The Importance of Creative Testing

SEO March 29th, 2021

In the display medium, creative is one of the most important aspects of a digital campaign. The world we live in is more distracting than ever and attention spans have narrowed in all media. As a result, creative needs to be engaging enough to grab users’ attention amidst an environment eager to tear their focus in dozens of other directions, no matter what the medium is, regular creative refreshes are more important than ever.

How Do I Make the Best Ads?

Testing.

Your design team has great ideas, no doubt about it. But it’s difficult to predict what will or won’t work with audiences. Is animation better than a static ad? What dimensions work best? What color should your call to action be? Do you even need a call to action? Do different messages work for prospecting and retargeting? How should you change your creative based on your goal? Do these answers differ by platform? Some features may seem obvious, but you can never be sure how users will respond until you try.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re already running ads, look for trends in what has worked and what hasn’t. Are there certain colors or messages that seem to resonate? Do some products work better than others? Is there a style, format, or size of ad that has worked best? From there, pick one aspect to try and improve: Maybe you want to test a new art style, a different color pallet, or a new product.

If you’re launching a new product, are rebranding, or you want to completely refresh your ad suite, take a look at competitor ads or ads for similar products. Are there certain styles that come up regularly? Colors? Paid tools exist to view these ads, but there are ways to get some insight for free: For display ads, use MOAT, Twitter, use their Ads Transparency Center, Facebook, either their Ad Library or visit a competitor page and open their Page Transparency settings; LinkedIn, visit the competitor page, view all their posts, and filter by Ads.

What Next?

One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of testing in general is establishing an objective. What do you want to learn? What is the goal? Many advertisers have a habit of testing just for the sake of testing. You don’t want to fall into the pit of spending time and money on tests, just to disregard the results. Make a hypothesis and decide how to measure it. What is the success metric? CTR? Conversion rate? ROAS? CPA? What is the data source you’ll use to measure success (platform data, third party, internal data, etc.)?

Another important pitfall to avoid is making too many changes at once. Multivariate testing is possible, but requires far more data to reach statistical significance. If possible, focus on one change at a time: Static or animated? Square or rectangle? Blue or red?

Once you’ve decided on a goal and you have your creative ready, it’s time to traffic it out. Remember the success metric and tracking you decided on earlier. Make sure that you’re setting the test up in a way that will allow you to measure accordingly. For example, if Google Analytics is the source of your data, make sure you are clearly tagging the ads with UTM codes that allow you to evaluate them individually. If you’re using platform data, some platforms have built in testing tools to ease some of the burden of analysis (e.g. they may indicate when a test has enough data to declare a winner, may alleviate some trafficking, etc.). For example, Google Ads offers Experiments and Facebook offers built-in A/B tests.

I Have My Results. Now What?

Roll out the winning ads on a broader basis. If possible, incorporate any learnings into your creative strategy moving forward.

Then… Iterate! Creative fatigues quickly, especially on social platforms, so you should always be thinking about the next set of ads to introduce. This includes your next round of testing. You may not need to test every month – or even introduce new ads every month – but it’s a good idea to plan to have new ads introduced regularly. How often you need to refresh your ads will vary based on targeting, budget size, frequency, the creative itself, etc.

I Want to Test, but I Don’t Know What to Test! My Ads Already Work!

Anyone who has worked in marketing for any amount of time will tell you that performance is never “good enough.” You can always do better – or at least try to. Here are some thought starters on things to test, though the list is practically endless:

Russell DiDona

Russell DiDona

Russell DiDona is an Associate Director of paid media at Inseev and is currently pursuing a Masters in Data Analytics. With over 14 years in digital media, he has worked across a number of industries in a variety of functions and has experience in many media channels, including social, display, and search.

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