Creating an ad is a complex process. From initial positioning and concept development to the final copy and media plan, many resources, hours and dollars go into the creation of just one 30- (or even 15-) second ad. And with the skill of a juggler, advertisers must balance their efforts—and spending—to make sure an ad reaches the right audiences, resonates with viewers and gets consumers to react.
Copy testing is already a part of many advertisers' process, but many aren't doing all that they can do. When an ad is launched into the market, the interplay of content and context can influence if and how consumers connect with a message.
By optimizing ads not just throughout the creative development process but also during the campaign execution process while an ad is in flight, advertisers can identify improvements to ensure their advertising resonates with consumers. Continual refinement throughout the life of an ad guarantees it lives up to its greatest potential with the least waste and the highest ROI.
Advertisers have typically used survey-based research for a ‘go/no-go’ decision before going to air, but these stage-gate tests are only one piece of the process. Optimizing copy and creative from the start of the development process can help advertisers tweak ads to save them from an early death.
A recent study from Nielsen's consumer neuroscience group in conjunction with the U.N. World Food Programme demonstrates how small changes in wording can make a relatively big difference in effectiveness. Using a combination of electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking measurements, the team found adding a simple benefit statement to the ad allowed viewers to quickly connect how their response would make a tangible impact and consequently was shown to increase action intent.
Consumer neuroscience captures people's reactions, long before they are able to consciously verbalize their thoughts, and provides insights that survey-based questionnaires cannot replicate. It measures not only overall response to a given execution but also what captures viewers' attention, what engages them on an emotional level and what will be retained in memory. Knowing this before production means positive changes can be made to the creative to increase an ad’s effectiveness and influence purchase behavior.
Ads don't live in a bubble. Media factors—like TV program engagement and website placement, as well as background noise and viewing habits—can affect your ads' performance in the real world. So knowing an ad’s ability to break through the clutter, be memorable and have its message resonate with the consumer is also critical to its success. The right quantitative and qualitative measures can explore how viewers remember ads and brands, as well as how effective the ad was at influencing consumers' opinion of a brand after seeing it in a live environment. And advertisers can use this knowledge to strengthen campaigns in motion, as well as future efforts.
In a study of military-themed TV ads, USAA (United Services Automobile Association) aired its messages most heavily during drama and sports programming to engage its audience. Nielsen's TV Brand Effect data has shown that when viewers are engaged in the content they’re watching, they are also more engaged in the ads. So understanding the effect genres, programs and websites have on ad resonance can help optimize media plans for improved results.
Once you get the ad right, you must ensure it’s showing up in the right environment and in the right format. In a campaign marketing a new all-natural energy drink, Starbucks collaborated with its media partner SheKnows to drive awareness brand lift. Using Nielsen Digital Brand Effect, they found that a particular ad unit was overperforming, producing brand lift that was 7x the campaign average. Starbucks and SheKnows reallocated impressions to this particular unit while the campaign was still in-flight, improving overall brand lift by 11%. Testing not only the content but the context of your ad—the websites it shows up on, the ad units it appears in, the frequency of exposure, etc.—can lead to more effective advertising.
In reality, testing should be ongoing. Tracking the performance of multiple campaigns can help advertisers understand if they're reliably achieving the brand objective, or if there is some persistent problem in their process. Knowing this can help advertisers develop best practices to improve performance across campaigns.
With so many variables affecting advertising performance, multiple tools are needed to assess effectiveness throughout an ad's lifecycle. Non-verbal studies (like consumer neuroscience) and survey-based approaches can help you improve your advertising, but each pick up different aspects of ad performance uniquely. Advertising may be complex, but using the right tools can help you accurately measure and optimize this complexity to successfully develop a winning campaign.
For more information, watch the recording of our webinar, "The Power of the Creative: Reconciling the Spoken and Unspoken," and learn how you can measure your advertising's resonance.