Creating Successful Facebook + Instagram Ad Campaigns in 2023

Sep 12, 2022

In the past year, privacy, tracking and attribution have been turned on their heads when it comes to spending money on social ads. To understand the changes, and how new privacy laws are affecting retail ad spends, we talk with Jennifer Spivak, co-founder of and Courtney Tarrant of The Ad Girls. 

Macala (00:24):

Hi everyone. It’s Mcacala and I am here on Let’s Talk A Little Shop for ASD. I am back with Courtney and Jen of The Ad Girls, perhaps the leading agency driving successful revenue creating Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns in the U.S. And if you were at the last show, you know, they spoke on the floor. We did some really amazing one-to-one videos with them about Facebook ad optimization and performance. 

And I invited them to come back and talk to us about the further changes and the updates, cuz you know, there’s a lot happening within Facebook and Instagram right now. So the girls are back to kind of take it to the next level with us. And so ladies say hello to the audience and we’re gonna jump right into it.

Courtney (01:04):

Hi, I was so excited to be here. Can we always be referred to as the girls,

Macala (01:08):

The girls, heck yeah. Badass, badass ladies, whatever you wanna call it. You guys are amazing. You’re

Jen (01:14):

Going down at the same time. It’s fine.

Macala (01:16):

I love it. So Jen Courtney, since the last time we talked, there’s a lot that’s been happening with Facebook Ads and you, you know, almost anyone used to kind of be able to kind of test it. And these days, you know, I’m always retelling retailers too. You might wanna seek some professional help, same thing with Google Ads. So let’s start by talking about what are some of the new rules of Facebook ads in general?

Courtney (01:42):

I’m gonna, I’m gonna start this one because I know that I am the rule follower and Jen is the rule breaker. And so I will share my rules and then Jen, you can, you can tear ’em apart. So I, since iOS 14 happened, which one that doesn’t know iOS is the Apple operating system. Yep. And they released the 14 version. We lost access to tracking capability. 

So when people click to your website from Facebook or Instagram ad, we’ve sort of lost the opportunity to follow them on their journey. If they opted out of tracking, which about 75% to 80% of people did. So we lost a lot. We lost a lot of insight and a lot of data. And with that, we also lost access to interest audiences. So things like being interested in I don’t know, like certain brands or being in a certain demographic, we lost a lot of that information during that update as well.

And so the biggest, the biggest thing that has changed is the way in which we do advertising is an ever evolving platform. But instead of relying on the incredibly advanced Facebook algorithm to do a lot of things like finding people and targeting really specific niches, we actually now go quite a bit more broad with the way that we use Facebook and Instagram ads. We cast our net far and wide and we rely on the messaging and the ad creative of our ads to call in the right people. And so I would say while there’s so many things that we can dive into. The most important piece is to know that you can’t rely on targeting the way that you used to and to give the appropriate amount of tension to creative and messaging in general.

Jen (03:21):

Okay. Yeah. And I mean the only thing that I would add there, cuz obviously like all that is 100% true is it’s not just the algorithm changes and the platform that I think require leaning more into copy and creative as the thing that’s driving results. I think it’s also just growing and ever expanding online business marketplace. Just like any marketplace, the space is going to continue to get more crowded. There’s more competition than there ever has been before. And so if we take away Facebook ads, Instagram ads, whatever the tool or the platform is, the fact of the matter is that you have to work five to 10 times harder than you had to two, five, oe 10 years ago to actually stand out and be able to effectively and profitably sell your products and services online.

Macala (04:08):

While that might, while there is more heavy lifting involved in terms of strategy and hands on kind of like driving performance so that you can, you know maximize your ad spend, where is that beneficial to people too?

Courtney (04:23):

I would say the way that it, the way that it benefits people in general is that Facebook and Instagram as a tool, is it still incredibly powerful? It’s not that the tool has lost efficacy. It’s rather that you need to change the way in which you use it. Yes. So for our clients, who’ve been able to navigate those waters, if you will successfully, they’ve been able to find repeatable, sustainable, successful strategies that allow them to get off of the income roller poster and back into a sustainable business with income and revenue that they can actually count on month after month. 

And so I think if we, if we kind of pull it back to a 30,000 foot overview, understanding that this tool is quote/unquote “more difficult” means that you get the opportunity to reinvent your strategies and that those strategies have actually resulted in more consistency, long term for those that are doing it correctly. 

Jen (05:17):

Yeah. And I mean, there’s also a lot of what we would call the algorithm hackers or the button pushers who are really successful with ads in like, I don’t know, say like 2015, 2016, 2017 mm-hmm those people are not able to be successful anymore. And so actually we’ve talked about these changes as like a bit of a calling up yeah. To those brands that are really ready and willing and able to rise above while the others you know, can’t really compete at that level anymore. So definitely an opportunity inside of that.

Macala (05:46):

When it comes to creating ads, what do retailers or online sellers need to consider when it comes to messaging creative and kind of how to make their ads competition proof?

