How ad copy can affect visitor motivation in a Facebook ad Experiment ID: #6079

Hillsdale College

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,400. Hillsdale’s educational mission rests upon two principles: academic excellence and institutional independence. The College does not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations.

Experiment Summary

Timeframe: 2/1/2017 - 2/8/2017

Hillsdale College launched new creative on Facebook promoting their course on the life of C.S. Lewis. Since these ads are direct response ads designed to attract viewers to sign up for the course, they had previously experienced much success with concise, clear copy that asked people to sign up.

However, they felt that they might have saturated the market of people who needed minimal persuasion to sign up, and hypothesized that to engage the next, less-motivated layer of the target audience, their ads might actually need more copy. They crafted copy for the top section of the ad that gave more insight into who C.S. Lewis was, and made a softer offer to sign up for the course.

This new copy produced a 421.6% increase in clickthrough rate, but they wanted to test further along in the funnel to see if these visitors actually converted more often than the more direct ad copy.

Research Question

Will increasing the length and depth of the value proposition through the ad copy attract more people to sign up for the course?

MECLABS Conversion Factors Targeted

C = 4m + 3v + 2( i - f) - 2a ©

Copyright 2015, MECLABS


C: Direct copy
T1: Increased copy


Treatment Name Conv. Rate Relative Difference Confidence
C: Direct copy 0.04%
T1: Increased copy 0.22% 409.7% 100.0%

This experiment has a required sample size of 4,395 in order to be valid. Since the experiment had a total sample size of 19,041, and the level of confidence is above 95% the experiment results are valid.

Flux Metrics Affected

The Flux Metrics analyze the three primary metrics that affect revenue (traffic, conversion rate, and average gift). This experiment produced the following results:

    0% increase in traffic
× 409.7% increase in conversion rate
× 0% increase in average gift

Key Learnings

The new copy produced a 409.7% increase in email acquisition rate, which proved that the more engaging copy (combined with a “Find out more” call-to-action led more people into the funnel and also produced more motivated visitors. These results were reflective of two things:

  1. The increased ad copy created a more engaging ad that attracted more clicks and turned those clicks into subscribers.
  2. The audience had changed from a group of people who needed very little value proposition to sign up (they were “pre-converted”) to people who needed more value proposition to incentivize them to start the course.

Because this audience had shifted over 18 months of running ads for this course, they realized that they needed to adjust creative to fit their new audience. This process of perpetual optimization is a reminder that the target audience isn’t static—it shifts and moves as you work your way from the center of the target outwards.

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Experiment Documented by...

Jeff Giddens

Jeff is a Senior Vice President at NextAfter. If you have any questions about this experiment or would like additional details not discussed above, please feel free to contact them directly.