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Are You Still Testing Ads When It’s Too Late?

[Big Ideas Series] Market Research focuses today on testing ads and providing cues on what to do better next time. Often this is too late. Wouldn’t it be better to inform marketing and creatives about evidence before any creative work had been produced?

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Frank Buckler, PhD will be speaking at IIeX Europe (February 19-20 in Amsterdam). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX EU. Click here to learn more.

Creativity does not follow rules. Correct. However, if it wants to be successful, it needs clear guide rails – just as the creativity of architects is guided by the laws of statics. But what does actually work – “Celebs?”, “Voice over?”, “Which music?”, “Community or pleasure?”, “Problem or solution?” – there are hundreds of such questions to which research still owes clear answers.

Need for Concrete Guide Rails

75% of the advertising effectiveness does not depend on the budget or the media plan, but on the ‘quality’ of the creation. However, it remains ambiguous what exactly is needed for good advertising. Only 16% of the ad spots are actively recalled and only a third of all creations lead to an attractive ROI.

I recommend to read Byron Sharps “How Brands Grow” to really value the power of evidence-based marketing science.

Objectify Creative Tactics

There are a variety of test methods for advertising. Copy test surveys, eye tracking, EEG measurements, and a lot more. All these methods are good, useful and important.

However, there are two things they fail to do: they just measure the response to advertising, but not the effect of individual design parameters. They collect data which, on their own, do not support any causal inferences. For example, any Coke advertisements will tend to perform better in all parameters – regardless of how good the advertisement is by itself. (I recommend this book on the value of fighting spurious insights “The End of KPI-Illusion”).

The solution we’ll present combines four approaches into one:

  1. The copy test survey, that beside others measures the emotional impact of advertising as well as purchase intention (see this fun website that list the most emotional and effective ads globally).
  2. Re-contacting respondent in order to measure in-market purchases.
  3. The quantitative content analysis: Experts analyze each ad and encode the creative vehicles (celebrity, humor and 90 others) and emotional triggers (indulgence, family love and 130 others).
  4. Determination of the causal contribution to the success of each tactic: Here, self-learning algorithms of artificial intelligence are used to prove what works and what does not. (Looking forward to see Stan’s presentation on this at IIeX)

Eureka Moments

The success factor analysis makes it possible to measure how valid the established “blueprint for successful advertising” is. Compared to the best models to date, this explains 3.1 times better how advertising works. Our multi-client study in 2017 showed that emotions are the key to success. Even rational messages are not processed until emotions are aroused. However, only certain emotions are productive others again extremely destructive.

Furthermore, the study shows that in each product category different basic emotional messages are effective. On top of that, the messages that are usually used in their respective industry are usually not effective – just like the “belonging” message for alcoholic beverages, the “trust” message from financial service providers or the “relief” message for medication.

Also, frequent techniques like celebrities or voice-over generally are not effective. In fact very specific and old tactics are often those, which work wonders. We believe these and dozens of other findings will fundamentally change advertising in the future.

Improve Credibility

Sometimes business partners question market research results. “Purchase intention is not sales” they say. But this gap can be bridged. We can learn from the described approach how to translate purchase intention into sales, under which conditions, at which likelihood. This than makes it possible to attribute generated sales towards creative tactics … and regain credibility.

Want to learn more? Don’t miss Frank’s IIeX Europe presentation CREATIVE.AI: Determining the DNA of Successful Advertising as Well as the Link to In-Market Performance.

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Frank Buckler

Frank Buckler

Founder & CEO, Success Drivers