Digital best practice is still not being practiced

by Nigel Hollis | April 04, 2016

Brands are now spending huge amounts on digital advertising, be it desktop or mobile, search, display or video. And yet Millward Brown’s Brand Lift Insights  results suggest that many advertisers have still not really cracked the code when it comes to creating effective digital ads.

Whatever the ad type, Millward Brown’s research finds a huge variation in the effectiveness of digital advertising when it comes to brand building and shifting purchase intent. The top 20 percent of ads generate five times the average lift in brand awareness and eight times the lift in purchase intent. However, when the average lift is measured at one or two percentage points you know that many, many, ads achieve very little and some actually produce a negative response.

Digital Advertising

Maybe it is because we have become too focused on getting the ad to the right person at the right time that marketers seem to have forgotten that creativity matters just as much to digital ads as it does to TV, print or outdoor. Sure addressable advertising will ensure we reach someone that we believe has indicated interest in a brand, but will they notice it among all the clutter, and does it have the power to hold that attention for more than a few seconds?

Part of the problem seems to be that marketers are not customizing ads to work effectively in the channel in which they run. The findings from the ARF How Advertising Works study suggests that display ads rely far more on where the ad is placed and how it is presented than video advertising which is much more reliant on creative power. To my mind, however, we are looking at very different types of creativity. For display ads it is about paring things down to be as simple and focused as possible. For video it is about engaging interest in the first couple of seconds.

Based on Millward Brown’s research, a good display ad has three properties:

  • The visuals need to be straightforward and simple to help the ad stand out. The ad needs to stand out from the clutter not contribute to it.
  • The colors, images and fonts need to be selected to trigger brand recognition. People recognize brands they use based on specific cues; advertisers need to make it easy for people to recognize the advertised brand.
  • The brand name or logo should always be visible throughout the creative. You cannot guarantee when someone will look at the ad so make it obvious to them.

Display ads are all about focusing viewer attention on the ad and its message. By contrast, video ads by their nature attract attention – our eyes are automatically drawn to movement – the challenge then becomes holding that attention for more than a glance.

I will write more about video best practice in another post but meanwhile why do you think creative execution gets so little attention in digital? Please share your thoughts.

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  1. Mark Russell, April 07, 2016

    Hi Nigel,

    Here are my thoughts on why digital creative seems to get less thought on execution. First, from the dawn of digital it wasn't very necessary to have great creative ideas because the medium was so new and exciting/interesting it just wasn't necessary. Back then everything seemed great. But since then the medium has developed with way too much emphasis and interest in the 'what', not the 'how' or 'why'. Plus, the medium evolves so quickly there is always a new and exciting aspect to the medium itself, so creative takes a back seat. Add to that the fact that the practitioners in the digital realm may not have cut their creative teeth in traditional advertising, so they've never had to worry much about the actual creative as much as they have to worry about whether or not they are on the cutting edge of 'new'. Then, also consider that in digital everything has to happen 'right now'. Ideas go from head to screen in a matter of days ... pretty hard to be great when there's more emphasis on fast.

    Mark R.

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