A computer on the floor of an oak forest

Fundamental Online Advertising Strategy: Your OAC

Online advertising has been around pretty much since the internet has existed. This is no surprise because advertising itself has been around forever. Any time there is a new kind of media that gets a lot of eyes on it, ads are close behind. Newspapers, radio, TV…these new forms of media were snatched up by advertisers almost immediately.

While online advertising is often approached like some type of alchemical black magick, the reality is that the fundamentals are the same no matter what the platform is. This is why our team can hop into any advertising platform and get around fine even if they have never seen it before. It’s kind of like driving a semi-truck. If you can drive one you can drive them all.

A semi truck pulling up

Get ready to drive ANY advertising platform!

In this blog post, we are going to break down the fundamental advertising strategy known as the OAC. To attempt to launch a campaign without making sure each of these three components is explicitly defined is to set yourself up for failure. Or, at the very best, the actual launch will be super delayed and take way too long to get out the door. 

Remember this: no matter what the technology or format, OAC will always underpin your advertising campaign!

The “O” Stands For Objective

All online advertising is an auction under the hood which means the Objective of your online advertising campaign is critical to get right. You and a plethora of other advertisers are bidding for the chance to display your ad to somebody. If you are bidding for the wrong type of ad from the start, your campaign is doomed. You must be clear on the EXACT TYPE of campaign that you’ll be running based on the platform you are using; the Objective of the campaign.

Above all, your business outcome needs to be clear in the first place. Why specifically are you running ads in the first place?

Here are a few reasons why you may run ads:

  • Drive traffic to the landing page for a lead magnet.
  • Push people who abandoned their cart to complete their purchase.
  • Get more viewership on a particular video or series of videos.
  • Build up a list of engaged Users that you can remarket to with another campaign later (see the “Audience” section for more on how we define remarketing).

Each of those business outcomes requires a different type of campaign Objective.

When getting clear on the “O” of your OAC, you also need to consider things like budget and timelines. Some business outcomes are short-term while others can be more of a long game. Pushing traffic to a registration page for an event is time-bound based on when the event itself is happening. In this case, you will likely have a fixed budget to spend in that period. Conversely, building up a list of engaged Users can be something that always runs in the background. The budget for this kind of Objective can be a small daily drip.

You would be wise to treat a budget like an investment which means you can afford to lose it all without any return. If you cannot take that kind of risk, you probably need to lower your budget or reconsider advertising in the first place. Advertising is a constantly evolving game and nothing is guaranteed. Even if you nail your OAC.

The “A” Stands For Audience

Since online advertising is an auction, the next major component to plan out once you are clear on the Objective is the Audience itself. Not only are you bidding on a particular outcome, but you also need to be clear on WHO’s attention for which you are bidding.

Similar to the Objective selection, you need to be clear on the EXACT kind of person you are targeting. Fortunately, there are only ever four possible classes of targeting you can choose when running ads no matter which platform you use:

  1. Owned Audiences – These are the lists that are your own. Your email list, list of phone numbers, website visitors, etc. When people speak of “remarketing” they are exclusively talking about this particular targeting tactic.
  2. Platform Audiences – These are the lists you do NOT own. Number of followers, video viewers, post engagers, etc.
  3. Similar Audiences – These are the AI-driven lists such as lookalikes and/or competition-based lists where you target specific competitors.
  4. Date-Driven Audiences – These are the lists you create from the ocean of data being provided by the platform. This is the interest-based targeting, behavior-based targeting, and intelligent segments you can choose from. When doing a data-driven audience we recommend intersecting multiple data points to get as close to your target as possible.

When getting clear on the “A” of your OAC, you also need to consider the base demographics. Going back historically to old internet chat rooms you need to make sure the A/S/L are defined: the Age, Sex, and Location of your audiences. We typically define A/S/L/L which includes age, sex, location, and language.

Depending on your Objective, you may end up using multiple classes of Audience in a campaign. For example, if you are driving traffic to a landing page, you’ll want to cast a wide net with a variety of audiences. However, if you are running ads to get cart abandoners to complete their purchase, the only class of audience that makes sense is your Owned Audience of people who added something to their cart.

It is also critical when defining the “A” of your OAC to be clear on who to EXCLUDE from your campaign. Exclusions are easy to overlook and we’ve even seen professional advertisers completely ignore this aspect of audience selection. Let’s use the cart abandon example. If someone succeeds in making their purchase they do NOT need to see your cart abandon ads. However, by nature of the checkout process, all purchasers will also be in the cart audience as well. If you only run ads to an audience of people who added to the cart without excluding people who completed their purchase you will waste ad budget running irrelevant ads to people who already bought. And run the risk of upsetting people too.

When using multiple classes of Audience in a campaign, being clear on exclusions is also important to make sure you are not bidding against yourself in multiple auctions.

Pretend you are running traffic to a landing page by targeting an Owned audience of your email list and also targeting a Platform audience of people who follow you. It is possible for someone on your email list to also follow you on social. If you don’t distinctly separate these audiences in your campaign you risk bidding for someone’s attention in two different targeting auctions thus artificially inflating your bid.

