Click-through rateOptimization and targeting. Segmentation and analytics. There are countless tools that let digital marketers track the effectiveness of their campaigns, and even tweak them on the fly for a better ROI. And yet, when it comes to accepting new ad formats and strategies, there are still cries for "better metrics" and "more accountability."

What of creativity? Don’t ads need to be engaging and beautiful enough to attract a click (if that’s the metric you’re going for) in the first place?

The notion of crafting gorgeous digital campaigns seems to be an afterthought to the analytics – particularly when it comes to display. In an Adweek op-ed, comScore CMO Linda Abraham argues there are two key reasons that the industry hasn’t focused more on the creative: 

"Digital" brains don’t value creative like "analog" brains do

"This isn't entirely surprising -- after all, an industry that thinks in terms of the 'science' of ones and zeroes does not have a natural inclination toward valuing the 'art' of the creative."

Digital campaigns don’t attract big budgets, so the creative isn’t a priority

"Over the years, display ads have been treated mainly as commodities. Because these 'pork bellies' generated almost no click-throughs, advertisers and their agencies were reluctant to give the creative the time of day."

So bland ads fail to inspire clicks, but there’s no thought given to the idea of making the ads more enticing in the first place. Then, adding insult to consumer injury, the industry chooses to make the ugly ads more intrusive, bigger and harder to ignore.

Is that the way to go? Remains to be seen. The Online Publishers Association (OPA) says its bigger, bolder ads have been a success, but many outspoken execs disagree or question whether the research is unbiased. Interestingly enough, Abraham suggests more data – attained through creative testing – is actually the solution to the “bad creative” problem:

"It's no longer sufficient to simply acknowledge that creative may be important in online advertising -- it's time to demonstrate the value of our medium by turning online creative testing into a discipline."

Of course, comScore has a creative optimization and consulting division that aimed at doing just that. But Abraham’s shameless plug aside, what do you think? Is creative testing the key to producing better ad creative, or should the industry focus on developing better experiences (like iAds, branded entertainment, advergames, etc.) overall?

Tameka Kee

Published 11 November, 2010 by Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee has been covering digital media with a focus on online advertising, social media and gaming since 2007. Find her at or follow her on Twitter

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Comments (4)



Creativity should still play a key part in the delivery of the message, but I believe that the Bauhaus principle 'Form follows function' is fundamental in any campaign. Get the success metrics for what you're trying to acheive clear from the start and then how you package the message is last but certainly not least. If creativity leads, you risk diluting or even losing the message.

Why shouldn't developing better experiences be a part of 'creative testing'?

over 7 years ago



As a Web Analyst I find that, often the design and creative aspect is put before the measurement specification. I constantly have to look at solutions to measure the success of a design after its creation. That creative’s are being hindered by those measuring the adds (analytics) is a joke. I’m sure the advice, from a web Analyst professional, before design, would be to make the content of the add – more engaging. You can test what inspires these things by looking the performance of content on your own website, using basic Web Analytics.

over 7 years ago


Adam Allen, Director of US Sales & Marketing at Brodart Co.

I don't buy into the statement that digital creative should ever take a back seat to analytics. I often liken Advertising to Sales. If the media channel is to the physical person; great creative equates to great salesmanship. After all, when you break it down to the basics the only difference (or at least one of) between a great and poor salesman is the delivery.

over 7 years ago



I agree, the need for creativity has, to an extent, been swallowed up by the technology that tracks a campaign. Recruitment is a prime example. In the days when press advertising had no competition, creativity was what motivated people to firstly read, then apply to an ad. Now, with a few exceptions, job descriptions are simply cut and pasted onto job boards in the hope that a few decent responses will come back. There's often no sell of the organisation or the role at all. The web may be great but, whether it be cars, holidays, insurance or jobs, when did people's basic motivations change? i.e. why will they respond to something that simply has no allure, no matter how well it can be analysed and tracked?

over 7 years ago

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