B2B Social Advertising: A Plea for Creativity

09.29.20 // Roslyn Stapleton

What do you typically see in your social feeds? Perhaps a friend landed a new job, someone shared a blog post about the struggle of working 100% remote, a life update with a smiley photo, news articles, a motivational quote, an invitation to a pyramid scheme that “totally is not a pyramid scheme”… and of course, ads.

Regardless of the social platform, why do ads feel obtrusive to the feed when there’s such an array of content types, messages, and offers? Especially in the realm of B2B social advertising, even if the ad offers something relevant and helpful to the user, it doesn’t mean they are motivated to give the ad more than a half-glance.

What are we missing?


Growth of Social Media Usage

Let’s set the stage. If you’re already thinking B2B companies shouldn’t be advertising on social because it’s “not the right place”, then consider that the annual growth of social media users worldwide rose by 10.5% according to research from July. That’s nearly 4 billion active users across the globe. Your prospects are definitely there. In the wake of COVID-19, 43% of internet users are also reporting more time spent on social platforms. Your prospects are there… spending more of their time there than ever before.

Given the unique ability of social advertising to find prospects based on interests, skills, or even job titles (depending on the platform), it’s no surprise that employing the right strategies across these platforms can yield powerful results.

That said, social advertising is on the rise. Reports estimate that US advertisers will increase ad spend on social platforms by 20.4% in 2020. It should be noted that these estimates were also provided before the global pandemic and reported increased time on social platforms.


The Social Landscape

Before I make my next point, it’s imperative to underscore the responsibility of social advertisers to be diligent, mindful, and respectful of the impact of their tactics. It’s easy, as a user bombarded by ads, to quickly become irritated by lazy advertising efforts and poor campaign management. Each interaction, especially a user’s first interaction, can impact the perceptions that users have with your brand.

So we have more users, more time spent by users on the platforms, and more money being spent fighting for the attention of these users. Even with the best targeting employed, how can brands provide value and get their message across without fading into the rising noise of the feed?


Context is Key

Here is my plea. While I understand the importance of branding and consistency, B2B advertisers must find the courage to push the creative boundaries on social feeds! Too often I see the same templates for images of just slightly different offers, with barely any variation in the colors used or general layout of the creative. Personally, I am guilty of the “half-glance”! I’m more likely to scroll past an ad I think I’m familiar with! While ad copy is inextricably tied to the creative and is extremely important to convey value to the user with the right voice, research suggests that the creative is more important.

Remember, these platforms are known for color, creativity, and connection. Why should B2B brands limit themselves with a specific color theme or imagery that could be classified as more “professional”? There seems to be a disconnect between what B2B brands run and the context of the user’s environment. Push to be fun and playful!


Creativity in Action

Naturally, I wouldn’t feel this passionate if I haven’t seen this tactic work. Obility tested this when refreshing old creative. Two new themes were introduced and tested on the same offer, with the same ad copy, in the same audience. Replacing an image of a competitive track and field landscape, Obility tested that “classic eBook look” versus… drum roll please… puppies! Any guesses to which creative option performed better?


Image variations tested on LinkedIn



Track: 0.39% CTR, $79 CPA
Blue eBook: 0.32% CTR, $43 CPA
Grey eBook: 0.26% CTR, $38 CPA
Head-tilted doggos: 0.5% CTR, $38 CPA
Husky pup (go dawgs!): 0.6% CTR, $27 CPA

Look at the heightened engagement and lower cost per download on the guide!! Is the recommendation to just roll with puppies? Not quite. However, don’t be afraid to be fun, cute, or playful!

I reached out to some colleagues for additional examples. Another great way to test your brand’s creative potential is to tap into the holiday season. One of our B2B SaaS clients ran some spooky messaging and a Halloween-themed image to update a core campaign. The timely creative generated a 79% lift in CTR without compromising conversion rate. It was the same offer in the same audience. Get testing, folks!


The Do’s Come with the Don’ts

With every recommendation comes the cautionary tale. While I urge B2B advertisers to embrace more creativity and playfulness, there is such a thing as “a little too far”. If the creative muddies the understanding of the message, it’s not helpful. Let me give an example.

One of my clients wanted to experiment around the Super Bowl. The aim was to highlight how their software was crucial to the growth of services like UberEats or DoorDash who are obviously big players to deliver those game-day snacks. The creative was a tad distracting. We chatted about some concerns, but ultimately they wanted to test it out.

While clicks and CTR looked awesome, Google Analytics showed us minimal average time spent on the page and a higher-than-expected bounce rate. We paid for a lot of clicks, but few users were ultimately interested in the content. It turns out that (shirtless) Adam Levine, who was one of the Super Bowl performers, completely overshadowed a compelling story behind food delivery services, whose logos were also featured in the image.

While an attention-grabbing creative, even if it’s funny, can spark engagement in the social platform, you don’t want it to completely detract from your ad copy or content. Push the boundaries, but not at the expense of your message.


Playfulness in Practice

Need some inspiration? Check out some of Obility’s own creatives below that were used in a recent campaign. These were designed by Obility’s rockstar Graphic Designer, Ross Stauss.

About Roslyn Stapleton

Roslyn is a Paid Social Manager at Obility. She enjoys navigating the intricate targeting options of the social platforms and crafting strategic solutions that meet the dynamic needs of her B2B clients. Outside of work, she loves playing soccer, skiing Mt. Hood, and exploring new breweries. View all Roslyn Stapleton’s posts >