Jen (06:00):

So, I mean, I think the biggest thing that we talk about when we talk about making ads, competition proof is doing messaging in a way that’s a little bit different from what we have all been taught. And this is something that we spoke about at the show. Last year we believed it’s just like a really tried and true messaging strategy. So I mean more or less, like I think the traditional marketing guidance is that you are supposed to do messaging that speaks to pain points, there’s a problem. 

When we only speak to pain points, if you have any competition in your space, which most people do. (and by that I mean like similar products or services, your competitors are using those same pain points). All of a sudden your ads sound exactly like theirs. And so again, going back to an increasingly crowded online marketplace and increasingly crowded online newsfeed, it is not sufficient. You’re not able to effectively stand out with messaging that only talks to the user’s pain points. And there’s actually an opportunity to lean more into the brand, its mission, its values. We talk about these four different messaging buckets of credibility, vulnerability, personality, and feel good. 

And that’s just like a general framework. Yeah. But it’s leaning more into like really just almost, almost like creating a personal brand for any brand, whether it has a person front facing or not. So that those right people can really very clearly identify as, oh my God. Like this brand is for me, I am their person. And that allows us to, again, not only cut through the clutter with competition, but actually that helps combat rising costs because you’re going to perform that much better because you don’t look like everything else in the feed.

Courtney (07:51):

I would just add that, like we get the opportunity to go back to basics and like in general, that’s what we continue to talk about is that the foundational pieces of what makes you successful in business is what makes you successful in ads. And when we, when we’re using messaging properly, when we’re making creative , that’s just about us, we’re actually giving our customers the opportunity to engage with us differently. You weren’t just buying this, this jacket because you like the way that it looks, you are buying from our brands. And then you become a lifetime customer, which as we know, the larger the lifetime value, the longer that they stay with you, the better off you are. So that initial conversion, let’s say that you get only a 2.5X return. If you put in a dollar, you get two and a half dollars out.

Yeah. But if they’re staying with you and they’re buying from you 3, 4, 5 times, you’re actually looking at a 12, 15, 20X return over time because you are able to bring them into a business ecosystem that’s sustainable and that ultimately allows your customers to come back time and time again. And so you’re looking at longer term costs, which is how we’ve always supposed to be looking at our ads and our ads revenue. We’ve just been a little spoiled, I would say over the last couple of years saying that we can get 10 X right out of the gate. And maybe that’s not the case, but if you have sustainable business practices, that’s actually, okay.

Macala (09:09):

So a common thread that I’m hearing through, a lot of what you’re saying from spend to return to creative is, you know, another portion that’s become more sophisticated is attribution. So what do those people selling courses or products, services, or combination thereof need to understand about attribution when it comes to Facebook ads,

Jen (09:31):

I’m always telling our clients, cuz I actually speak to them before they come into the agency is to understand that attribution is imperfect; say goodbye to their being such a thing as perfect attribution. It’s more important than ever to rely on additional data sources outside of the Facebook pixel. And more and more internally, we are also incorporating some third party tracking tools that have really been developed specifically to help combat some of the loss of tracking that occurred with the iOS 14 updates.

Courtney (10:02):

And I would just like to piggyback off of that, the specific tools that we’re recommending are Triple Whale for Shopify stores. Especially if you’re spending less than $10,000 a month, if you’re spending $10,000 a month or more in ads, we are using High Rose as a tool. There are new changes that come out every single day though. And new platforms, this is really an issue that’s only a year old. 

And so we are 12 months into this together there aren’t perfect tracking solutions. There isn’t a perfect way to do this. And as long as we are saying, sort of like abreast to the things that are coming out and being agile and flexible and trying new ways to complete that attribution circle, I think that’s what’s most important.

So the way that attribution changed is that we now have, even if you did opt into tracking, we actually now have a smaller window, whereas before we would have 28 days due for that person to see your ad, or I’m sorry for that person to click on your ad and then convert, we now only only have seven and we are, there are many brands that are even taking away view through attribution, meaning they didn’t click, but they saw the ad away all together. 

And so it really depends on you and your business model as to what works most effectively for you. But understanding that from a holistic marketing perspective, everything is a part of it. And so the really only true way to say if Facebook ads working or not. And with some of these third parties tracking tools, if we’re only looking at seven day click data, which is so interesting because that, that means that Facebook, the ivory tower Facebook is figuring things out on their end to ensure that the trackability does continue to improve and ensure that our attribution in general, as a business, that it continues to evolve with the marketplace. And so that is really encouraging news. Like literally in the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing it happen internally. I’m not hearing anyone else talk about it, but we’ve seen it on a couple of accounts that it’s quite accurate. It’s getting to be quite accurate. Back to the pre-iOS days.

Macala (12:42):

Okay. Okay. So I’m gonna move that right into another question, cuz again, there’s a lot of underlying themes in some of the things that you’re articulating. So what is the impact of having really smart backend systems in order to sup this front end strategy in today’s world?

