Is it enough to have just one killer creative execution, or are numerous variations required to achieve maximum performance?

With overall click-through-rates falling, advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to optimise online campaigns to improve results.

Rich Media ads are designed to engage users with interactivity, animation, video and mini-games, and have had great success. But their complexity often limits the number of variations of the ad that are built.

As a result, creative agencies often focus on developing a visually stunning creative concept but only deliver a small handful of executions such as a single skyscraper, leaderboard and MPU.

While these creative concepts are often held in critical acclaim and win industry awards, the limited number of executions does not allow for optimisation in the delivery of the campaign.

Consider the frequency and creative wear-out.

If a user sees the same ad 20 or 30 times and still does not respond, would it not make sense to swap it out for another? Testing another creative may prompt the user to respond.

Mark Beeching, executive vice president and worldwide chief creative officer of Digitas, believes this gives consumers a better experience:

“We now know how many times they’ve seen this ad, so stop annoying them.”

Look to match the best ad to the placement.

A placement on the Orange homepage will perform differently to a placement on the MSN homepage, and therefore it would be appropriate to adjust the creative execution accordingly.

This variation may be very subtle - for example, placing the words “click here” at the top of the ad rather than the bottom could deliver a significant increase in performance.

Advertisers often conduct A/B testing on their display advertising, running two creatives in rotation to monitor the performance and then optimising to the better of the two.

But is it enough to have just two versions of an ad?

In one of my recent blogs I wrote about the incredible uplift delivered by behavioural targeting.

I showed how we broke down the user journey into various steps allowing us to target the customer with the most appropriate message at the most appropriate time.

It’s like delivering a personalised TV advert, with an exclusive offer, to an individual customer at exactly the right time.

I refer to it as “below the line marketing in an above the line space”.

The challenge with this approach is that numerous executions are required, each with a slightly different variation on the message.

So will this approach be adopted?

Certainly David Kenny, chairman and chief executive of Digitas, believes so.

In an article last year, he commented on how he plans to create thousands of versions of ads then use data about consumers and computer algorithms to decide which message to show to which user.

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, in a conference commented that we have become obsessed with “reach and frequency” but need to place more focus on other metrics such as “relevance, timeliness, engagement and proximity to purchase”.

Certainly optimisation allows for the message to be appropriately tailored to the customer engagement or proximity to purchase.

But is this really achievable?

Closer collaboration between the creative agencies and media agencies is essential in order for this process to work well.

With overall click-through-rates for display advertising dropping, agencies are under pressure from advertisers to boost performance and this could be a successful approach.

On a test campaign, I saw a 100% increase in click through rate and a 600% improvement in conversion rate.

Matthew Finch - View blog

Matthew Finch

Published 7 February, 2008 by Matthew Finch

25 more posts from this author

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Comments (3)


PPC Management

It is so much easier to be timely and relevant with a pay per click search engine campaign. Thats why I'm a fan of PPC. However if Google can bring the same qualities to display based ads as it has to PPC through Doubleclick it'll be interesting.

Kaya, Internet Marketing

about 10 years ago



I think it all depends on the quality of the ad. The Gorilla viral ad is a good example of where one ad is enough. In other cases, it might work well to have a variety of ads but there would have to be a strong connection between each one otherise people might get confused about what the brand is trying to say.

about 10 years ago



I don't think my Gorilla ad point is relevant. Anyway, the idea of a good ad working still applies. People must focus on being creative. If creative then a good ad should work on its own many times over.

about 10 years ago

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