Many advertisers are increasingly making room in their budgets for Facebook ads, but over the years, there’s been a lot of talk about the general ineffectiveness of them compared to say, Google AdWords.

One of the obvious challenges with Facebook ads is that it is a social network. Unlike search, which lends itself to ads targeted to a particular search query, the site is generally being used as a tool of leisure.

That makes creating ads that stand out difficult.

Recently, one Facebook advertiser observed that an ad containing a picture of beer delivered its best CTR. In fact, it performed 57% better than any other ad tried.

Beer, of course, didn’t have anything to do with this advertiser’s business, but beer, for obvious reasons, seemed like a good way to grab attention.

So FeeFighters, a company that helps businesses obtain better rates on merchant accounts, decided to replicate the beer experiment.

The result: close to 396,000 impressions of the beer ad delivered just over 1,250 clicks. With a .018% CTR, this beer ad was one of the best performing ads for FeeFighters.

But, as you may have expected, those clicks didn’t exactly translate into action. In fact, only one of those 1,250 clicks actually produced a conversion, which entails setting up a free auction in which merchant account providers compete for business. “That means our CPA for the beer ad was …$1951. Ouch,” FeeFighters’ Stella Fayman wrote.

None of this, of course, is really surprising. Associating an image of beer with an ad that really has nothing to do with beer would logically produce clicks, but not conversions. But there are several important facts this experiment highlights:

  • Facebook ads realistically aren’t suitable for all advertisers. Despite the targeting capabilities Facebook offers, some ads simply aren’t going to produce ROI.
  • In an environment where intent isn’t naturally present, like Facebook, the techniques you use to increase CTR can have a (very) harmful impact on conversions. But without those techniques, Facebook advertising can be hard to scale even though Facebook has hundreds of millions of users.
  • Facebook isn’t always cheap. On a per-click basis, Facebook ads might not cost as much as their AdWords counterparts, but an ill-conceived campaign can be costly.