Holiday Planning

Prepping Your Paid Social Program for Holiday

This holiday season is all about proactive preparation and building a paid social program that cuts through the typical noise. Investing in well-crafted and timely paid social media campaigns ahead of the busiest time of the year can unlock unparalleled success for retail brands. But how do you do it? Here’s what our experts recommend retail brands focus on when prepping their Holiday paid social approach. Spoiler alert: It’s all about testing early and often. 

Creative Testing

Creative has one of the largest impacts on overall program performance, making it vital to incorporate a test-and-learn strategy within your paid social programs before the season has even begun. This approach ensures your creative is pre-optimized for success before heading into the busy holiday season. The following are a few areas we recommend testing into as retail brands gear up for the holidays. 


It’s a common misconception that brands can’t afford influencer marketing within their overall media mix. In fact, nano-influencers (1k–10k followers) are fairly affordable and often boast dedicated followers and strong engagement rates that can drive authentic consumer engagement with your brand. Although generally more expensive, micro- and macro-influencers (100K+ followers) tend to have much greater reach and can generate a high number of impressions for your brand with their large following. Three tactics you can test:  

  • Incorporate a mix of influencers (nano, micro, and macro) with varying follower sizes into your strategy to help you understand what mix will help you deliver optimal performance results for your program.  
  • A/B test influencer content alongside your brand creative to understand performance implications. This is especially important for platforms like TikTok where users tend to engage with content that is more authentic to the platform versus brand-forward messaging. 
  • A/B test running influencer content from creator handles versus brand handles. This can be a great way to extend the creator’s authenticity over to brands. Importantly, it can communicate whether consumers are more receptive to brand messaging when delivered directly from the brand or when it is delivered from platform creators.


Promo messaging creates a sense of urgency with limited time offers, driving consumers to act within a specific sale period. This can be an exciting way to generate buzz around your brand or product. It’s also a great opportunity to test messaging against your business-as-usual (BAU) creative to understand performance implications. Here are two testing ideas to get you started: 

  • A/B test different visuals and ad copy featuring promo messaging to identify the most effective and engaging messaging. 
  • A/B test varying CTA buttons within creative to determine which drives the strongest performance—for example, you might test “Get Offer” against “Shop Now.”  

Audience Testing

Like creative, audience targeting plays an important role in overall program performance. It is pivotal to test new audience strategies alongside current audiences to 1) identify the right mix between acquisition, retargeting, and retention efforts and 2) determine the incremental value gained by adding these new audiences into your program. Use these tactics to test into new audiences ahead of Holiday:

  • Test into new audiences that may be more inclined to make a purchase throughout the holiday season. For example, incorporate older audience demographics (like parents) who may not normally be a part of your audience targeting strategy but can play the role of gift giver during the holiday season. 
  • Test expanding your audience definitions to ensure you’re not intentionally leaving out audiences with implicit interest in your brand. Specific audience definitions can lead to ad sets taking longer than ideal to exit the learning phase. By broadening your audience definitions, you improve your chance of ad sets exiting the learning phase faster and thus improving performance. 

Product and Format Testing

While creative and audience targeting are among the most important drivers of program performance, your paid social programs should also incorporate a test-and-learn approach across new platform product and format offerings. These touchpoints also affect overall program performance. Read on for top recommendations. 


We see the largest opportunity for new product testing in Meta’s Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns (ASC) offering. ASC has been arguably the most successful product launch that Meta has rolled out for driving online sales.   

The core benefits of ASC are the automation levers that it provides. Instead of manually managing individual campaigns, audiences, and creatives, ASC consolidates this into one singular campaign that uses automated targeting and dynamically tests different creative combinations to drastically streamline overall program management.  

ASC has proven to be an extremely valuable product for Ovative’s retail clients. Retail brands that have not yet tested into ASC should strongly consider testing alongside their current efforts to generate learnings through incrementality testing ahead of this holiday season.  

Ad Formats and Placements

There’s a wealth of ad formats and placements out there, and the right mix will depend on your brand. But to start, we recommend utilizing Meta’s automatic placements versus manual placement selections. Including more placements allows your ad to be seen across more platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger) and thus helps you find a wider audience, aiding in program cost-efficiencies and a more streamlined set-up.  

You’ll also want to leverage social media platforms and their shopping features to facilitate a more seamless shopping experience while consumers are in the shopping mindset—Instagram Shopping, Facebook Shops, and Pinterest Shop are all excellent testing grounds. 

Finally, we recommend testing the utilization of both dynamic and non-dynamic ad creatives within campaigns. You may be surprised at the results—and any learnings ahead of the holidays can be applied and capitalized on during the season. 

Planning for the Full Holiday Season and Beyond

Cyber 5 and the lead-in to Christmas are key drive times for retail brands, but pre- and post-Holiday planning remains crucial to overall success throughout the entirety of the holiday season. 


