How a Bad Design Became Our Best Ad Ever

We had tried around 20 different ad images to grab attention on Facebook. We tried graphics. We tried photos. We tried videos…

Everything seemed to fall flat. But then, I had one of those “shower ideas” hit me one morning. “What if we tried a Word Art graphic? Just a ‘really bad, 1980s church secretary like design?”

You would probably never expect a professional graphic design service like Church Media Squad would use Word Art in a public-facing Facebook ad. 

But… we did it anyway!

Could we be wasting money using Word Art as an ad image? Maybe, but I thought it was worth giving it a shot. 

Check it out. THIS is the image that has done better than anything else we’ve ever tried:

This “bad” graphic got us our:

  • Lowest ever cost per click
  • Highest comment count ever
  • Most website click-throughs ever
  • Highest share rate ever

Why did a bad graphic work for a Facebook Ad?

Alright, now I know what you are thinking. “Time to go make me some Word Art for the church’s next Facebook ad!”

Before you do that though, let’s talk about WHY exactly this ad image worked for us and how you can apply those same principles to your church’s own ad image strategy.

At Church Media Squad, our goal is to “Make Church Media Better” with everything we do. With our Facebook ads, we want to grab the attention of church staff who want that same thing for their church. Those church staff, because they have an appreciation for great media, have social feeds full of great designs. 

Throwing in a “bad” design into that great looking feed makes sense. Why? Because it is vastly different than what the viewer’s brain is expecting to see. 

Our eyes are trained to spot abnormalities in our surroundings. It’s a God-given survival instinct built into our brains. When we see something different than expected, it forces our brains to slow down and pay attention to the abnormal thing in our path.

I call our approach to this ad image strategy the Attention Difference Model.

The Attention Difference Model

If… Person A normally sees Expected Content
Then… put Unexpected Content in front of Person A
Result… Attention grabbed

That’s why our Word Art ad image worked better than I had initially expected. Our target audience normally sees Great Designs. When we placed the exact opposite in front of them, unexpected Word Art, we grabbed their attention.

If we had simply put another great design in front of them, they would have been less likely to stop and pay attention for as long. We know they don’t stop as long with a great graphic, because we have tried it multiple times. Word Art worked better at grabbing the attention of our target audience than a great design ever could before.

How does this apply to your church?

Here’s our bottom line question we still need to answer…

Should YOU use Word Art for your church’s Facebook ad imagery strategy?

The answer. Probably not.

Why? Because our target audience at Church Media Squad is different than who YOU are trying to reach. Your church isn’t trying to reach church staff who like great graphics, so Word Art isn’t necessarily going to work for your ad strategy. 

To better understand what ad images will work for your church, let’s walk through a few quick steps.

Step #1: Define Your Target Audience

I covered this more at length in an interview with Katie in 2020 here. Here’s the shorthand version for you.

Start by describing your target audience with every aspect imaginable. What’s their age? Family situation? Work/life balance? Careers? Hobbies? Favorite places to eat or hang out? Everything you can think of to describe them!

The more information you know about who exactly your target audience is, the easier it will be to grab their attention with Unexpected Content.

Step #2: List Your Audience’s Expected Content

Now that you know who your target audience, you can start compiling information on what Expected Content is in their social feeds.

Let’s do a thought experiment on this idea with a pretend target audience of families with young children under the age of 10. These moms and dads are regularly seeing images in their social media feeds that showcase perfect families, houses, food, yards, etc. Many young parents only portray the “perfect” moments on social media. This is likely what our pretend audience is seeing as their Expected Content.

Do the same with your church’s primary target audience. What do they typically expect to see on their social feeds? Make as list of everything they would normally expect.

Step #3: Created Unexpected Content Ideas

Using your Expected Content list, think through ideas that would be the opposite of the Expected Content for your target audience. 

From our example in Step #2 we discovered that our target audience of “young parents” are bombarded by perfect-life representations on their social media feeds. 

Unexpected Content for this audience would be imagery that showcases imperfect lives. Things like a mom siting in a room full of unfolded laundry. A dad stepping on a toy, searing in pain, in a room completely covered in toys an snack trash. You get the idea.

Whatever your target audience’s Expected Content is, list out what would make the best types of Unexpected Content posts. Don’t worry at this point what exactly you need to post about tomorrow. Simple come up with a laundry list of Unexpected Content ideas that you can pull from at any given moment.

Step #4: Give It a Try!

Take your Unexpected Content and give it a try. Make notes of what works and what doesn’t work to grab attention. It might take some trial and errror time to figure out what does work. The more you test new things and take notes, the better your end results. 

One word of caution though. Ensure that your Unexpected Content imagery makes sense for what it is that you actually are trying to say to your audience. An image of a mom in dirty clothes makes no sense when talking about a men’s camping tripe. Ensure that your Unexpected Content is still relevant to your messaging. 

Need additional help?

Our goal at Church Media Squad is to serve churches everywher by making church media better. If the Squad and I can help serve you and your church with anything media related, be sure to reach out! 

You can reach me personally via michael@churchmediasquad.com or live on our chat bubble over on the Church Media Squad website here.

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