Pencil review – Generate winning ad creatives based on AI

Pencil review - Generate winning ad creatives based on AI

I’ve been running Facebook ads recently, and I found out that graphic illustrations play a huge role in your ads to succeed. This right here is Pencil which claims to be able to generate winning ads for your brand based on AI. So let’s check it out.

This is the Pencil platform, and it is quite simple, but let me take you through it. First off then we have this type of dashboard and on the dashboard, you get a quick overview of how it’s going with your ads. So you can see up here where we have impressions of all of my ads. We have the number of clicks, and our click-through rate, and then you can see the different trends, targets and how overall it’s just going with your ads. Down here you can see all the winning ads and the losing ads and at the moment I only have one losing ad, and it is not live at the moment.

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    1. Features of Pencil
    2. Pencil Pricing
    3. Alternatives to Pencil
    4. Future of Pencil
    5. Pros & Cons of using Pencil
    6. Last thoughts about Pencil

    Features of Pencil

    I have another ad which will, hopefully, win, but it is not showing here. You can see up in the corner I am syncing the data at the moment. So let’s see if it will come at some point down here you can see that even though this ad is losing, the click-through rate is up by 88% and my spend is also improved a lot. So maybe this will convert to a winning ad if I start again at some point. For live ads, you can easily replace them here.

    Otherwise, we can view this ad on Facebook. Now let’s go to my favourite module, the Insight module. Within the Insight module, we can see what topics we’re winning on and here you can see the impressions. We can see the target and the click-through rate as well. So here we have four different topics for a day, time, planning and week and all of these are winning topics.

    One thing that’s interesting here is that these four winning topics come from an ad that is losing. So here we have something that contradicts each other, and it’s a little interesting to see how that will rule out later on. We can see I synced, and it is still only showing one ad. Going back to the Insight module. Down here we don’t have any losing topics.

    Over here we can see what the ad is that is related to these topics, and it is the ad that is losing so to speak. We have some different filtering methods up here. We can change the metric if we want to. Maybe take a look at ROAS or CPC or something else. We can easily change that. To see how it is going.

    I would like to be able to add multiple of these different metrics, but it will be as is and here we can see if we want to target something specific. Right now, all of these topics are at 9.42 in the CPC. Here we can change from topics to captions, for instance. So here we can see that this caption here is actually what is winning at the moment. We have no losing captions, and we can do the same as well with creatives. Here we have one winning creative from the ad that is still losing.

    So I’m a little confused by that, to be honest. We also over here have the different settings we can change from all to if you want to focus on conversion or if you want to focus on acquisition, retargeting or retention, let’s change to conversion. I would like you to be able to see the conversations I have had on this specific ad because it is something I’ve set up. But at the moment, it only shows the CPC and the different elements here. But now let’s move on to what Pencil is all about.

    Ideas. So with Pencil, if we just go down to the brand kit here, you set up your entire brand. So that means that you describe your brand here. You enter your logos, you enter your colours, your fonts. Let me just change this one to this font here.

    You choose your music, even the backgrounds you like and your button style. So now I like how it is. And let’s go back to the ideas. Within ideas. All of this is generated based on two things.

    Of course, it is all on AI, but it’s based on your brand kit and your asset library. And just to show you fast, the asset library is just pictures or videos that you upload that will be used in the ideas here. But let’s take a look at the first one here. We can either export it or upload it to Facebook manually. We can edit it, or we can change the format.

    So, right now the format is just one to one. We can change it to four to five, we can change it to nine to 16 and so forth. For now, just keep it as is. But let’s edit this one because you can easily edit your video material and your images as well. So here you can see that there is only one scene.

    We have a text we can change. I want to change this to a different font. We can change the line height, and the line width, we can change the colours of the text and the highlight, we can change the image, can move it around if we want to. We can again change the other text which is on the button. And you can see that this button right now is saying use the best to-do list online.

    In my brand preset, I entered that I wanted to start the trial. So let me just enter that as well. We have the logo down here. That’s fine.

    And the background as well. You can also add more text, you can add stickers if you want to, then you just have to upload the sticker, and then you can preview it. And when we preview it, because it’s an image, you will just see the same thing. So there it is. Let’s go back and try and edit a video.

    So here we have a video called Get Better Organised. You can export it. You can change the format or we can edit it. Now, within editing, you can see here that we have the same options. We have the text, we have the packshot, and we have the background.

    So we can change the same thing. We can also change the ordering of the scenes, we can duplicate them if we want to tweak them a little, and we can just delete them. If you want to change a scene, you have to use the buttons here, you cannot just scroll and here you set how long this specific scene should last. Now, let me just preview it here, so you can see what this video looks like because there is an animation between these two scenes. And what I would like to be able to do is to change the animation both here, as you can see in the images and the transition animation.

    It’s a small thing, but it means something. I would also like to be able to change the button a little more. You can see below here, we can only control the rounding and the stroke width. We can’t work with padding or margin. So here I will have to set this one very high or very low if I want the stroke width to be very big or very small, but I can’t work with padding or spacing and that’s a bit of a let-down because that means a lot for the button style.

    I would also like to be able to maybe integrate with Unsplash or a different type of stock photo where you can easily pull in photos. So you can use these in your ads. Right now, if I want to use Unsplash, I have to go to Unsplash and download the image or the video I want to use and then upload it into Pencil. Up here we can also change the music where we can change the music that is playing. You can see we have some different ones to choose between here, not so many and you cannot upload your sounds at the moment.

    So it is very basic, but you can get some ads out of it that are usable. You definitely can. Here you can see again that all of these different ads are created based on a metric. So you can see right now the metric is set at ROAS because that’s the one I’m focusing on. The targeting is acquisition and the conversion is set hereunder objective as well.

    Again, we can generate ideas. Here you can see that we set the objective, the targeting and the metric as well. We set what the topic should be and what it is we’re offering. So here we are offering a free trial. And let’s say that the topic is about a task management system.

    So I chose the topic to be a task management system that collects your emails and tasks in one view. And we are offering a free trial. So now we go to the next step where we have all of our pack shots. And now we’ll generate these different graphic illustrations that we can use for our ads. So you can see here it is now finished.

    And normally it says it takes up to three minutes, but this one has taken a little bit longer. But let’s take a look at the first one here, which is just an image and it is telling me that is your task management system, Shop Now, the text by itself is fine, but the button Shop Now is not quite what I’m looking for. As you saw before, when I generated, I gave a free trial. So this one should be more like, let’s say start a free trial. It’s not Shop Now, this one over here is a video.

    So it starts by saying organise your tasks, email and calendar events in one good place. The next one is Planner is a task management system. Again, very good. And the last one is just the Planzer logo. And again, the Shop Now button.

    I would like to see a button that says something about the trial. I never mentioned anything about shopping or Shop now, so that’s the only complaint. The rest looks okay. I would go in and tweak a little bit, make the picture a little bit bigger maybe and change the way the button is and so forth. But overall it looks good.

    Pencil Pricing

    Now, the pricing of Pencil is quite expensive. They have two plans where the cheapest one comes at $200 and the most expensive one, if we look away from the enterprise, is $600. And the difference between these is that in the do it yourself plan, you do everything yourself and you have a limit of how many times you can export your graphic illustrations or you can get the paid premium plan at $600 where professional people will do everything for you. For your graphic illustrations, I will say I feel these prices are quite high when it is we look at what we get in return.

    But if it’s difficult for you to make these graphic illustrations, then you should go with Pencil. It is a great option and I feel that the features they’re developing both now and in the future are very interesting.

    Alternatives to Pencil

    Now let’s take a look at the alternatives. The first alternative is Crello and Crello, which has recently been acquired by Vista is an interesting company because within Crello you have no limits.

    You can create as much as you want. They have tonnes of templates but there’s no AI. So you cannot in the same sense as with Pencil, go in, type a little bit about your brand, choose your brand presets and so forth. Within Crello you can choose your brand preset but there’s no AI-related. The other alternative is Canva and Canva is very similar to Crello.

    They are just a step further ahead. It’s a more solid product, it’s easier to create the graphic illustrations and the videos you can even do within Canva. But again with Canva, you cannot build with AI you can’t write about your brand and then get a lot of different types of videos in your output. You can only set yourself and drag and drop the different elements.

    Take a template and use maybe build a picture or build a video. There’s no AI within Canva. So if you need the AI element then Pencil is the choice for you and hopefully, they will also integrate completely with the different social media in the future. So we can control everything from Pencil because I like the way they have their insights. It’s so easy to see how it’s going with my ads.

    Future of Pencil

    Now let’s take a look at the future of Pencil. The first thing that I noticed when I started testing out Pencil is that they’re working on integrations to TikTok, YouTube ads and even Amazon ads. So with a click of a button can generate videos or graphical materials for ads for multiple platforms. That is a huge time saver. Furthermore, then they are building a brand asset preset.

    The difference here is that when you create your brand instead of just having this empty shell that you have to sit and fill out, you get some presets that you can use. So overall it just makes it a lot easier to fill out your brand. You know exactly what you need to fill out and in the end, they will just give you better ads. Now as I mentioned, it is quite an expensive tool to use so they are working on a pay as you go plan. This means you pay only for what you use.

    So if you export in January 2 exports but only in February do a single one and then in March you do five exports. That’s three different prices you have to pay and I think this is very intriguing for a lot of people. Now the last exciting thing is that they are building another AI tool to generate Captions and this is quite interesting because I feel this is in the direction of having a fully integrated platform with Facebook in this case. After all, with Captions we now have the description, we have maybe a title and we have the graphical illustration, then we just need to input our URL and then we have full ads that are ready to just publish on Facebook. So this is quite exciting to see how they will develop these different features.

    Pros & Cons of using Pencil

    Now after using Pencil I like their insights module. It’s easy to understand and it is overall just easy to create and edit your video material. Though I will say it is quite expensive and I feel it’s a bit of a letdown that we can’t create our ads through Pencil. That would be a time saver.

    Last thoughts about Pencil

    Running Facebook ads has become easier but Pencil helps you with the graphical aspect of your ads though it’s not perfect luckily we can edit the video material. I want to give Pencil four stars. It’s a solid product and if they can just integrate fully with Facebook and we can start generating captions, then we will have an outstanding product to test ads on Facebook and the other social media.

    Posted by
    Phillip Stemann

    I have been in the software industry for 10+ years, and I’ve gathered a ton of experience I’m sharing with you. I test out tools each week and share my findings with you, for you to easily choose the right software for your needs. I have so far reviews many types of software and even built software myself, it’s a huge passion for me.