Facebook Performance Ads Case Studies: Virgin America, Whole Foods, Get Covered California

Facebook Marketing Bible

The following is an excerpt of content available in the Facebook Marketing Bible, our comprehensive guide to marketing and advertising your brand, business or content on Facebook.

As Facebook reaches past its 550 millionth user, and grows its primarily ad-driven revenue to well past the $1.1 billion mark this year, a diverse range of advertisers are utilizing its performance ad platform to target and reach users around the world.

This article presents analysis of, and recommendations for, three recent self-serve advertising campaigns on Facebook.

Virgin America

About the Ad

This Virgin America ad unit invites users who “love travel” to “hop on the next flight and enjoy RED.” The ad unit relies on the message implicit in the image used — an unusual, futuristic-looking interior of a passenger airplane that communicates Virgin’s different and modern brand personality.

The ad also relies heavily on the brand recognition that many young people (and Facebook users) likely have for the Virgin America brand, using simply “VIRGIN AMERICA” as the unit’s headline. The ad creative is broadly focused around the unique Virgin America in-flight experience, characterized by a dark, purple-and-red interior, and entertainment offerings (including live television).

Implied or Explicit Offer

A unique, modern, and entertaining flight experience. (“Love TRAVEL?” Then hop on the next flight and enjoy RED”)


“Hop on the next flight and enjoy RED”

Destination Page Content

The destination page is at virginamerica.com, and displays an airfare promotion between two cities in California and Dallas, Texas, a new Virgin America service destination opening December 1, 2010. The landing page contains text that refers back to the original offer implied in the Facebook ad unit: “Flying without live TV, WiFi, leather seats, power outlets and food on-demand is just plain un-American.”


Virgin America geo-targeted this ad to Facebook users in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Although the main offer (a fare sale for flights between these two Californian cities and Virgin’s new hub in Texas) was not enunciated in the initial ad, Facebook’s geographic targeting persisted throughout the conversion funnel.


While it’s likely that Virgin America chose its entertainment-focused ad creative based on research findings for their audience, this ad campaign may also have benefited from a more direct expression of the offer at hand — an entertaining, and, even more important, inexpensive flight between the targeted user’s city of San Francisco to the newest urban destination in Virgin’s growing portfolio of American hubs.

Whole Foods Market Coddington

About the Ad

The Whole Foods Market Coddington ad unit displays an enticing image of a popular bakery item, a branded description of the item, and the news that the item is available at a discount through a time-limited sale. The ad was displayed to a San Francisco-based Facebook user profile that is a fan of the general Whole Foods Market Facebook fan Page.

Coddington is the name of a shopping center housing this Whole Foods Market brand, and it is located in Santa Rosa, California, a city that is approximately 55 miles north of San Francisco.

Implied or Explicit Offer

Sale-pricing for a bakery item (“Greenlee’s Bakery Cinnamon Bread — a sweet lover’s delight! ON SALE TODAY ONLY!”)


“LIKE us & come in for this sweet deal!”

Destination Page Content

This ad takes the user to a custom landing tab on the Facebook fan page of Whole Foods Market Coddington. The tab itself presents a seasonal promotion for Thanksgiving-related food items, and displays an appealing image that is actually an embedded YouTube video. The YouTube video is a Thanksgiving-oriented commercial for Whole Foods Market Coddington, featuring testimonials from local customers and staff, and had received 1,164 views at the time that this article was written. The destination page content contains no further mention of the bakery item highlighted in the ad.


This ad and accompanying campaign showed technical proficiency via a customized landing tab, embedded YouTube video, and strong visual design, but presented mixed messages in its offer and call-to-action. For what is essentially a local business, the ad also targeted broadly. Given the 55-mile distance between San Francisco and Santa Rosa, and the presence of numerous Whole Foods Market branches in San Francisco and nearby, a resident of San Francisco would be unlikely to shop at Whole Foods Market Coddington.

Within the Facebook experience, as elsewhere, users are most likely to click on an ad they see because it is relevant to them, and because it presents a specific offer that interests them; users are not likely to expect or prefer to see another, unrelated commercial upon clickthrough.


This ad could improve its results through tighter geographic targeting, the inclusion of Thanksgiving-themed ad creative (both visual and textual), and landing page content that is directly related to the core offer and does not introduce new and unrelated marketing material.

Get Covered California

About the Ad

This Get Covered California ad unit boldly states “Put Health Before Politics” while displaying an image of a suited man with a small byline denoting his status as a doctor. The goal of this ad appears to be to appeal to users who are concerned with healthcare, and have some awareness of, and interest in, political developments. The ad’s headline, “Get Covered California,” implies political or public service action, while the body copy reinforces this implication.

Implied or Explicit Offer

Health care protection (“let’s protect health care”)


“Join us and find out what the new health law can do for you.”

Destination Page Content

This ad brings the user to a customized campaign landing tab for Get Covered California, a public service campaign aimed at getting more young Californians to sign up for health care coverage. The landing tab makes use of bright colors and clear, sequential calls-to-action.

The user is first encouraged to take the pledge, as denoted by an arrow pointing to the Pledge tab, another customized tab that includes aa basic signup form. The user is then asked to learn more about the campaign via the Learn More tab, which presents campaign information written as numbered command form calls-to-action. Finally, once the user has already engaged with steps one and two, the campaign landing page prompts the user to Like the Page.


Although its Facebook ad creative lacked a powerful hook, the Get Covered California Facebook campaign demonstrated value to the target user, structured its marketing information as clear, concise steps. However, even the best-constructed Facebook fan Pages can fall short of marketers’ expectations if traffic to the Page is low. The Facebook ad unit serves as a valuable entry point that should consist of a clear offer and call-to-action to bring users to the next step.


This ad might improve its click-through performance with more visually and textually relevant ad creative that is both inviting and evokes urgency. In addition to an updated image, clearer body copy that describes that this is not a lobbying effort but a public service campaign could serve to attract not only those concerned about the state of their own healthcare but also those interested in local activism around the topic of healthcare.

Finally, a strong and clear call-to-action within ad unit itself might encourage more curious users to take a chance and click through. For example:

“Take the Pledge to Bring Health Care to More Californians Like You!”


Facebook’s ad unit templates are small, with a simplicity that can make some ads look almost spartan. For most performance advertisers, achieving accurate targeting, clarity of the offer, and strength of the call-to-action — all within a limited 25 title characters and 135 body text characters — are substantial challenges. Nonetheless, it is possible to run fruitful campaigns on Facebook, and more and more advertisers, from small businesses to global brands, are joining the movement.

Learn how advertising and no-cost marketing go hand-in-hand at FacebookMarketingBible.com.

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2 Responses to “Facebook Performance Ads Case Studies: Virgin America, Whole Foods, Get Covered California”

  1. Hans says:

    Very interesting article, it looks at digital advertising from different angles, once again emphasizing how advertising techniques have evolved over time. I will certainly have to look into Facebook advertising possibilities in more dept, and learn from it.

  2. How to Get Started with Facebook Ads | Meltwater Blog - Social Media & Online Media Monitoring, Analysis and Engagement says:

    [...] Started: Read some case studies and check out this “52 Facebook Advertising Tips & Best Practices.” Do your homework: Watch [...]

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