. Then, they chop and slice data and variables to ensure that they have a valid A/B test with a control and test group to ensure they understand the data correctly. After the machines are done with their analysis, they share their findings, and templates are created based on the best practices at that given time. The templates are not meant to replace all advertisers’ ads but are offered for advertisers who don’t know how their ads should and don’t know where to start. Then, when advertisers create their ads in the advertising platforms, they can choose a number of different templates to use in their campaigns. It’s not just the giant advertising platforms, just google Facebook or Google ad templates and you will find yourself scrolling through an endless amount of results. Template creation tools are everywhere.

So you might be still wondering why am I against using templates for your ads? 

Your ads shouldn’t look like ads. 

In the modern era of online advertising, everyone HATES ads. I actually remember that as a kid I enjoyed watching the commercial breaks. Things changed, everyone hates ads. Ads always get in our way of watching what we care about and it’s no secret that advertising platforms do everything they can to make their ads blend as much as possible into your newsfeed or search results. Google has strict restrictions on what language and format you can use in your ads to ensure they blend in with their search results. For years, Facebook has had a strict restriction on the amount of text that image ads can have. That wasn’t a random restriction. They didn’t want your newsfeed to look like a classified billboard promotion. They wanted advertisers to work hard on the visual aspects of their ads, so they blend nicely within your newsfeed, so you might not even be able to differentiate ads from your friends’ posts. Templates don’t quite fit naturally in your feed. Although many of them don’t contain a lot of text, they still look like ads. Ever clicked on a post, became curious about it, and only later realized that it was an ad? That’s an example of an excellent ad. 

Best practices are not timeless. 

To put in the most simple terms, what works now, will probably stop working in the future. If all advertisers use similar design concepts in their ads, what do you think will happen once the same users see them over and over again? They will become immune to them. You will not be visually aroused by repeated stimuli. Your mind is your greatest instrument. If it gets used to seeing the same patterns, similar characteristics that come in different forms and variations, it will be less responsive. It’s like a cutting edge strategy that marketing agencies use to be the first to introduce to the market. Once competition starts to follow and repeat the same methods, those methods will be less effective. Think of how the term “Sale” was used in the past and how it’s used now. I used to believe that companies were actually having a sale, now it seems like “Sale” is the new regular price. Think of how crazy Black Friday sales used and how much inflation it has experienced? The same applies to ad templates. The more advertisers that use them, the less effective they will be. Their effectiveness will drop with their increased exposure and usage by advertisers. 

Think outside the box. 

The hardest part of creating ads is the creative aspect. It’s almost like drawing from scratch with a pen and paper, you don’t know where to start. I will simplify it for you, using any form of template to use as a guide or framework for your unique brand is definitely not the right move. Your creative needs to be built around your brand, not around someone else’s success. Start with the thought of keeping your ads interesting for your viewers and none promotional. People have wants and needs, illustrate how you can satisfy them through your creatives. Showcase your brand’s strengths by focusing as much as possible on your product and making it the center of your ads. Whether it’s high-quality images, or killer videos, you have one shot. Users are exposed to so many different ads when they’re online and it’s the ads that are the most meaningful to them that get their attention. If you start with templates, you’re taking focus away from your product or brand. The roadmap to creating effective ads for your business is crafted by the never-ending process of trial and error of testing unlimited creative ideas with different concepts centered around your product until you find what works and what doesn’t.  

In Summary 

There is no room for shortcuts when it comes to creatives. Templated ads may save you time, but they are not effective in digital marketing. Using a templated ad makes your ad look just like everyone else’s; therefore, taking away from your competitive advantage. Take time in creating your ad and make sure that it fits your brand’s image. Your ad should blend so nicely within your audience’s newsfeed that they don’t even realize it’s an ad. 

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Jason Burlin

A seasoned marketer with more than a decade of experience in online paid advertising. Managed more than $150M in ad spend and worked with more than 500+ brands. He is known as the unconventional marketer.

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