The Branded Creatives vs. Ugly Ads Debate in Digital Marketing

The Branded Creatives vs. Ugly Ads Debate in Digital Marketing

One debate that has been going on for years in the digital marketing industry — branded creatives versus "ugly" ads.

What's the best approach: stick to aesthetically crafted, on-brand ads, or go for the grittiest native ads—the kind that most of the time shockingly perform above expectations? At Digital Hot Sauce, we know the ropes of walking on that thin line, developing ad creatives that convert AND resonate with your brand's identity.

Why Ugly Ads Matter

Ugly or native ads have been gaining traction in recent years. These are the kind of ads that look almost primitive, nearly badly done, but at the same time—apparently—work to catch the eye and increase conversions. Why? Because it looks almost like any other post on that platform, be it Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. These ads don't scream "advertisement" but rather look like regular content, making users more likely to engage with them.

Ugly Ads Work Because:

  • They’re authentic: Ugly ads might feel a lot more relatable and authentic simply because they mimic the kind of raw, unfiltered content that users post themselves. Such authenticity may bring along perceived trust between the brand and the audience, thus making the ad more convincing.

  • They have a native appeal: Ugly ads just slide into the social media feed well. Unlike a polished ad, which interrupts and screams for your attention, ugly ads look like normal posts from your friends or an influencer you may follow. This native appeal makes them skip-resistant and more likely to be engaged with. They are likely to enjoy a higher engagement rate by responding to the ad as it appears in the natural content feed.

  • They’re cost-effective: Ugly ads are generally cheaper to produce and take half the time to design. They don't require expensive photo shoots, elaborate graphics, or high production values. It allows you to test a higher volume of ads with different messages and quickly iterate toward what works best. The lower cost in production means that brands get to be more daring in their creativity without too much financial burden.

  • They’re interesting and different: The human brain is very clever and wired to pay attention and react to changes in its environment. Ugly ads often break the visual pattern of those great professional and highly polished ads, therefore grabbing the viewer's attention with something different than the usual. This disruption can sometimes lead users to stop and engage with the ad, even if just for the sake of curiosity.

  • They’re more personal and relatable: Ugly ads can potentially humanize a brand by showing the down-to-earth, approachable side that consumers appreciate. Users like brands that sometimes take a step back from their more polished image and don't take themselves too seriously. This approachability creates further brand loyalty and a more intimate connection with the audience.

  • They make for good stories: While these might not be well-polished, ugly ads can still be great for storytelling. By drawing attention to a good story, a relatable situation, or user-generated content, these ads are good at providing some serious room for emotional resonance. A great story can reduce the need for great production values and will have viewers enjoying themselves at an entirely different level.

However, as effective as ugly ads can be in a campaign, there is a thin line between being ugly enough to get conversions and completely removing the essence of the brand from the creative. This is when branded creatives come into play.

The Power of Branded Creatives

Branded creatives are ads that maintain the visual and voice guidelines of a brand. These ads are polished, professional, and instantly recognizable as part of a brand. They keep the identity of a brand strong and provide consistency as they move across marketing channels.

Advantages of Branded Creatives:

  • Brand consistency: Branded creatives will look and feel similar across the board. It will help build your brand's recognition and trust with your audience.
  • Professionalism: These ads will reflect the quality and standards of your brand. It will boost the prestige of your brand.
  • Clear messaging: More often than not, these branded creatives will have a well-thought-out message in line with the brand and its value.

Being too polished, branded creatives don't always do well on those native, gritty ad placements. This leads us to our final point: how do we balance this?

Finding Balance the Digital Hot Sauce Way

At Digital Hot Sauce, we believe in a strategic approach that allows us to get the best of both worlds. Here's how we do it:

Data-driven decision making
We study performance data to understand what resonates best with your audience. Through testing various ad formats and styles, we identify those creatives that elicit more engagement and conversions. This will be key to a data-driven strategy that knows when to use branded creatives and when to go ugly—native style.

Platform-specific strategies
Each platform has different user behaviours and interests. What works on Instagram might not work on LinkedIn. So naturally, we create our ad strategies for each platform, making sure that our ad is always relevant and to the point for the audience.

Hybrid creatives
Sometimes, the best approach is a hybrid one. We make ads in which we maintain the brand's identity but, at the same time, incorporate elements that make them feel more native to the platform. This might mean less polished visuals but consistent brand colours and fonts, or creating messaging that might feel at home while also being true to the brand voice.

Continuous optimization
And finally, digital marketing is not a set-and-forget game. We constantly monitor performance and tweak ad performance as necessary, so our ad creatives are always effective and relevant.

In the branded creatives vs. ugly ads debate, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Both have their strengths, and the key to success lies in finding the right balance. 

At Digital Hot Sauce, we pride ourselves on our ability to navigate this fine line, creating ad creatives that not only look good but also drive results. 

If you’re looking to increase those conversion rates with high-performing ads, we have the know-how and strategic insights to do just that. Let’s work together to add some spice to your paid ads strategy and deliver results that matter. Contact us today to chat!

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