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The secret to Direct Response success in a mobile-first world.

• Written by Christie Poulos - Client Director, Genero

When it comes to creative, brand advertising is the hero: the flashy friend who always gets invited to award parties; meanwhile direct response (DR) is the mate you can always rely on, the designated driver, too busy focusing on getting results to care about winning awards.

Often owned by the ‘Performance’, ‘Growth’ or ‘Acquisition’ teams, performance media has historically spanned programmatic, search and digital display channels. Now, the unstoppable rise of digital video, and emerging channels like TikTok and shoppable social, is driving rapid change. 

At Genero we often hear that growth marketers struggle to access in-house or agency creative resources and budgets to build original creative, particularly video, for acquisition.

Could this be why DR creative is often no more than a TVC cut down? Or static image and text posts? And why change? It works! Offer + Product shot/logo + CTA = good (enough). 

But we’re living in a mobile-first world, and the rules are changing. As the competition on social media increases, if you’re not designing for mobile from the start of the creative process you’re not designing for your customers, and you may be leaving some money on the table.

Nielsen reports that 56% of sales lift can be attributed to the quality of the creative.* And when it comes to mobile, the difference between the good and the not-so-good, can be considerable.

Nielson Advertising Effectiveness Study, 2017

Is your performance creative letting the team down in a mobile-first world?

Naturally, before you even start to create, make sure you know the best features and benefits to highlight, and have a compelling and relevant offer that will make your audience want to click.

Once you’ve got that nailed, here are 5 ways to ensure your direct response and performance creative is maximising your returns.

1. Don’t let budget constraints turn you off

It’s a common misconception that good creative and video is expensive. Often performance marketers are locked out of ‘big budgets’ until they prove the ROI on activities.

The good news is that compelling and powerful DR creative for mobile-first viewing can often be achieved with modest budgets, using existing assets like photography, brand assets and clever animation and motion graphics techniques.

We worked with Asian e-commerce fashion giant Zalora to transform existing product images into thumb-stopping and mobile optimised Facebook video ads by adding lightweight motion. This drove a 68% increase in in-app purchases and a 97% increase in return on ad spend (ROAS) (compared to static posts alone).

2. Mix it up

Experiment with a combo of static and motion creative (videos, animations, gifs). Facebook research has shown that static + video campaigns achieved a 17% higher conversion lift vs. static images alone.*

  • 16:9 or landscape video is perfect for YouTube and Facebook in-stream
  • 4:5 assets will perform best in feed on Facebook and Instagram
  • Portrait or 9:16 video is fast becoming a staple as all platforms are offering vertical placements to take advantage of mobile screen real estate.

3. And then…master the mobile video creative basics

Consider well tested mobile-first best practice basics to ensure your video ads are optimised for mobile viewing*:

  • The long and the short of it (keep it brief!). Generally the shorter the ad, the more likely it will be watched end to end. 15 seconds is the sweet spot for Facebook and TikTok. Video length on YouTube varies. 6-second bumpers and 15 second unskippable ads can perform well – but skippable videos can run much longer (if they grab attention!).
  • Consider the role of sound. For the Facebook feed, focus on designing for sound off – but aim to delight with sound on. Whereas for YouTube, Instagram Stories & Reels or mid-roll video – it’s the reverse. Sound, and specifically music and voice overs, are critical for attention and engagement on TikTok and can drive a higher View Through Rate. These TikTok and Tourism & Events Queensland ads show how spending extra time on music, SFX and audio memes could really pay off for your brand.

Tourism & Events Queensland



  • Frame your story and fill the screen by using vertical formats and selecting imagery and footage which is bold and in your face. Using approaches like split screens and footage specifically shot for vertical can help.
  • Highlight your product and lead with a compelling offer. Introduce your product or brand early* (within the first 3 – 5 seconds, platform dependent), often and throughout. Also keep in mind that product-focused creatives generate more content views 71% of the time when tested against creatives without a clear-product focus.
  • Grab attention, stop the thumb, talk fast. Using bright colours, arresting imagery, and motion will capture attention. Whereas big bold text helps to communicate clear simple messages. Again, think about how sound can be used. Genero creators had a lot of fun with iconic Aussie outdoor retailer Boating Camping Fishing (BCF) – grabbing attention with motion and eye-catching visuals in this DR ad.


  • Emphasise the Call to Action. Make it super-duper easy for audiences to respond by telling them what you want them to do. Emphasise that button, after all, you really only want them to see enough to want to click!

4. Test and optimise your creative

Because simple DR assets can often be quickly, and cost-effectively, produced – try planning for a number of different versions with different messages, calls to action, and visual tweaks – and test them out to find out what performs best. Then double down on that creative and test again. And so on.

As ad targeting driven by machine learning becomes more advanced, it’s becoming easier than ever to test and improve different messaging, creative approaches, visuals, CTAs, etc. and swiftly optimise creatives.

5. Strengthen and leverage your brand

Just because creative is designed to elicit a response, it doesn’t mean that you can’t strengthen your brand and build awareness at the same time. This is where great creative can really help collapse the funnel from Awareness to Conversion in one asset.

If your brand is known to the audience, leverage brand imagery like logos, products and familiar mnemonics such as shapes, colour, talent and audio cues like sound effects, music or a jingle. In this way, you can communicate a lot in a very short space of time without necessarily distracting from the response messaging.

Showcasing your recognisable and trusted brand can drive higher brand recall uplift, conversion and ROAS – high fives all round.

For example, Australian fintech disruptor Nimble worked with Genero creators Cyclone Creative and Monster & Bear to create a brand and direct response campaign with oodles of brand codes including the recognisable jackrabbit, Nimble’s bright brand colour and even a unique jingle and success tone created for the app.

If limited budgets are holding you back from making quality and effective creative for performance, rest assured there’s a lot you can do for a modest budget – and by prototyping, testing and optimising, you’ll swiftly be able to build a case for more funds.

And if your organisation is stuck in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset, let them know that you could be driving much higher returns on ad spend, by mixing things up with static and video assets which deliver the right creative for the right channel.

Using experienced creatives who know all the tips and tricks and can inject fresh creativity into your campaigns can also help. Technology platforms like Genero can connect you with just those folk, to create better, more creative Direct Response ads.

Need help with your Direct Response ads?

Get in touch.