Jen (13:02):

So backend systems are everything. I mean, so we, we sort of say like our, our guiding principle here at the ad girls agency is that an ad by itself doesn’t actually do anything. Yeah. And by that we mean like, look, let’s trip everything away. The literal function of an ad is you spend money and you get eyeballs. Now none of us are investing $5,000, $10,000 or hundreds of thousands of dollars in online advertising for just eyeballs. We obviously want to be able to use ads in a way that allows us to predictably spend X and make Y back every time. But if all we do is look at the ads we miss, in some cases, 80 to 90% of the other parts of your online ecosystem that ultimately determine how profitable you can be.

Courtney (13:46):

I think that when we talk about backend systems, like the most successful clients that we have are the ones that have not just Google, like, you know, Google Analytics in place, not just a third party tracking system, not just Facebook ads, but they’re using holistic systems that are supported by real life human beings. And that’s really how we exist in our partnerships with our clients as well, right, is saying, Hey, we, we see this happening inside a Facebook ads manager. What are you seeing on your end? 

Let’s compare and contrast the data so that we can make sure that we are getting you highly qualified leads, that we are sending good people to your website. And that for whatever reason, your conversion rates are tipping, your average order value is staying up. And all of those, the lifetime values continue. All of those pieces are still lining up and in any partnership inside of advertising, that’s what you really wanna be looking for in order to continue to make sure that you’re getting the most like bang for your, if you will, are our advertisers and, and people on, on your team are externally that are really existing with you in partnership and willing to go the extra mile because this landscape is changing and it’s changing quickly.

Jen (14:52):

It’s just so important to look at the whole system holistically versus just Facebook ads. You know, if we’ve got the greatest Facebook ads in the world, but your like talking about an e-commerce or your average order value is too low and your conversion rate is too low. It actually doesn’t matter what we’re doing in the Facebook Adland if the rest of the system doesn’t actually support profitability. So it’s just, we find it to be really like shortsighted, to not look at everything in a little bit more of like a holistic systems based approach.

Macala (15:22):

What are some of your ninja tactics and advice for people to assess their current Facebook ad strategy

Courtney (15:28):

Today? This is such a good question. I’m gonna answer it in two ways. So the first way is I’m going to say that there are no foolproof, one size fits all ninja tactics that I have yet found that are going to fix anything inside of Facebook ads in response to iOS. What I’ve seen is that there are a ton of different tactics that work for a ton of different people in lots of different ways and to go through them. I think what would be just quite boring, honestly, because it just depends on so many things. 

On the flip side of that, what I what I think it’s important to know, and the things that I see in indicative of success before I ever look at your ad account before I ever like, do an audit of your, your business and your funnels and your systems is that you understand the importance of lifetime value and that we’re not just relying on one conversion in order to in order to like to get your, your profit to, to run your business.

Right? So there’s no sustainable business that has ever been built off of one purchase per customer in the end. And I think that prior to even 2020, there were lots of businesses that could grow really quickly off of one person buying one product and, and rinse and repeat, right. 

And actually the, the biggest ninja tactic that we’ve implemented with all of our clients that has worked is increasing average order value and increasing customer lifetime value through continuous remarketing campaigns and creating really smart product bundles, making sure that your pricing is, is reflective of the quality that, of the products that you have. And even something as simple as giving free shipping at a lower order price point. So that first initial purchase isn’t the most important thing. We have a whole system and a whole business built on the back end of that to not only get them to come back and buy again, but to actually continue to buy and buy in larger quantities to increase that order of value.

Jen (17:35):

I think that like overall, we, we’ve always sort of like, as an agency avoided any of the, like, this is what’s working now because exactly to Courtney’s point in both of us having over executive experience in this space, not only does that fluctuate all the time, but there’s, there’s been few, if, any times in which there’s one thing that’s working for everybody, what I will say if I have to give one ninja tactic something that can be a little bit of an untapped placement right now are real ads and stories, ads on Instagram only because fewer advertisers are using them slash using them properly. 

And so there’s ever so slightly more of an opportunity there because there’s less competition that will change. But anytime there’s a new placement in which we can run ads, it creates just a little bit more of an opening where we can sometimes see less competition and lower costs. And so if you can effectively create content for those placements and that part is important, you don’t wanna just like, yes, slide a regular image into a real

Macala (18:39):


Jen (18:40):

If you can effectively create content there, that can be an untapped placement to leverage where you may be able to see lower costs than you’re getting in the feed.

Macala (18:48):

Awesome. So ladies, where can retailers find you online?

Jen (18:53):

So we are You can learn all about our agency, our services, our amazing, beautiful, brilliant team. And then we’re also @TheAdGirls on Instagram. 

Macala (19:29):

I love it. I can’t wait for people to listen to this latest update and continue to kind of use your guidance to navigate the world of Facebook and Instagram ads.


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Macala Rose

Macala Rose

Macala Rose is a writer and researcher who specializes in health, wellness, and consumer behavior. Her expertise has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and many more publications. When she’s not writing about consumer behavior or food, she can be found scouring for deals in antique shops or on the back of her horse. You can with her on Linkedin at or via