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Increase Your Results With Creative Pretesting

  |  August 3, 2004   |  Comments

We test TV concepts before running a single GRP. We copy-test print before building the first mechanical. Why not apply the same due diligence to online creative?

If you haven't yet attended the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB's) XMOS road show this year, it's well worth traveling to see one of the series' last two sessions. The presentation covers results from another round of top-notch marketers, including Ford, Universal, ING, and VeriSign. In addition, you'll see how these new results compare to the wealth of data already seen from companies such as McDonald's, Colgate-Palmolive, and AstraZeneca.

The cross-media effectiveness data is fascinating and totally validates the perspective that adding online into the media mix gives you better results with the same budget. However, I was particularly interested in a point at the end of the presentation: the value of testing creative before launching an online campaign.

Preparing for Success

To participate in the XMOS studies, the major marketers had to agree to pretest their online ad creative. The work was submitted and tested via a concept testing methodology implemented by InsightExpress. Surprisingly, of the six campaigns tested four had to be totally redeveloped, one needed modifications, and only one ran without major changes. That's an 80 percent failure rate on the initial creative submissions! Are we really doing justice on the creative front for online?

Why Pretest Creative?

Don't have time or money to pretest creative? Think you'll just optimize the buy on the fly? Sure, one of online marketing's great aspects is launching a campaign and sort out creative best-performers in the live marketplace. But let's think about this from an efficiency perspective.

Let's say you're planning a $500,000 buy and will budget roughly $50,000 for creative development, 10 percent of the media budget. You'll allocate and flight the media weight equally across three months to provide the best coverage, spending about $41,000 a week in media. You'll develop five or six different messages in rich media format and optimize the buy over the next three months by weeding out poorly performing executions and maximizing the best ones. By week three or four, you end up rotating the best two ads and generating the best possible results. Sounds logical, right?

What if you spent an extra $10,000 and pretested the creative prior to launch? The best two executions would run in week one. You'd optimize results during the first few weeks rather than waiting to see how things shake out. If you generated just a 5-6 percent increase in results over the first four weeks, you'd easily pay for the creative testing and end up with much better net program results.

Key Takeaway

The XMOS creative testing showed establishing the brand name as early in the creative message as possible is critical. Unless the goal is to leverage a reveal approach in the creative, be overt with the client's brand name and logo. Don't be shy about acknowledging it at the start of the message.

Sounds Good, But...

The client will never go for extra testing. Sure, there's some extra planning and timing considerations to pretest creative. But serve the proposal this way: We test our TV concepts before we ever run a single gross rating point (GRP). We copy-test the heck out of print before building the first mechanical. Why not apply the same due diligence to online creative to generate the best possible results? After all, in today's world of tight budgets, we need to make every media and creative dollar count.

Let me know if you've pretested online creative. Did it make a big difference? I'll share top-line results in a future column.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies 2004 in San Jose, CA, August 2-5.

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James Hering As SVP and director of interactive marketing at t:m interactive, JamesHering's teamdevelops a full range of interactive solutions for a variety of clients.Since 1994, he's been involved in development and evolution of AmericanAirlines' AA.com. With over 10 million registered users, it's one of theworld's most successful e-commerce sites. James' experience includes contentpublishing and development; online CRM; sponsorship/partnerships; searchengine marketing; and execution and implementation of AA's award-winninginteractive campaigns. Other client experience includes Adams Golf, BellHelicopter, eiStream, Nationwide Insurance, Nortel Networks, Match.com,SABRE Travel Information Network, Subaru of America, Reno Air, Nestle Foods,Texas Instruments, Texas Tourism and Pizza Hut. His group's honors includethe Internet Marketing Association's Excellence in Interactive Marketing,WebAwards for Site Design, Communication Arts, NY Festival, iNOVA awards,CASIE Interactive awards and @d:Tech awards.

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