Creative testing: the confluence of art and science in marketing

Marcus Pritchard
By Marcus Pritchard | 15 September 2023
Marcus Pritchard.

Marcus Pritchard, Australia New Zealand Regional Director, Dynata

Estimates say the average person sees between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day, an almost twofold increase from ten years ago. And not only that, thousands of creators are similarly producing content that competes with yours.

With so much competition for our attention, it’s vital to understand if an ad will be remembered and, more importantly, if it will drive the desired reaction.

With creative testing, marketers will have a blueprint on how the imagery, copy and storyline of their ads can be optimised to best resonate with the target audience, and how memorability could be improved to enhance media ROI.

These insights can help creative teams dramatically improve an ad’s short-term effectiveness and, importantly, show how the ad elements work together to create branded memories that drive long-term revenue growth and profit.

It's a data-driven approach to accurately predict how an ad will perform in-market and ensures both creative teams and media budgets only support effective advertising concepts.

When leveraged early, often, and correctly, creative testing can greatly improve your advertising’s performance, especially when it comes to brand perception and media placement.

Decide between the most impactful creative concept

The idea behind successful creative testing is figuring out what attracts your audience. After all, to be memorable, advertising needs to drive impact, evoke emotion and convey something relevant about the brand.

Marketers have a variety of tools for this, but not all are created equal. For example, traditional A/B testing helps marketers optimise conversions by isolating which creative elements drive results, but it can’t dig into the why behind performance and what that needs to improve.

That’s where creative testing can help. It can provide an analysis of how well an ad captures and holds attention, the meaning being conveyed, the emotions elicited and how likely someone is to consider the brand in the future.

The diagnostic reporting will help identify the ad’s strengths and weaknesses, understand how viewers internalise the explicit and implicit messages, verify the impact on brand impressions and measure motivation and purchase intent. Then, marketers can make objective decisions on how to fine-tune the creative to capture and hold the audience’s attention in order to create a lasting impact on brand connection and perception.

By doing this, advertising will create long-term branded memories that consumers tap into, either consciously or unconsciously, when making buying decisions. Over time, not only will you understand how to create a longer lasting connection with your consumers, but the quality of your leads will also increase.

Understand cross-channel effectiveness

Companies executing cross or omnichannel marketing strategies must remember each channel has different characteristics, impacting the outcomes they drive and the audiences they attract.

As different channels have specific limitations and audiences, testing ads within the context they will be seen to see how well they perform among competing content will provide the most accurate predictions.

This will help ensure you’re maximising each channel’s unique strengths and opportunities. Ultimately ensuring you’re spending your budget as effectively as possible and driving the desired outcomes with every campaign.

But regardless of the channels you’re testing for, the earlier testing is completed in the development process, the more opportunity there is to improve its quality, minimising the risk of releasing something that doesn’t resonate with your target audience.

When testing an integrated campaign, pre-testing can identify ads with the most potential to drive ROI and highlight the channels that aren’t pulling their weight. It takes the guesswork out of determining which of your many channels a successful conversion may come from.

Marketers can then use this information to optimise their media mix and feature the best-performing copy and imagery in other campaign elements to improve cross-channel effectiveness. For example, the content that tested highest among the target audience could be featured on social media or within an out of home campaign.

Activate custom audiences before launch

The creative testing process must be iterative, testing one element at a time. If the creative tests poorly, you can review the creative and save yourself the time and money you would have otherwise wasted testing multiple versions of the same low-performing creative.

On the other hand, if the initial creative tests well, you can look at adding in alternate call to actions, copy, or formats to continually bring the performance up.

It may feel like a lengthy process, but it saves you time, resources and money before you roll out creative that doesn’t resonate with your target audience.

Regardless of the outcome, there is a wealth of data available about your audience that can be applied across your business in various ways after every round of testing. This data can even be used to model and scale a custom, cookie-free lookalike audience that can be used to boost cross-channel ROI.

Creative testing is about merging the emotive with the formulaic. By blending the art and science of marketing, creative testing can not only help marketers make informed decisions on how to best optimise an ad’s effectiveness, but it can also provide strategic guidance that will have a long-term positive impact on your media planning and brand.

At the end of the day, choosing which creative concepts to invest in shouldn’t be left to chance.

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