In 1997 there were only 5 TV channels in the UK (which didn’t run programming for extended parts of the day). Now alongside thousands of channels, TikToks, YouTube videos, Instagram reels, Threads, and Twitch streams compete for consumer attention. Where once there was an abundance of attention and a lack of media, now the opposite is true.
The increase in formats has gone hand-in-hand with an increase in content. Brands produce more content, faster. But this proliferation has also resulted in a loss of control over and visibility into the quality of creatives being produced.
Because they’re unsuitable for their media placements, creative executions aren’t delivering their potential impact. This results in inefficiencies that compound annually into the billions of dollars.
New analysis from CreativeX found that failure to adhere to 5 statistically-validated creative best practices is responsible for over $700m in wasted digital ad spend in 2020-21 (approximately 55% of digital spend analyzed). If this data is extrapolated to all of 2023’s projected digital ad spend, advertisers stand to waste $233.4 billion.
These are the 5 key creative attributes that contribute to digitally unsuitable advertising:
35% of digital media spend is allocated to ads that do not contain brand logos or visible branding in the first three seconds of videos. This leads to hundreds of millions of unbranded impressions and missed opportunities to build brand awareness and association.
On top of this, an unbranded ad serves to deliver brand awareness uplifts for the entire category, and not just a company's brands. This means that investment in poorly branded content stands to aid competitors.
50% of digital budget goes behind ads with no call-to-action (CTA). Marketers continue to operate on the belief that CTAs are reserved exclusively for performance advertising, and fail to direct their users to the next stage of the consumer journey (by directing them to follow, sign-up, learn more, watch a longer version, etc).
Using psychology and clever framing can increase the intangible value of the offer, further driving sales. For example, KFC Australia increased sales of fries by 56% and sales of 4x fries by 84% by anchoring the offer with the disclaimer “maximum four per customer.”
12% of media spend was invested in ads that were not sized according to the recommendations of the specific platform or placement they were running in (such as a horizontal ad running in a vertical ad space). This failure to maximize the digital real estate that was purchased can make the ad more difficult to view and create a jarring experience for the user.
Getting the aspect ratio right might seem a small thing, but creative built natively for each channel can be 2.2x-3.6x more effective than TV creative that’s repurposed for digital channels.
32% of digital media was put behind videos that did not follow platform-recommended length guidelines. Often the result of TV ads being recycled to digital without the appropriate adaptations, these videos tend to fall short on multiple digital creative best practices (such as only branding in the last few seconds of the video). Brands are wasting money by not optimizing their messages and offers against the different available video lengths.
There is no single “best” ad length, but brands have opportunities to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their ads by experimenting with a variety of ad lengths.
In one study with Google, Analytic Partners found that long (60-second plus) and short ads (6 seconds) are the most effective and efficient at delivering ROI on YouTube, while the 30-second ad is the least effective. In another study, Analytic Partners found that 30-second ads were the most effective at driving “a higher response per GRP (i.e. more sales), but not quite enough to offset the cost premium.”
7% of digital dollars went to videos that were not optimized to be viewed without sound, meaning key messages were delivered in the audio or voiceover with no subtitles or supers overlaid when videos are watched without sound.
Audiences determine what is high quality content. As algorithms become the new gatekeepers for fame, or what audiences see, brands have to design content for algorithms and audiences. Making content that is “fit for purpose” or “fit for platform” is about making content that is “fit for audiences.”
Creative quality, or media suitability isn’t about restricting creativity. It’s about identifying the operational boundaries – within each media placement – for creativity to excel.
What is “fit” for each platform is determined by the way people engage with content on each platform. Platforms are constantly evolving to reflect changing consumer behavior and business needs. This balance means what people see is determined by what they like. Platforms have codified this user behavior through years of research (using different methodologies like MMMs, Brand Lift studies, etc.) into how people engage with content and ads on each platform.
Creative quality means optimizing creative executions for their media placement so each execution is more likely to be watched, remembered, and recalled by consumers. It’s not sufficient for a great ad, but it’s required for avoiding poor ads.
Chief marketing officers at the likes of Diageo, Bayer, and Nestle have overhauled their creative workflows to embed technology that can automatically review and score their ads against the Creative Quality Score (CQS), a metric that represents an ad’s digital suitability and checks for adoption of these fit-for-platform creative criteria.
Increasing digital ads’ CQS represents not only a substantial media efficiency opportunity but also meaningfully contributes to digital effectiveness by aligning the final creative adaptation of an ad to each digital platform’s unique environment.
Nestle saw a 74% increase in ROAS across Meta platforms through improving CQS. Bayer’s CQS improvements were associated with a 107% increase in brand uplift on YouTube, and a 2% reduction in CPM across all channels.
Interested to find out more about CQS? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
*That means that key messages were delivered in the audio or voiceover with no subtitles or supers overlaid, despite running on digital platforms where over 90% of videos are watched without sound.
For this analysis, we captured creative data on approximately 890,000 digital ads, representing roughly 1 trillion impressions and $1.37 billion in ad spend.
Using CreativeX technology, we measured brands’ adherence to creative best practices. We analyzed the frequency these principles were adhered to, as well as the associated media spend, thus revealing the biggest opportunities brands have to reduce media wastage through an improved CQS.