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Published December 6, 2023

Mastering Ad Testing: Elevate Your Campaign Effectiveness

10 min read

“Half of marketing is showing up.… The other half can be extremely costly to get to the show. 🎪

Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your advertising efforts? Testing your ad’s effectiveness isn’t just a good practice—it’s essential to ensure that your marketing budget is well spent. With ad testing, you can move beyond guesswork and make data-driven decisions that lead to more engaging, impactful, and successful campaigns.

We came across this post from Ian Crocombe and couldn’t help but laugh. Boring brands pay the boring tax when they don’t put effort into their creative. We agree.

Why Test Your Ads?

In the world of marketing, showing up is just the beginning. The real challenge lies in standing out. But, let’s be real—standing out can be pricey if you’re not smart. That’s where ad testing comes into play. It’s the secret weapon savvy marketers use to avoid the “boring tax”—that extra cost you pay when your creative fails to captivate your audience.

Consider this: even established giants like The Coca-Cola Company aren’t immune to the pitfalls of ineffective advertising. When put to the test, an ad for their product might reveal some hard truths, such as low emotional engagement, confusion about the message, and even distrust towards the product.

Five Reasons that Affect Your Ad Effectiveness 

Ineffective ads can be detrimental to a marketing campaign, wasting resources and failing to engage the target audience. Here are the top five reasons why ads may fall short:

  • Poor Audience Targeting– The success of an ad largely depends on how well it resonates with its intended audience. Ineffective ads often miss the mark because they’re not tailored to the interests, needs, or behaviors of the demographic they’re aimed at. Without a deep understanding of the target audience, an ad can appear generic or irrelevant. Mark Cuban explains this with a few examples in an X post clap back at Elon about why poor audience targeting makes ads on X suck.

Unclear Messaging- A compelling ad conveys its message succinctly and clearly. Suppose an ad is vague, cluttered with too much information, or lacks a clear call-to-action (CTA). In that case, it can leave the audience confused about what the ad is promoting and what steps they should take next. For example, the ad below is confusing and unclear and features this lawyer’s dogs as why you should trust him. Very confusing.

Lack of Creativity- Creativity is what makes an ad memorable and helps it stand out in a crowded marketplace. Ads that rely on clichés or outdated concepts can fail to capture attention. The audience today is looking for fresh, innovative content that speaks to them on a personal level.

Inadequate Testing- Every audience is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Ineffective ads often haven’t been thoroughly tested for performance in different formats, designs, or copy variations. Without testing, it’s difficult to understand what elements of an ad are working and which ones aren’t. The guide below from AdEspresso shows you how rigorous ad testing can be.

Ignoring the Customer Journey- Ads need to be aligned with the customer journey to be effective. An ad that doesn’t consider where the customer is in their buying process—whether they’re just learning about a product or ready to purchase—can miss the opportunity to guide the customer to the next step. In the example below, Yooz, an ​​E-invoicing & P2P Automation platform, is targeting an audience early on in their customer journey by offering a webinar replay in exchange for an email address. 

These factors highlight the importance of audience research, clear and creative messaging, rigorous testing, and strategic planning in creating effective ads. Marketers can significantly improve their ad effectiveness and overall campaign performance by addressing these areas.

So, how do you avoid these pitfalls and ensure your ad is a hit? It’s simple: test, learn, and optimize.

How to Test Ad Effectiveness

To dive into ad testing, you don’t need a colossal budget or a fancy degree in marketing. All you need is a strategic approach and the right tools. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Define Clear Objectives: Know what you want to achieve before you start. Are you aiming for brand awareness, click-throughs, or conversions? Setting clear goals will guide your testing process and help you measure success.
  2. Choose Your Testing Method: There are several ways to test your ads, from A/B testing to multivariate testing. Pick a method that aligns with your objectives and resources. For instance, A/B testing is great for comparing two versions of an ad to see which performs better.
  3. Select Your Audience: Who will see your test ads? Define your target demographic to ensure the feedback you receive is relevant and actionable. Consider using platforms like Helio, which allow you to gather insights from a specific audience quickly.
  4. Measure the Right Metrics: Depending on your goals, track metrics like engagement rates, conversion rates, and return on ad spend (ROAS). These figures will tell you whether your ad resonates with your audience or if it’s back to the drawing board.
  5. Analyze and Adapt: Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to analyze. Look for trends and patterns that indicate what’s working and what’s not. Then, use those insights to refine your ad until you hit that sweet spot of creativity and effectiveness.