The solution here is to make sure you are excluding your email list from the audience of followers. This way, if someone is on your email list AND follows you on social, they will only qualify for ads in the Owned audience auction.

A screenshot from a Meta online advertising Plan for a client where we were targeting our Owned and Platform audiences.

Here is a screenshot from a Meta advertising Plan for a client where we were targeting our Owned and Platform audiences. Notice how the web visitors and email lists are in their own ad set (Audience) and then we exclude them from the engagement ad set (Audience). This ensures someone will only ever show up in one possible ad auction.

Lastly, when figuring out your Audience, you need to figure out WHERE your ads are going to show up. This is sometimes known as the placement or the platform. For example, when advertising on Meta you can choose to show up on Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger (or their Audience Network). Or you may want to only run ads on mobile devices and not on desktop computers, for whatever reason. This distinction is also important to consider when planning out your advertising campaign.

The “C” Stands For Creative

The last major component of online advertising, once you are clear on the Objective and Audience, is the Creative itself. This is the ground-level ad that someone will see when you win the auction.

The Creative includes all visuals, audio, and/or language that constitute an ad. We recommend always having multiple Creatives in any online advertising campaign. You want to approach the ads from different angles to have the best chance of success. More shots on goal have a better chance than a single shot.

The platform you choose to advertise on determines the Creative constraints and requirements. As important as getting the Objective and Audience are, getting the Creative right is probably the most important.

Writing an ad or producing a video/audio is a deep and wide topic. Far more complex than we can cover in a single blog post. This is where copywriting comes into play. This is where writing a video script shows up. This is where editing appears. This is where persuasion and influence are needed. This is where frameworks, things like color psychology and visual cues have to be used.

You can have short-form ads or long-form ads. You can use text only. Or only images. Or full-blown videos. Or any combination of them.

As we mentioned, this topic is extremely complex and can be studied for a lifetime while still never mastering it. To help out here are some tips and tricks to generate Creatives that achieve the ultimate goal of your advertising campaign:

  • Always design the ad for the platform you are advertising on. The best ads don’t LOOK like ads. The more native you can make your ad appear, the better your results should be. Make sure you pay attention to how things display visually and be mindful of how things can look different on mobile vs. desktop.
  • Make sure all elements of your campaign are as much in alignment as possible. If you have your logo in the ad, make sure that the same logo is on the landing page after people click. If you are generating leads, make sure the company name in your ad shows up in the follow-up emails and texts people receive. If you are using brand colors, make sure they are consistent. All parts of the campaign should be cohesive, not just the ad creative itself.
  • SQUIRREL! Pattern interrupts are huge enough to snag someone’s attention, but you must continue to EARN their attention after that point.
  • Study copywriting which is salesmanship in print. Get familiar with proven copy formulas such as AIDA. Learn how to write persuasively using the same language your target audience uses.
  • Produce the highest quality visuals as possible and always use a script or storyboard to plan videos/audio. Remember that “quality” does not necessarily mean expensive and fancy. You can film a video on your phone that is high quality from the standpoint of the script and message. You can produce a high-quality image by leveraging existing templates provided by professional designers. Even if you want to use an “ugly” ad image that is a flat color with some simple text on top, be mindful of the specific color, fonts, and language.
  • Constantly test and re-test different angles and approaches. While you may discover a solid “control” ad that always performs with a predictable level of certainty, you can always try to beat it with a new test.

A Forest Of Online Advertising OACs

As you can see by now, getting ONE online advertising campaign out the door requires a considerable amount of Planning and consideration. Which may be overwhelming when starting. And that is ok.

When you get more familiar with OAC, you can start to string multiple campaigns (OACs) together for an even stronger overall campaign effort.

Let’s look at a simple example of lead generation where we are driving traffic to some landing page where people can opt-in for a resource.

The first campaign is obvious:

  • Objective – Traffic
  • Audience – Multiple classes
  • Creative – Multiple ads from different angles/approaches

This gets eyeballs on the landing page. But what about the majority of the traffic that does NOT opt-in?

You can layer a second remarketing campaign that runs in parallel with the first one:

  • Objective – Lead conversions
  • Audience – Owned audience of landing page viewers EXCLUDING people who already hit the thank you page.
  • Creative – Different ads that speak to someone who saw the page but didn’t opt in.

Now, you are maximizing your overall ad spend by capitalizing on people who made it through the first OAC but didn’t opt in.

Another example would be for eCommerce where you can have a whole remarketing funnel:

  • Campaign #1 – Top of funnel traffic to the website
  • Campaign #2 – Website visitors who did NOT visit a specific product page or category page
  • Campaign #3 – Specific product/category page visitors who did NOT add to the cart
  • Campaign #4 – Visitors who added to the cart but did NOT initiate checkout
  • Campaign #5 – People who initiated checkout but did NOT complete their purchase

For this idea to work, you need to be clear on the targets and exclusions for each campaign.

