money maker

Best practices for motion in paid ads: better performance, more trust, more money

The bread and butter for many motion designers is in 15 second spots

By Shea Lord |
February 11th, 2023
money maker

Best practices for motion in paid ads: better performance, more trust, more money

The bread and butter for many motion designers is in 15 second spots

By Shea Lord |
February 11th, 2023

Read time: 4 minutes
Mayyybe they’re not the sexiest motion design project, but paid ads (the ones that pop up in your social feeds, YouTube pre-rolls, website margins, and between streaming services) have a lot to offer freelancers and clients.

  • animation boosts ad performance
  • trackable, tangible ROI for the client
  • clear measurements for your success
  • high volume of work needed
  • building campaigns is fun, I swear

Media Buying is the process of purchasing ad space/time (see: HubSpot explanation). This is what your client is trying to do. As a motion designer, you’ll be supplying the creative.

If you’re brought into the process early, you can help develop the campaign strategy and creative direction. At the end of the chain, an animator might come in just to add motion to the creative for a performance boost.

I’ve probably animated > 1000 of these things now, so I have some thoughts. Nothing is gospel in advertising, but there are some best practices.

What works

  • It’s about attention. Motion doesn’t sell products. Good products + good copy sell products. Motion simply says “Hey! Listen!” It’s good at making people pause. That boosts engagement and CTR, but not necessarily conversions.
  • It’s also about retention. Every time something moves in an otherwise settled screen, you recapture the viewer. Our brains are wired to check out little bits of motion in our periphery. So motion keeps audiences longer.
  • Keep it super simple. Too many layers of motion just become a distraction. Let the screen settle. Prioritize clarity and legibility.
  • Honor the design hierarchy. Headlines first, with the boldest motion. CTA last, more humble. Use your judgment for how a viewer should digest it.
  • Eye trace. Look here, then here. Lead the viewer’s eye to assist them in absorbing the information of the ad more quickly and easily.
  • Enhance the CTA. After the ad has settled, you can add a little extra motion to the CTA to bring the viewer’s eye back to it. ex: animated underline comes on and off.

What doesn’t work

  • Things happening all at once. Animations can overlap consecutively, but still need to maintain a clear sequence. If everything is moving, nothing stands out.
  • Long intros lose viewers. Get all the info up asap. The longer you take to deliver the copy, the more likely you’ll lose your audience.
  • Seamless loops. Not a big deal, but we don’t need to see it transition to reset. Why remove information? Just let it cut back to the beginning if the ad will loop.
  • Ads not focused on the product or problem. I’ve gotten lost in the art before and had to rework. Let’s not pretend we’re not trying to sell something. Present the problem, present the solution. Be clear > clever.
  • Obscured or illegible copy. If it’s a VO, make sure there are subtitles.
  • Brand content. Videos that promote awareness of the brand identity/personality don’t sell products. Not directly, anyway. These are different kinds of campaigns.They work, but differently. I’m adding them to this category so the distinction is clear. When you’re helping your client, be intentional with what their goals are. Ideally, brand campaigns are paired with conversion campaigns.

How to talk shop with your clients


  • Know your terms. KPIs, ROAs, CTRs, Conversions, Campaign types. That could be another newsletter, TBH.
  • Talk about testing and dynamic creative. Every good media buyer is running a lot of tests to see what resonates best with audiences and algorithms.
  • Ask to be kept in the loop on performance metrics so you can help diagnose, troubleshoot, and make adjustments to your work so their campaigns can be more successful. It will take teamwork.
  • Ask about their audience segmentation. How are they targeting people? How can you tailor ads to that audience?
  • Know your specs. Each platform and ad type requires different dimensions, file sizes, etc. Very important if they want display ads (GIFs) where file size and compression get touchy.Specs change, so you don’t need to memorize them. Just know what to look out for so you can help your client avoid potential issues.
  • Ask about their funnel. Where is the CTA taking the viewer?
  • Learn how to diagnose a funnel. If engagement is up, and CTR is up, but the client isn’t making more sales? The issue is probably on their landing page. The ad isn’t the problem.

Run your own campaign

Learn by doing! Put $10 behind one of your instagram posts, turn it into a Likes campaign, and see what happens. You’ll get a good view of the backend and gain more insight into how media buying works.

Or: find a small business in your neighborhood (or run by a friend) and try to build a Conversion campaign that leads to a landing page or sign-up page. Learn how to track conversions through Meta. Split the profit. You’ll learn a ton.

People build 6-figure remote businesses doing this. As a motion designer, you’ll have a superpower.

Check out Meta Blueprint for free official training. You can even get certified.


A lot of advertising is trashy

Maybe “advertising” gives you the ick. I get that. But a lot of motion design work falls into that category one way or another. So what’s a pure heart to do?

The documentary Art & Copy made me not just enjoy advertising, but pursue it. Maybe it can change your mind, or at least provide a little artistic comfort.


“I understand why people trash advertising because a lot of advertising is trashy. People aren’t really aspiring to do something creative or illuminating or inspiring. They’re aiming low. They’re like: “We would like a 30-second piece of communication here that tells people these five product features.” That’s just not very ambitious. You can do so much more.”

— Liz Dolan, former Head of Marketing for Nike