Using Helio for Ad Testing: Case Studies and Examples

Using Helio for Ad Testing: Case Studies and Examples With Helio, you can use several ad testing methods to optimize your campaigns for peak performance. In this section, we’ll share a breakdown of specific methods well-suited for ad testing:

  • Click Testing
  • A/B Testing
  • Usability Testing
  • Five-Second Test
  • Longitudinal Study
  • Sentiment Analysis
  • Path Analysis
  • Conversion Funnels

Click Testing

Analyze which parts of your ad users are most drawn to click on. This can reveal the most engaging elements or whether users understand the CTA.Getup is an e-commerce clothing company that sells suits and other high-end business apparel. Advertising on major content sites, such as Yahoo! or the New York Times, is a large budget spend for Getup each year. It’s important that their display advertisements capture visitors’ eyes, like their ad space on Yahoo!’s homepage.

We asked an audience of 100 online shoppers, “Imagine you just opened your internet browser and this is one of the first pages you see online. Click on what interests you first on this page.” Using a click test, we determined where participants’ eyes first gravitate when they land on the page, and where they are most likely to click.

Typically, attracting 10% of users on another site’s homepage is a great mark, so Getup’s banner attracting 15% of first clicks is a great benchmark for future iterations. View the Helio report.

A/B Testing

You can show different ad versions to participants to see which performs better. Change one element between versions, such as the headline, image, or call-to-action.   Getup, an e-commerce clothing company that sells suits and other high-end business apparel, explored different variations of their ad on Fortune’s website. One version presented multiple of the same ad image in an attempt to capture visitors’ attention at the top of the page, while the other provided a more traditional image and text in a side column.

In our test of 100 online shoppers, less than 5% showed any interest in both versions of the ad, indicating that the larger ad space at the top of the page isn’t worth the extra expense compared to the smaller sidebar advertisement.  View the Helio report.

Usability Testing

Ask participants to interact with the ad and observe how easily they can understand and engage with it. This can include finding and clicking the CTA or navigating from the ad to the landing page.

Getup’s efforts to promote themselves on social media center around getting users to directly download their app from the ad. Compared to directing participants towards a landing page, it’s a bold move that may deter potential users from engaging immediately.In our test, Getup was able to capture a significant amount of immediate interest with their social media ad, with 46% of participants clicking through to download the app. 

Other popular points of engagement were comments, clicking on the Getup hashtag or clicking onto Getup’s Twitter account. Despite this risky approach, it looks like Getup may have found a reliable way to attract high value conversions from their social media ads. View the Helio report.

Five-Second Test

Show participants your ad for only five seconds to see what they remember. This helps assess the immediate impact and clarity of your ad’s core message.Comprehension of Getup’s advertisements on first look is important, so a 5-second test was used to see how much of an impact they can make after a quick glance on a content site like Yahoo! After observing the page for 5-seconds, participants were asked to describe the type of ads Getup was offering in their own words.

Most participants (63%) of participants accurately identified the purpose of the Getup ads after 5 seconds.

The one that stood out most was offering formal wear for special occasions.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

– Helio Participant, Online Clothing Consumer (US)

Most participants described the ad as formal wear, clothing, or wedding attire, indicating high comprehension for an audience with limited exposure to the product.  View the Helio report.

Longitudinal Study

Conduct a study over a period of time with the same participants to see how perceptions of an ad campaign evolve. This is useful for assessing the impact of repeated exposure.With rotating content in their Yahoo! Banner advertisement, understanding the impact of repeat exposure is important for Getup. They tested multiple versions of their top banner advertisement across multiple visits to a site.

On first visit, 15% of participants clicked on the Getup advertisement as a first area of interest. On the second visit, when presenting the wedding formal wear ad instead of the suit discount, 23% of participants gravitated towards the Getup ads on first click.

The 8% increase in clicks indicates that repeated exposure to different Getup ads on the same site increases visitor interest in their offers.  View the Helio report.

Path Analysis

Use Helio to track users’ paths after engaging with your ad. This can show you if users are following the intended flow or getting lost along the way.Getup knows that once they get visitors to engage on their ads in the wild, such as the Yahoo! banner, that meeting expectations is crucial once they reach the landing page. Participants who clicked from the Getup ad on Yahoo! were asked to provide their written expectations for what would come next, and then whether the content on the landing page matched those expectations.

