As digital budgets grow, marketers are facing increasing pressure to prove ROI. This raises the question: how can marketers afford not to test their digital advertising?

When the primary focus for marketers was on TV advertising, ad testing was baked into the creative development process. In the digital environment, however, marketers have been less concerned with creative testing.

Is this because smaller budgets have been allocated for digital or due to the race to develop content and the pressure to execute quickly?

Not so long ago, digital was only a small percentage of a brand’s overall media spend – it was viewed as ‘experimental’, therefore not necessary to test. Fast forward, and digital is predicted to account for 34% of total media spend this year – more than 50% in some markets.

If we reflect on this, we might compare how most of us operate in our personal lives, and the actions we take to ensure we make good decisions and spend our money wisely. Most of us don’t book a hotel room – for business or vacation – without looking at reviews on one or more travel sites. If we do this ourselves, why not for our brands and businesses?

Thumbs up

Do we take reviews more seriously than market research?

The blame game

Many marketers are pointing their fingers at publishers, specifically questioning measurement and viewability. Even if it was a guarantee that genuine, human impressions would be delivered with greater accuracy, in many cases, the creative would let the brand down. Great creative may deliver ROI with an average media plan, but the best media plan in the world won’t make up for a poor creative.

Marketers that are getting digital right have moved beyond testing individual ads to help them decide whether to deploy them. They understand that each ad they test is building a data vault for much broader, future learning about what works best for their brand and category.

While many marketers still have doubts about testing digital ads, there are a few things they should consider:

Don’t depend solely on metrics that show in-market performance: Data on interactions and even brand lift may be reassuring but it doesn’t offer the insight needed to improve future ads that will deliver ROI.

Customise ads for each platform: Ads need to be tested in context, and agile tools enable testing in a viewer’s personal Facebook page and on YouTube.

Avoid misfires that can have a negative effect on brand: Kantar Millward Brown data shows that weak digital creative can hurt brand favorability and purchase intent. What’s more – test results are available in hours, which addresses the speed issue.

Test in-context on YouTube

Test in-context on YouTube to avoid confused or chaotic messaging

Learning for the future

The most sophisticated digital marketers are focused on the future. Kantar Millward Brown and Zappi are helping marketers use ad testing to form dynamic learning systems. Reviewing patterns of success from digital campaigns over time allows marketers to replicate what worked to increase ROI going forward.

Knowing what resonates with consumers (types of content, length of content, tone of voice, and even strategy) is what leads to improved digital campaigns.

A good example of a forward thinking, global consumer goods brand that has embraced dynamic learning is RB. Working with Kantar Millward Brown and Zappi, the brand rolled out a fully automated creative testing process that leverages sound methodologies and a normative database, enabling them to increase the number of ads tested per year by 77%. RB increased the number of portfolio brands evaluated from 25 to 32, and have seen an overall jump of 14% in the number of creatives achieving top performance.

LinkNow Chart

Here’s what Mathilde Levy, Senior Consumer & Market Insights at Reckitt Benckiser Europe, had to say:

“Automation is also about removing barriers internally. The research we provide is not always as timely as marketers want it to be and we can be regarded as blockers. Automation changes this. Instead of serving as a validation function and being the policemen, we become more of a consultant, providing insight that can help to drive the business forward.”

Those who aren’t testing their digital advertising should build this into their creative development process. And as for the marketers out there who haven’t yet shifted to a more dynamic learning environment – move quickly to gain a competitive advantage.


Authored by: Stephen Phillips (CEO, Zappistore) and Daren Poole, (Global Brand Director, Creative Development, Kantar Millward Brown)

Stephen_Phillips Daren-Poole


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