How to Find Unicorn Ads and Avoid Facebook Creative Fatigue

By Brian Bowman, CEO of

We’ve recently evaluated over $150,000,000 in spend and over 1m creatives and have found that 85-95% of Facebook Ads fail. This means you only have a 5-15% chance a new creative outperforms the best asset in your portfolio. And, if a new asset doesn’t outperform your best asset, you lose money running losing ads. While it’s challenging enough to unlock these ‘unicorn’ ads, you also have to simultaneously deal with Facebook creative fatigue.

At some point, your creative will provide diminishing returns and will need to be replaced to maintain financial performance. So, how long can you run an ad before creative fatigue is evident? We analyzed millions in media spend to craft the following suggestions.

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Why is Creative King?

The changes implemented due to the loss of Apple’s IDFA mean creative is still king! Ad account structure changes mean slight variations of winning creative no longer yield massive performance lifts. It’s therefore hard to justify burning finite account slots for testing on iOS. So, while the risk of new concepts failing is exponentially higher than minor adjustments to top-performing ads, the reward is also greater. The potential for success is between 20-500%.

How can you find these unicorn ads, though? A good rule of thumb is that it takes 20-30 original creative concepts to uncover winners. Some accounts, in fact, take as many as 40-50 new concepts to discover unicorn creative.

We created a customized A/B creative testing process to unlock these top-performing ads. (You can learn all about our unique process here in our whitepaper.) Due to iOS14.5 tracking restrictions, all of our creative testing is now done on Android, then ported over to iOS.
Unicorn Ads.

Facebook Creative Fatigue Takeaways

There are several major takeaways we uncovered. First, a unicorn ad can be responsible for 20% of total media spend alone! Moderate winner ads also can account for 10-15% of total media spend. These two creative types therefore can be responsible for 35% of your media spend performance. Again, the question becomes, for how long?

Facebook creative fatigue for unicorn and moderate winning ads sets in between 10-14 weeks. At this point, they will no longer provide meaningful volume. We do not recommend pausing and unpausing these ads. Instead, if you want to rest and re-launch winners, pause the content for 8 weeks. Then, relaunch the ads as fresh ads. This results in stronger performance from your recently relaunched content.

What Losing/Testing Ads Look Like

When we test ads, we frequently see “the hockey stick” performance﹘also known as logarithmic decay﹘among losing concepts. This is when creative starts off strongly, but by Week 2 spend drops to <50% of Week 1. The precipitous drop in spend is a result of humans killing weak ads.

Moderate Winners Creative Testing

Unfortunately, creative testing of moderate winners showed these ads were unable to achieve ROAS scale. These ads quickly die Weeks 4-6.

To successfully exit creative testing, moderate winning ads must exhibit solid KPIs. These include IPM, CTR and initial ROAS. These KPIs are indicative of an ad’s capability to engage in scaled spending. However, the performance of moderate winners frequently erodes as spending is increased. Therefore, it’s critical to keep the total percentage spend to 10-15%.

Unicorn Ads Testing Creative Fatigue

While we see a correlation between moderate and unicorn ads early in the process, that’s where the similarities end. Both types of creative exit testing with good KPIs. But, moderate winners will start to scale in Weeks 2-3 as the creative is launched for new audiences. Their total percentage of the portfolio spend, though, is less. By Week 6, moderate ads performance drops below Week 1 performance. From there, they fall off a cliff.

Unicorn Winners

Accounts with <$500k in monthly spend take 2-3 weeks for unicorn ads to reach maximum scale. One major factor is an abundance of caution from the UA manager. In order to get the most performance out of an ad, the UA manager will hold back opening the creative to too many audiences. Once the ad proves it has legs, however, they expand the creative’s audience delivery.

Unicorn Ads Creative Fatigue

Unicorn ads can be between 5-10% of the total account spend. However, around Week 10, spend drops below the Week 1 level. Facebook Creative fatigue has set in, and the ad is no longer providing meaningful traffic. The ad’s scale opportunity is past, so you need to replace it.

Similarly, accounts with >500k in monthly spend don’t reach their peak spend until Weeks 4-6. Again, this is because of the UA manager’s cautious approach, so the creative can last as long as possible. Even with this approach, high-spending accounts still experience creative fatigue at Week 10. As you can see, the spend drops significantly between Weeks 10-12.

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Greater Than 500k Monthly Spend Creative Fatigue

Best of the Best

Some very large accounts can spend $1m+ on a single ad. In fact, the “best of the best” creatives can account for more than 20% of the total account spend. Creative fatigue sets in slower than average, and these ads can last 14 weeks.

Best of the Best Creative Fatigue

Reactivating Old Winners

Finally, common industry practice is to give winning creative “a rest”. UA managers will pause these ads for as little as a few weeks or as long as a few months. Our data suggest that old winners are only able to achieve 50-60% of their original spend velocity. Again, our recommendation is to rest a unicorn ad for 8 weeks before relaunching it. Rather than pausing and unpausing ads, we suggest you launch fresh ads.

Old Winners Creative Fatigue

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