Most participants (82%) indicated that the landing page at least somewhat matched their expectations. For the few participants who were not content, we found that they expected to lange on a product browse page. View the Helio report.

Based on these signals, Getup may consider showing a larger variety of suits offered in their Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal that could satisfy participants who want to understand the breadth of what is being offered after buying into the original ad.

Conversion Funnels

Create a series of steps users should ideally follow after seeing your ad, and track how many users complete the entire funnel. This helps identify where users drop off and what might be causing it.After engaging with Getup’s Buy 2, Get 1 Free offer, we need to understand whether they have put visitors into a mindset to engage. When clicking through on the ad, Getup asked their online consumers how they would engage after the fact on their site.

Despite some interest in engaging with Getup’s site, a significant number of visitors (almost 20%) would immediately leave after clicking through from the ad, or would opt to do more research (15%) rather than engaging further. View the Helio report.

I don’t just buy from companies without researching them. Too many scams out there today.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

– Helio Participant, Online Consumer

This speaks to a need for more education on Getup’s advertisement and landing page, so that participants are already more confident in the brand when they are asked to interact more with the site.

Sentiment Analysis

Gather qualitative feedback by asking participants to describe their feelings or attitudes toward the ad. This can help you gauge emotional responses and brand perception.

As a fun experiment, we took different versions of Diet Coke’s ‘Because I Can’ ads and tested them to see what emotional reaction they elicit from people who buy soda.

Two of the three ads received generally positive feedback, with the majority of participants feeling neutral or somewhat satisfied. 

I would contact corporate and say wtf is that ad?

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

– Helio Participant, Soda Drinker

Surprisingly, the ad that was most controversial and with highest levels of dissatisfaction also produced a lot of engagement with the content, such as searching for more info or sharing the ad with others. The controversial route definitely gets people talking. View the results comparison framework.

Ad Concept Testing Can Transform Campaigns for Businesses Big and Small 

Ad testing isn’t just for the big players. It’s a tool that businesses of any size can—and should—use to refine their marketing strategies and improve their ad performance. 

By embracing ad testing, you’ll save money and create ads that truly resonate with your audience. Remember, the best ad doesn’t feel like an ad at all—it feels like a story that speaks directly to the heart of your audience. So, get out there and start testing. Your next breakthrough campaign is waiting to be discovered!

Whether you’re testing social media ads or ad space on other sites, Helio offers unique methods to test different aspects of your ads, from initial impact to detailed interaction analysis. By combining these methods, you can comprehensively understand your ad’s performance and user perception, allowing you to make data-driven decisions to improve your ad campaigns.

Ad Testing FAQs

Why is ad testing important for businesses of all sizes?
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Ad testing allows businesses to refine their marketing strategies and improve ad performance, ensuring they resonate with their audience and get a good return on their marketing investment. It helps avoid the “boring tax” and ensures that ads stand out in a crowded market.

What are some common reasons why ads fail to be effective?
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Ads may be ineffective due to poor audience targeting, unclear messaging, lack of creativity, inadequate testing, and ignoring the customer journey. These issues can prevent ads from engaging the target audience and achieving the desired campaign goals.

What are the first steps to take when starting ad testing?
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Begin by defining clear objectives for what you want your ad to achieve, like brand awareness or conversions. Then, choose a testing method that fits your goals and resources, such as A/B testing or usability testing.

How can I select the right audience for testing my ads?
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Define your target demographic based on the audience’s interests, needs, or behaviors. Use platforms like Helio to quickly gather insights from a specific audience that matches your target market.

Which metrics should I track to measure ad effectiveness?
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Depending on your objectives, track engagement rates, conversion rates, and return on ad spend (ROAS) to determine if your ad is resonating with your audience.

Can you give examples of ad testing methods using a service like Helio?
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With Helio, you can utilize A/B testing, usability testing, the five-second test, sentiment analysis, path analysis, click testing, conversion funnels, clickmaps, and remote unmoderated user testing to analyze different aspects of your ads.

How does ad testing save money for businesses?
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Ad testing saves money by preventing investment in campaigns that do not resonate with the audience. It allows businesses to identify and fix issues before a full-scale launch, optimizing ad spend and increasing the chances of campaign success.

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