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Ad Tropes and Ad Trends

Common Themes in Ads Today and Tomorrow
Brett Friedman

Advertising is an infinite game. Since the beginning of human economic activity, people have attempted to spread word of their products and services. People have also recorded those attempts, analyzed patterns, and maximized successful strategies. Some strategies become so successful that everyone tries them. At that point they turn into a trend, and sometimes, if they're truly lucky, a trope. To differentiate, a trend is something currently popular and growing in usage while a trope is something used so often it's commonplace at best, laughable at worst. Similar to saying a word over and over again, it loses meaning.

The same goes for advertising. This concept is called Semantic Satiation.

Ad Tropes

Daniel Levine, trends expert and founder of Avant-Guide Institute and Wiki Trends

offered this video as an example of a trend that rapidly deteriorated into a trope:

That being said, tropes aren't all bad. Sometimes, overuse of a device becomes comforting and easy to digest (i.e. low cognitive load). For example, including metaphors that are used so frequently they require no effort to understand in your ads outperforms using novel metaphors. Much like the effects of page loading speed on conversion rates, ad-brain loading speed affect engagement. When ads are easily identifiable as ads, it makes it easier to interpret, increasing chances a consumer will interact with it.

Some great examples of ad tropes that have worked for hundreds, if not, thousands of years are provided below.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO, My Corporation

"The specific use of music to convey emotions. Certain instruments are used to reflect a situation, whether it is uplifting or somber. For example, many brands are currently running COVID-19 commercials that feature quiet, slow piano keys to accompany the message."

Amit Gami, Founder, CRM System

"The classic disclaimers spoken really fastly at the end of ads usually for financial providers."

Adam Gingery, Paid Search Manager, Majux Marketing

"As far as tropes are concerned, these two have proven to be timeless and effective on the digital side of advertising: scarcity and negative messaging."

And there are hundreds more! Not to mention there are new tropes made daily. If you can recognize them while they're still trends, you can ride their success until you need to find the next one. To sniff out the high performers, test them all! Scour ad databases like Facebook's Ad Library and Ads of the World to see patterns across high performers. You can also use Facebook's high performing ads spotlight. Next, turn the best ads into templates for your own content, plug in your creative assets, then test them all against each other to see what wins. To combine trends, try multivariate testing.

Ad Trends

An ad with meta copy and callouts


Daniel, Deborah, Amit, and Adam offer current trends as well.

Daniel's network of trendspotters have noticed meta-jokes and memes doing particularly well. Marpipe has independently confirmed this suspicion in one of our Does Creative Matter experiments where we told advertisers we were not advertising to them in an advertisement. He also notes that audiences are getting smaller, ads more personalized, and in-video game promotions becoming more popular.

Deborah notices masks in stock imagery to reflect Covid precautions. Stock imagery is commonly the core element of ads from companies who are mass producing or can't afford professional photography and creative production.

Amit notes privacy concerns in response to how closely advertisers are tracking internet behavior. Many companies are turning away from Cookie usage as Google announced its destruction planned for 2022. Creative data will likely become the next force in advertising, away from user information and into ad information. Finding ad trends and tropes that work regardless of audience can replace unhealthy targeting practices.

Adam recognizes this emphasis on creative in noting that quality of content needs to be higher for consumers to offer up their email addresses.

Pierce Porterfield, Marpipe's Chief Creative has analyzed data across thousands of ads. His findings agree with the others, adding "Callouts" and "UI Shots" to the mix of emerging trends.

Ad Tropes and Ad Trends

While tropes and trends are infinite games, finding them before the crowd does is a finite game, and therefore, winnable game. To win, all you need to do is recognize patterns across ads that work well. If you can't gather up the data yourself either through extensive testing or exorbitant time commitment, you can try asking us. Or just sign up for Marpipe ; )

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How to Run a Multivariate Test

The Beginner's Guide

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How to Run a Multivariate Test
The Beginner's Guide

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