Missed Opportunities: Creative Testing For TV

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Kevin O’Reilly, chief strategy officer at TVSquared.

It goes without saying that a creative can make or break an ad campaign. TV advertisers spend millions to create visually memorable, emotion-driven and even humorous ads that will resonate with viewers. But there’s a “fire-and-forget-it” 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 such as days, times and channels to improve performance. But most advertisers are not measuring and optimizing TV messaging – the creatives – and are missing out on valuable optimization opportunities because of 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 adequately measure and optimize creatives. Traditionally, most advertisers have relied on “gut feel” or feedback from focus groups or online panels and 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 period. Then there’s 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 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 of 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, although it’s possible. Today, advertisers can measure and optimize creatives using immediate attribution or viewer-based data, which allows them to treat 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 different from one another, which 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 be a bit more complex, with 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 or day to isolate the elements that work best and make in-flight changes to improve performance. Brands can better identify creative wear and then incorporate more challengers into the mix or even look at the uniqueness of creatives to activate different audience segments.

Get granular

The whole purpose of the creative is to convey a message that is informational, emotive and creates 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 primarily about age and gender, that is no longer the case. Advertisers can now gain a deeper understanding of audience segments and better insight into how to optimize creatives so the right messaging reaches the right targets in the right programming.

Follow TVSquared (@tvsquared) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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