You could even have different campaigns where someone is in the funnel that runs in parallel to support each other. As an example, for people who initiated checkout but did not complete their purchase, you could have two campaigns running parallel:

  • Campaign #5a – The main conversion Objective campaign for people to complete their purchase
  • Campaign #5b – An engagement Objective campaign where the Creative is a post talking about FAQs

In that example, the “A” is the same (initiate checkout with no purchase) but we are using two different “O”s and “C”s. Years ago we leveraged this exact OAC tactic with an eCommerce company that produced custom silicone wristbands. The engagement campaign that pushed the FAQ post to people who abandoned their cart did not reach a huge amount of people, given how precise the audience was, but we were 100% able to attribute sales to those ads.

This idea of a “forest of OACs” can be applied across multiple advertising platforms too. You could have a layer of OACs with a Google PPC (pay-per-click) search ad campaign along with a campaign of Meta traffic. Then, you can have a remarketing layer of OAC with Google display ads and another campaign of Meta ads for people who respond to either campaign in the first layer. This is how you can become omnipresent across multiple platforms.

Tracking It All

There is one highly recommended pre-requisite you’ll need to get in place before launching any OAC: digital tracking.

Any major advertising platform is going to have its tracking pixel or tag. This is a small code script that collects information about people who visit your website for reporting and audience-building purposes. This tracking is critical to get the best possible reporting on your campaign. Even if the advertising platform doesn’t have a tracking script, you will want to at least have something like Google Analytics installed on your site to look at behavior data from your website.

Fortunately, digital tracking installation is a one-and-done kind of exercise. The only exception is if you need to fire a new conversion event for your upcoming campaign. To make this as easy as possible, we encourage using a tag manager. This acts as a “master pixel” which you install all necessary tracking into. From there, you can easily create new conversion event triggers and data pushes. The other bonus of using a tag manager is that it helps balance out page load speeds which ensures your website content loads first and then the tracking scripts fire. Especially when running ads, page load speed is super important to make sure people don’t get bored waiting for your site to load and then go back to where they came from.

If you want a solid tutorial on how to configure Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics, the Google Ads tag, and the Meta pixel, check out this digital tracking installation tutorial by our founder Paul Sokol.

Online Advertising Campaign Order of Operations

To round out this blog post, we are going to share the recommended order of operations for getting any online advertising campaign out the door. You can launch a fully fleshed-out OAC ( or forest of OACs) quickly by following this workflow:

  1. Plan – First, you must sit down and Plan your OAC(s) to outline the scope of any Creative assets that need to be created and any Audience assets you may need to generate. You can download a copy of our Facebook Ad Planning tool below which is modeled after how Meta realizes the OAC framework.
  2. Build Non-OAC Assets – From there, you first want to Build anything that is NOT part of the OAC. Website pages, opt-in forms, backend follow-up, etc. This is usually a project on its own if they don’t exist before you generate your advertising Plan.
  3. Generate Visual Creative Assets – Now, or in parallel with the previous step, you will want to generate the static images or video (or audio) assets that the campaign will use. As with the previous step, generating complex visual assets may be a project all on its own if they don’t already exist.
  4. Secure Advertising Account Access – We have been assuming up to this point that you already have your advertising account(s) secured with proper access given to the team members involved. If not, now is the time to create the account(s) so you can grab the digital tracking code(s).
  5. Install Digital Tracking & Conversions – Once you have any necessary website assets Built, you can verify the digital tracking is properly installed and build any new conversion event tracking the campaign is going to need.
  6. Create Audience Assets – Now that the tracking is verified, you can create any Owned audiences that use website data. This is also when you want to create any other types of Owned audiences (such as an email list) and Platform audiences. If you are doing Lookalike audiences, you will need to create the source audiences first.
  7. Upload Visual Creatives – While you can upload images and videos during campaign creation, upload times can vary and be a speed bump during the launch process. By uploading visuals beforehand and letting them process, you can quickly get through the campaign build and launch when it comes to that point. Also, if you are doing things like YouTube advertising or boosting social media content, those assets need to be loaded into the platform first before you can turn around and add them to any advertising campaign.
  8. Build & Launch Campaign – Finally, with everything else in place, you can hop into the advertising platform itself and follow along with your Plan to get things launched. Any digital tracking needed is already set up. Any audience assets you need are created. Any visual creatives or content have already been uploaded. This means you can quickly piece together the OAC itself and publish it. Congratulations!

Download Our Facebook Online Advertising Plan Tool

Whenever we do advertising for clients, the first step is to have a Plan conversation where we will fill out our planning template. This template is modeled after the OAC framework and how Meta specifically expresses these different parts. It is designed to be a single source of truth for everyone involved in the campaign to be clear on what is going to launch. Because the planning tool is a Google Doc, you can easily collaborate with multiple people and even assign different parts to specific people using the built-in Comment function.

👇 Get The Ready-To-Use Planning Template Below 👇


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *