Q4 2023 - Post 5: Prepare Your Paid Media Strategy for Black Friday

A solid paid media strategy can make the most out of your BFCM sale. A poorly planned paid strategy can dissipate profits in a few hours. Plan carefully.

Running paid efforts during BFCM can ensure you get the most out of your sale and avoid leaving revenue on the table. At the same time, inefficient and poorly planned paid advertising can dissipate profits over the course of a few bad days. It’s important to get it right. 

Before we get into turning on the traffic firehose and take profits to new heights this BFCM, let’s cover a quick must-have checklist before you build your first Black Friday ad:

  • Confirm CAPI and pixel setup is working properly.
  • Confirm reporting solutions (Data Studio, Triple Whale) and UTMs are tracking correctly.
  • Make sure all ad platform balances and credit limits are ready to scale for BFCM.
    Need more funding? Let us know and we'll get you in touch with one of our lending partners.
  • Ensure your online catalogues and product feeds are passing correctly to Google and Facebook for shopping ads and DPAs.
  • Confirm budgets and goals with the media team based around each phase of your Q4 campaign calendar.
  • Confirm campaign calendar and timing around launch dates with the media team.
  • Build campaign shells and ads (with backups!) as soon as you have approved assets and landing page URLs.
    Keep in mind recent sales performance and last year’s BFCM when deciding which creative and audiences to use in your campaigns.

Now let’s get into it by addressing the expensive elephant in the room: rising ad costs. 

It always gets more expensive to reach new audiences during the peak sales season when competition is highest, and BFCM 2023 will be no different. Hold on tight, because CPMs are going to hit new heights 📈

up gif bfcm

What do higher CPMs mean? 

More expensive CPMs make it more expensive to reach new and returning customers online. This has a macro level impact on advertising efficiency. 

When are CPMs the highest?

Last year we saw CPMs start to rise in the last week of October and steadily climb until the BFCM peak. CPMs then dropped at the start of December and climbed back up through the second week of December when last chance holiday offers and shipping deadlines were being pushed. CPMs fell after the 24th, then started climbing again heading into January and New Year sales. 

How do we combat rising CPMs? 

We’ve got you covered in the next few sections.

Pay for your prospecting well in advance of the Black Friday weekend

If there’s anything you should take away from this article, let it be this: build up your retargeting audiences in October and November to convert them during BFCM. This will be all over the TL;DR in case you forget. 

People aren’t looking for new products on Black Friday. They want the best price and value on something they’ve already had their eyes on. We all follow a similar purchase path around the holidays, and it’s a good idea to plan accordingly. 

Since we know that the cost of traffic is going to spike, prospective customers must enter the funnel during October and early November. This can be done through campaigns optimized for events further up the funnel, like add to carts, traffic, email signups or quiz submissions, even video views and engagement. 

Lead campaigns to collect email addresses are especially valuable leading up to BFCM. October can be a great time for contests, giveaways, and quizzes, especially holiday gift guides. Early November is a good time to focus on VIP lead generation for early access or a gift with purchase. 

Prioritizing broad prospecting and lead generation can hurt ROAS during that time, but it’s the best opportunity to take advantage of cheap traffic ahead of BFCM so you can retarget when the payout is the greatest. It’s worth accepting a lower ROAS leading up to Black Friday knowing that they’ll return in droves during the actual BFCM sale.  

Measure creative performance and ad engagement with metrics like Click-through-Rate (CTR), Cost per Click (CPC), Thumbstop Ratio, and average watch time. Then gauge traffic quality with Click > Add To Carts (ATCs / Link Clicks), Cost per Add to Cart, Cost per Initiated Checkout, and Cost Per Acquisition/Purchase (CPA).

Use these metrics to assess creative testing and find new winning ads ahead of BFCM. Creative testing is critical at this stage; find new winners to avoid ad fatigue and inform the types of ads to produce for BFCM. 

This approach allows you to make and measure meaningful actions while taking into account that most people are holding off on purchases until the sales start rolling.

Take a holistic approach to paid channels ahead of and during BFCM

As CPMs continue rising year over year, with an even bigger jump expected for BFCM, the need to diversify your marketing mix and take a holistic approach is even more important to combat inconsistent platform performance. 

Purchase intent being at an all time high during Black Friday Cyber Monday offers a unique opportunity to capitalize on cheaper alternate awareness channels ahead of time. Leveraging more affordable placements to retarget during BFCM is the key to combating the inevitable CPM spike.

It’s best to start early (ideally October) and focus on driving as much traffic and as many email signups as possible in the weeks leading up to BFCM. Focus on channels that provide  cost-efficiency and volume to push more aggressively with lower ROAS targets. 

To pull this off, consider a cross-channel approach where you can capitalize on lower costs on TikTok or Instagram Reels, then remarketing to that traffic on Facebook and Google Ads. 

Instagram Reels are worth investing in this year as the Meta algorithm continues to prioritize TikTok-style content through Reels. TikTok and Reels are especially worthwhile if you have organic content that’s been getting lots of engagement, or a high converting quiz or offer you can send traffic to for email signups. 

Don’t forget about Google Ads with your pre-BFCM prospecting investment either. The new Performance Max campaigns can bid higher or focus entirely on new audiences, and you can get Google support to exclude branded search terms for additional insurance. 

You can also move from target ROAS or CPA bidding to maximize clicks to drive the most traffic possible, which can be especially helpful with your branded search terms.

Get your ads approved and build out your campaign structure as early as possible

Every media buyer has a horror story of a hectic last minute build that didn’t quite go according to plan. Black Friday Cyber Monday is not the time.

Getting your ad creative, copy, and the shells of your campaigns built ahead of time can help avoid last minute panic for your biggest sale of the year. 

We aim to have everything built out at least a week ahead of the sale launch to avoid any approval disruptions, as there are typically delays in the week leading up to BFCM.

Our typical approach for BFCM is building its own full funnel ABO campaign, or building on top of an existing full funnel sales campaign if you’ve been taking that approach with past sales.

A rough breakdown of our BFCM campaign on Meta Ads would look something like this:

Campaign Setup

  • Example name/structure: BFCM 2023 - Full Funnel - ABO
  • Purpose is to keep BFCM-specific ads separate from the evergreen account structure that should continue running during the promotion. 
    Expect to see a lift across all BAU campaigns during BFCM, so it’s worth continuing to scale any evergreen winners while allocating more spend toward whatever’s performing best during the promotion.

Ad Sets Setup

  • We set budgets approximately 50/50 between prospecting and retargeting. 
    We use less restrictive prospecting exclusions so they can operate as retargeting as well; only excluding 7D purchasers and some of the retargeting audiences that spend heavily within the same campaign. 

    Note: this approach and budget splits will always be subject to your spend, goals, and audience sizes.
  • Recommend focusing on your top prospecting and retargeting audiences that have been performing well over the past 3-6 months. 

Here are a few of our top performing audiences we found from last year:


  • Broad (always worth including) 
  • Interest stacks closely related to your brand/product. 
  • Interest stacks using insights from Google Analytics. 
  • Larger lookalike stacks (3-8%) based on highly qualified Klaviyo audiences.


  • 180 day website visitors
  • 3 day Add to Cart + View Content
  • 60 day social engagers (especially IG if you’re focusing on Reels ahead of BFCM)
  • Klaviyo Stacks of email subscribers
  • All purchasers
  • Positive Reviewers

Ads Setup

  • We generally start with 3-5 active ads in prospecting ad sets and 5-8 active ads in retargeting ad sets to keep ads fresh and avoid ad fatigue with your best audiences. 

    Pick the ads that you believe will perform the best to start. You can also test different ads within the different ad sets to accelerate learning during the sale.

Build back up ads and ad sets well in advance so you can quickly pivot and enable something else to avoid disruption during the sale.

media buyers bfcm meme

It takes time for Meta’s algorithm to ramp up and learn, so we like to test lifetime budgets that can optimize your spend better during time-sensitive sales, especially for any “last chance” ads that run for under 48 hours.

In summary, this is roughly where should be focusing your paid advertising efforts leading up to Q4:

  • September: Plan out your campaign strategy, goals, and budgets with your media team. 
  • October: Set your budgets and start pushing spend, focusing on prospecting to build up retargeting audiences (especially through lead gen/email sign ups).
  • November: Refresh the ad creative you’ve been testing during October, continue prospecting in the weeks leading up then remarket even harder during BFCM. 
  • December: Run last-minute gifting and shipping cut-off ads, followed by any post holiday offers before preparing for the New Year.

Your paid media plan is all mapped out and you're ready to launch some ads, but... what do you launch? Check out our blog on getting design, copy, and creative ready for BFCM.

© Kulin Co 2024