The Importance of Creative Testing
Published: March 6, 2023
Author: Russell DiDona
*A previous version of this blog originally appeared on inseev.com. It has been altered and updated by 3Q/DEPT.*
In the display medium, creative is one of the most important aspects of a digital campaign. Our world 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 the medium, regular creative refreshes are more critical than ever to ensure you’re appealing to your audience.
How Do I Make the Best Ads?
Testing. Your design team has great ideas, there’s no doubt about it. But predicting what will or won’t work with audiences can be tricky. Is animation better than a static ad? What color should your call to action be? Do you even need a call to action? 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 know how users will respond until you try them. When leveraged consistently and correctly, creative testing can help optimize your advertising’s performance and positively impact your brand.
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 ad size that has worked best? From there, pick one aspect to try and improve on: Maybe you want to test a new art style, a different color pallet, or a new product.
If you’re launching a new product, rebranding, or want to refresh your ad suite completely, 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 also ways to gain insights for free:
- Display ads: MOAT.
- Twitter: Ads Transparency Center.
- Facebook: 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.
Establishing an objective is one of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of testing. What do you want to learn, and 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 data source will you 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. Focus on one change at a time: Static or animated? Square or rectangle? Blue or red?
Once you’ve decided on a goal and 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 your data source, make sure you are tagging the ads with UTM codes that enable you to evaluate them individually. If you’re using platform data, some platforms have built-in testing tools to ease some of the burdens 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 and incorporate any learnings into your creative strategy moving forward. 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 present 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 will tell you that performance is never “good enough.” You can and should always strive to be better. Here are some thought starters to test: Colors, CTA shape, size, verbiage, offer type, logo positioning, video, different products, ad format, and copy. Remember that there is no “one size fits all” for creative testing!