family watching tv
Missed Opportunities: Creative Testing for TV
18 July 2018 • tvsquared
Kevin O’Reilly,
Chief Strategy Officer

This article originally appeared in AdExchanger on July 2, 2018. 

It goes without saying that a creative can make or break an ad campaign. TV Advertisers spend millions to create visually memorable, emotion-driven, even humorous ads that will resonate with viewers. But there’s a “fire-and-forget” mentality when it comes to TV creatives, and it’s detrimental to campaign effectiveness.

Brands are increasingly measuring and optimizing TV media – adjusting buy elements like days, times, channel, etc., to improve performance. But most advertisers are not measuring and optimizing TV messaging – meaning the creatives – and are missing out on valuable optimization opportunities because if it. And while some brands are making attempts at creative testing for TV, they’re often using flawed approaches that measure intent vs. real-world response.

Flaws with Traditional Creative Measurement Approaches

Since the advent of TV, advertisers have struggled to find a way to adequately measure and optimize creatives. Traditionally, most advertisers have relied on “gut feel” or feedback from focus groups or online panels/surveys. The flaw with the former is obvious, and the flaw with the latter is that they presume intent instead of measuring accurate, real-world response.

There’s also direct-response measurement; running different creative rotations across networks to see how volumes were driven over a one-to-two-week time period. Another flawed approach is regression-based analysis post-campaign, where creative is only one component of the mix. The problem is not only that it occurs post-campaign, and therefore it’s too late to make in-flight changes, but it also leaves a lot of room for error.

In recent years, many advertisers have used YouTube for proxy testing, which allows for viewability measurement that looks at metrics such as skip and click-through rates. This technique is often used to measure against existing creatives or for gauging PSA performance. While this approach is near real-time, it does not accurately reflect the TV audience. Rather it reflects the response of the proxy audience viewing the ads on YouTube.

Creative Testing for TV is Possible

While continuous creative testing within the digital realm is common, it’s rarely been done with TV. But it can be done! Today, several vendors are enabling advertisers to measure and optimize creatives using immediate attribution or viewer-based data. This type of technology is allowing advertisers to start treating their creatives as dynamic optimization opportunities.

It’s important to note, I am not talking about creating multiple spots in the sense that they’re totally different from one another (this would lead to messaging confusion). Rather, it’s about making small, subtle changes to campaign spots – even in post-production. The changes could range from something as simple as color, music, voiceovers or inserts; or a bit more complex, like different actors or script versions.

Just like brands conduct champion-challenger marketing for digital, they can do the same thing for TV. They can rank ads simultaneously by network, genre, day, etc. to isolate the elements that work best, and make in-flight changes to improve performance. Brands can better identify creative wear and incorporate more challengers into the mix, or even look at the uniqueness of creatives to activate different types of audiences.

Get Granular with Audience-Level Data

The whole purpose of the creative is to create a message that is not only informational, but emotive, creating a resonance with the target audience. As audiences vary across gender, age, ethnicity, economic status and general interests, the reason why a message resonates changes.

While traditional TV targeting was solely around age and gender, that is no longer the case. Audience-level TV attribution has gotten much more sophisticated in recent years, and advertisers can now know a lot more about the segments that are most strongly responding to their spots.

A deeper understanding of audience segments creates better insight into how advertisers can optimize creatives to ensure the right messaging reaches the right targets in the right programming. This includes optimizing spend by knowing if it is buying the right spots and if creatives are amplifying and resonating with the right niches. Using this method, advertisers can also fine-tune or tailor creatives based on audiences that both respond and convert as a result.

The ability to understand how creative performance varies across segments at the segment level, like our Audience product provides, provides insights in to the programming content that brands are not only advertising around, but also the content they are not, creating insight into how to take full advantage of the opportunities in TV media.