Which images make the most successful Facebook ads?

July 12, 2019

“A picture is worth ten thousand words” – Fred R. Barnard.

Images in Facebook ads are a huge factor in their success. In fact, images are probably the most important part of brands’ messaging on the platform, for a load of reasons. 

On Facebook, posts with images have 37% more engagement than those without. But when it comes to picking those images, do you ever get the feeling that you’re relying on guesswork and ‘gut feeling’ rather than solid evidence?

2014 study by researchers from the City University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University found that a number of features – including warmer colours, higher contrast, greater depth-of-field and more social presence – increase product favourability. So let’s chuck guesswork out and take a look at some types of images that are proven to create successful Facebook ads.

Images with people 

Pictures of people – in particular happy people – have historically sent the CTR on Facebook ads soaring. This reflects trends on social media in general, where images with faces in them are 38% more likely to attract engagement, according to researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs researchers. 

Now, this goes beyond us being simply nosey (or fancying the person in the ad): People provide a sense of scale, they help tell a story and provide context. But, most importantly, it makes it easier for us to relate to the image and therefore the product being promoted.

Images with limited (or no) text 

Facebook just doesn’t get on with text in images. So, to the frustration of many marketers, it often limits the scope of ads containing images overlaid with what it considers ‘too much’ text. Or even stops them from being run altogether. The company says this is because it’s “found that images with less than 20% text perform better”.

To ensure you don’t fall foul of this rigid rule, keep text on images to a minimum – something likely make it more creative and engaging anyway. 

Natural imagery scores better CTR 

Turns out you aren’t the only one who drifts off into their beachy screensaver when it turns 4pm at the office. As per ‘The Attention Restoration Theory’, we are naturally programmed to feel more engaged when we’re in nature and even just images of nature have been proven to capture our attention.

Our own research of the general population found that images of nature, in particular nature scenes in warmer seasons, that inspire relaxation resonate more with people. Meanwhile, images with more concrete features, like wood and structure, registered a lower appeal with the same group.

Images with pets

This one’s pretty self explanatory. There’s currently a Pomeranian with 9.1m Instagram followers. People on social media like pets. A lot. So if you’re wondering how to create an effective Facebook ad, try including a furry friend.

Warmth and colour

Using colour and warmth in images doesn’t just make them ‘prettier’, it also results in higher engagement and more profitable campaigns. According to a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, colour advertising can influence consumers to pay more for products.

Interestingly, blue has consistently been found to be people’s favourite colour, regardless of gender or age. Although if you’re thinking of using this hue in your next campaign, be careful it doesn’t get lost in Facebook’s all-penetrating blue-and-white theme.

On this note, it’s worth editing your images so they are at their most striking before you add them to your campaign. There’s a load of tools out there, but one of our favourites is VSCO – check it out.

In steps Pomegranate 

To prove we know what we’re talking about, we ran two images through DataSine’s AI platform, Pomegranate, to establish whether these sorts of images really do make for successful Facebook ads. Pomegranate uses insights rooted in psychology to establish how appealing images will be for the general population.

Firstly, we assessed an image of an incredibly happy-looking dog frolicking in nature. This image obviously ticked a lot of boxes.

Then, we did the same with a black-and-white image of office blocks overlaid with a significant amount of text. According to our earlier points, this image was likely to be ignored by the majority of Facebook users.

The results were as expected. Pomegranate found that the happy dog had a general appeal of 97% whereas the building block scored just 8%. The choice was obvious!

Questioning ‘gut feeling’

So, while it’s important to note that each campaign is unique, there’s always going to be certain images that resonate more. So, next time you’re using gut feeling to pick out an image without truly knowing what your audience wants, bear in mind the psychology behind images. Or better yet, get rid of lengthy A/B testing and use Pomegranate for free to assess the appeal of your images before you even hit ‘send’.