Can a digital agency be creative?

Paid Social


Everyone at Metric Labs prides themselves on testing. We tinker day in and day out on our clients’ accounts with the aim of making their ad spend as cost efficient as possible. Testing audiences, placement, and dayparting is great but have you introduced different creative? Unsurprisingly, the images or videos used in an ad can have a huge impact on performance. And, not to bang on about testing or anything, but to bang on about testing, it is very important in working out what does and doesn’t work, as soon as possible.

Testing creative ensures that you are serving your audience the kind of creative to which it will respond well. One of our luxury fashion clients introduced a new season with a range of more directional shots. They did not perform well and had few conversions. We tested more basic images and the ROAS increased. Another fashion client had the opposite experience – loud and vibrant images outperformed more classic shots as their audiences were more engaged by the colourful shots.

Take a women’s conversion campaign between August 1-September 18 2019.* *note that the directional imagery ran for longer than the more basic imagery, which was only introduced at the start of September and is still running.

The directional imagery saw 7 purchases at a cost per purchase of $18.06. There were 100 link clicks at a cost of $1.26 per click. ROAS was 7.26. 

We asked the client for images of more conservative, classic styles and immediately saw an improvement in results.

The more basic imagery has so far seen 3 purchases at $8.82 per purchase, 41 clicks at $0.65 per click and an ROAS of 27.21.


Another example is a healthcare client who used a variety of images in a competition. We found that the most successful creative had a number of emojis on it. Images with emoji had CTRs at least 1% higher than non-emoji images. 

Our main takeaway? Test difference creative in addition to the usual changes made to targeting, budget and placement. Depending on your agency model, you may rely heavily on the client or another agency to provide creative, but sometimes a simple change will do – e.g. a different crop, or text on top of an image. These little changes, made on top of existing assets or stock imagery, can be made quickly and without the time constraints of a client reaching out to their graphics team for edits. It’s in your best interest to really understand your client’s design language and brand, so you can give them the confidence to allow these kinds of creative tests on the fly, without multiple rounds of amends and approvals.

Now, before you go and subscribe to a year’s worth of Creative Suite, we have some good news. Not all creative edits need to have a graphic designer and Photoshop on hand. We are huge fans of Canva (#notspon), which gives everyday employees the power to make changes to creative themselves.

So, to answer the question that headlines this blog, YES, a performance agency can be creative. We all use Canva for little changes to imagery.

Here are our top 5 tips on how to make the most of Canva. 

1. Get your specs right

The free version of Canva doesn’t allow for resizing and it can be a real pain when you’ve designed the perfect image only to realise later that you’ve designed something for Instagram Stories, not for the feed. Canva already has specs to choose from so pick the right one, and you’re good to go.


If you have $17.99 to spare a month, you can upgrade to Canva Pro and can resize to your heart’s desire. However, we still believe it’s better to get your specs right in the first place as Canva’s resizing can change the image’s elements and their ratio to each other. 

2. Stock photos, images

Canva has a huge library of stock images and photos to choose from, free and priced. Before you turn your nose down at the free ones, I’m happy to say the days of cheesy stock images are over! Yes, there are still cheesy ones out there, but the overall quality of free images have risen so high that it’s not hard to find a great looking photo for nothing at all. 

The same goes for illustrations, symbols, and patterns. 


3. Use the typography templates

Typography is a perfectionist’s profession. There are a lot of rules and traditions that go into making the perfect typographic layout, and a lot of people out there to criticise it. Just take a look at Avatar’s infamous use of Papyrus

Do yourself a favour and have a look through Canva’s already typeset examples. They have so many designs that suit numerous aesthetics and occasions. Just replace the copy with your own and you won’t have to hear all the things you could have done better from your friendly neighbour type snob. 


4. Use the layout templates too

Speaking of templates, Canva also has you sorted out for layouts – for all dimensions. Even when you make a custom-sized design, Canva will have pre-filled layouts for you to choose from. If you’ve ever experienced the very real fear of the blank canvas, then let Canva do the hard work so you don’t have to worry about the intricacies of colour, typography, and composition. 

It’s just like Vincent van Gogh said, “You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’.” Don’t put yourself through that mental trauma.


5. Use a colour & font finder

So far, we’ve told you to use typography and layout templates but since we’re talking about making creative for clients, it’s highly likely that your clients have a style guide. If you don’t have access to their colour palette or typography guidelines, there are lots of sites where you can upload screenshots to find out what correct hex code and font family you need. 

We personally use these 2 Chrome extensions for a faster process: ColorZilla and WhatFont.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve had any success in using Canva to help improve ad creative. We’d love to hear any clever tips you’ve discovered for making the most out of Canva too!


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