Online ad buyers spend a lot of time focusing on measurement, placement and targeting, but according to Dynamic Logic, bad creative is really to blame for poorly performing online ads. The online-ad-research group's latest study found creative to be the most important factor in ad reception and recommends brands focus on that above any other factors in creating and deploying ads online.

Obviously the quality of creative plays into ad effectiveness, but even the best creative won't eradicate all the deployment issues that marketers struggle with online.

Dynamic Logic's study compared the top 10% and bottom 10% performers from its database of over 170,000 online ads and found that creative factors — rather than targeted or high-profile ad placements — led to better ad recall, brand awareness and purchase intent.

After analyzing the highest and lowest performers from its database, Dynamic Logic found that simple messages with sustained brand messaging and persistent logos had the most impact for brands. They also found that "reveal" ads don't work.

According to Ken Mallon, Dynamic Logic's senior VP-custom solutions:

"Media people spend most time trying to optimize and measure campaigns, because the creative quality is outside of their control. If they got good ads to begin with, that would help."

Well, duh. Good advertising depends on good creative. But that doesn't meant that measurement and targeting stop mattering. The online environment allows for intense levels of measurement that old school ads aren't equipped with. And often, those measurements aren't helping brands bring in sales.

But simply improving creative won't magically fix the problem of online advertising. A bigger issue t online, is the difficulty in scaling ad campaigns. Traditional advertising placements may be harder to measure, but they're easier to deploy. Television and print ads have standard shapes and sizes that are easier to work around. The complexity of online channels contributes to the low quality of creative. Video, search and display ads online come in all shapes and sizes.

Mallon tells AdAge:

"It's magazine-quality. If people think of the internet as a well-targeted magazine and do their planning and creative development around that, they tend to have very successful campaigns."

Well, how do you treat the internet as a well-targeted magazine unless you focus on targeting and placement? Dynamic Logic's initial findings show that all of that matters for brands.

AdAge says that brands should "stop obsessing over targeting and placements," but there's nothing in the nubers released so far proving those factors aren't important. The question is how to deploy creative, and Dynamic Logic's advice to use people, logos and persistent calls to action are not going to be a silver bullet for conversions.

Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer at digital agency AKQA tells AdAge the real problem:

"Agencies have to create so many of the same thing. Thus the creative becomes somewhat generic, and standards are all over the place."

Meghan Keane

Published 20 October, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (1)

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Jacob Wright

There's a well known paradox that if you can measure something, it becomes important.  I think we can see this at work here.  Just because you CAN micro-target and micro-measure online ad campaigns doesn't mean that's what determines their effectiveness. 

The difference in performance between the best and worst TV ads can vary by a factor of 40.  Not 40 percent, 40 times.  And, surprise surprise, once we have a decent system for measuring online ad creative (big yourselves up, Dynamic Logic - you're just what the industry needs) it turns out that the same factors operate online.

Of course measurement and targeting matter, but it's foolish to think that because measurement and targeting can be done more precisely online, that means they matter MORE online than they did in traditional media.  There is no causal factor there.  Targeting is not going to make your campaign 40 times more effective.  And the minute that we move from speculation and dodgy reasoning to actual measurement of effectiveness, amazingly despite all the rhetoric, nothing has changed.  It's ideas that matter - the internet is "just like a magazine".

I've got another explanation for why online ad creative sucks, by the way.  It's because there's too much debate around strategy and metrics and wide-eyed tech speculation going on in online advertising, and not enough genuine creativity.  That and the fact that clients need to get over the idea that you can pay peanuts and still get good creative online. 

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