The months leading up to Holiday are arguably the most critical to ensuring a smooth and successful season for your paid social programs. At Ovative, our standard practice across our retail client programs as we gear up for the season includes: 

  • Strategic curation of testing roadmaps to understand performance implications and to ensure your program is pre-optimized heading into the busy holiday season.  
  • Dry runs the weeks leading up to Cyber 5 to ensure everything runs smoothly on the day of.  


The week after Christmas and throughout the month of January is often referred to as “Q5” in eCommerce. We see less competition in the marketplace, with elevated CVRs without the elevated CPM to match. This gives retail brands the opportunity to extend promotions and support beyond the peak holiday season to capitalize on demand. 

What’s Next?

It’s never too early to start prepping your paid social campaigns for the holiday season. And the earlier you begin, the better positioned your program will be for one of the busiest times of the year. To adequately prepare, marketers should prioritize crafting a test-and-learn roadmap ahead of the peak holiday season. Wherever you’re at with your Holiday strategy, we can help. 

Ovative delivers best-in-class media strategy, execution, measurement, and optimization across all major and emerging social platforms. We evolve and enhance our clients’ social programs through our focus on executional excellence, close integration with creative strategy, and a constant eye on what is next through rapid testing and fast adoption of upcoming trends. Reach out to learn more about how we can help you maximize your marketing efforts this holiday season and beyond. 

Lillian Smith

Senior Analyst, Paid Social

About the Author

Lillian is a Senior Analyst on the Paid Social team at Ovative.

Dale Nitschke

Dale Nitschke

CEO & Founder

About the Author

Dale is the Founder and CEO of Ovative. After years of operating a large omni-channel business and leading a customer data initiative, Dale knew there was an opportunity to create a marketing firm that helped clients become more customer centric and drove better performance outcomes. A gap existed between business consultancies and advertising agencies that modern marketing approaches demand. He also believed that a strong, healthy culture could attract and develop smart, talented team members. In 2009, he formed Ovative to bring media, measurement, and consulting together under one roof to enable an enterprise approach that drives more revenue and grows clients’ customer base.

Prior to founding Ovative in 2009, Dale spent 23 years at Target Corporation where he served as President of and grew the ecommerce business from start-up stage to a $1 billion+ business and established the foundation of Target’s Guest database capabilities. Previously he served as SVP Merchandising at the Department Store Division of Dayton Hudson. Dale has advised retailers and brands globally on business, growth, marketing, and measurement transformation strategies.

Outside of Ovative, Dale is a leader on topics including business strategy, change management, and team leadership. He serves on the board of Allergy Amulet and on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison.  He enjoys spending time with his family, up north in northern Wisconsin, playing golf, and cheering on Wisconsin sport teams.

Seth Brand

Senior Manager, Consulting

About the Author

Seth is a Senior Manager on the Consulting team at Ovative.

Amanda McCann

Senior Manager, Consulting

About the Author

Amanda is a Senior Manager on the Consulting team at Ovative, specializing in Retail Media Networks.

Jenny Reinke

Senior Analyst, Measurement Solutions

About the Author

Jenny is a Senior Analyst on the Measurement Solutions team at Ovative.

Annie Zipfel

Executive Vice President, Media

About the Author

Annie is the Executive Vice President of Media at Ovative. She oversees delivery and growth across paid and owned media (digital, traditional, and retail media) and creative services.

Annie has more than 30 years of experience in media, brand management, insights/analytics, marketing, and product. She has also developed large, high-performing teams and built new measurement capabilities. Annie led the marketing team at Andersen Windows & Doors, leading the digital, social, content, customer insights, and creative functions. Prior to that, Annie served in multiple marketing leadership roles at Starbucks, REI, Target, and General Mills, with a keen focus on brand, media, insights, analytics, and measurement.

Annie is an industry leader in brand management, customer insights, e-commerce, social media, and analytics. She enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking, fishing, and spending time with her sweet dog and two sons.

Bonnie Gross

Executive Vice President, Talent Services

About the Author

Bonnie is the Executive Vice President of Talent Services at Ovative. She is responsible for attracting and retaining top talent and creating a culture in which our team thrives personally and professionally. Under Bonnie’s leadership, Ovative has defined an industry leading leadership and development program and transformed our approach to talent recruitment with a focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. Prior to her current role, Bonnie led Ovative’s Client and Business Development team overseeing client satisfaction and new growth opportunities.

Before joining Ovative in 2014, Bonnie spent 13 years at Target Corporate as the VP of digital and Digital Marketing where she led the launch of Cartwheel, an industry-leading social shopping application. Bonnie was the VP of Marketing for Fingerhut for 15 years prior to joining Target.

Leander Cohen

Analyst, Consulting

About the Author

Leander Cohen is an Analyst on the Consulting team at Ovative.

Will Silva

Analyst, Measurement Solutions

About the Author

Will is an Analyst on the Measurement Solutions team at Ovative.

Sarah Chang

Sarah Chang

Analyst, Consulting

About the Author

Sarah Chang is an Analyst on the Consulting team at Ovative.

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