How to Hold Creative Accountable for ROI

By Jill Gray

The logic that advertisers use to drive their creative decisions doesn't make sense. For instance:

  • Nielsen finds that 56 percent of sales lift comes from creative for digital ads, Kantar says it is 49 percent, and Google says it is 70 percent.
  • 80 percent of marketers deem creative quality key to marketing effectiveness, according to this survey.
  • 80 percent of marketers deem creative quality key to marketing effectiveness.
  • Marketing Week's Language of Effectiveness survey, supported by Kantar states 33.2 percent of marketers don't have any method of tracking creative effectiveness at all
  • From the same survey, those who say they can measure effectiveness is down from last year at 58.5 percent.

No matter where you look, creative is proven to be the biggest driver of ROI. Marketers know this, but even as creative drives half of ROI, many marketers seem unable to measure and fix it. This "creative conundrum" is holding brands back from higher campaign effectiveness. The reasons behind the conundrum are numerous, but luckily, there are solutions available today that smart advertisers are using to drive major improvements.

Causes of the Creative Conundrum

There are many causes for the creative conundrum, including a lack of standards around creative effectiveness, a reliance on manual, qualitative metrics, a focus on media performance as a proxy for creative effectiveness, and corporate silos that disconnect the creative process from campaign measurement.

While media teams have leaned more and more into data and measurement, creative has largely been left out of the party. While an A/B test can tell you that one piece of creative performed better than another, it can't tell you why, and can't inform future creative decisions.

Without the ability to directly map creative decisions to performance outcomes, the market settled on creative efficiency metrics over creative effectiveness metrics. Cost per asset became the currency of procurement teams near and far. But in today's environment of profitable growth, it's a "prove it or lose it" culture, which means advertisers focus on the parts of their spend that are most easily tracked.

Unlocking Creative Effectiveness

The good news? There are more and more data points to support this focus, as well as new tools, thanks to AI, that make measuring creative data and performance truly possible at scale. The time is now for marketers to truly understand what drives creative effectiveness across every asset and every digital platform out there. It's time to start measuring creative better. In our study at VidMob, 85 percent of advertisers believe that creative influences sales uplift. Now is the right time to start connecting the dots.

The first thing to do is to build a case to get buy-in for a new approach. Kantar is not the only company to make the connection between creative and performance, as Nielsen has similar findings, and Magna Media has studied the connection between creative quality and performance. These macro-studies can help convince executives that a focus on creative analytics and creative insights has the potential to increase campaign performance. Research like this can also help unlock the willingness to try new creative approaches in a tough market. Kantar has also found a direct correlation between ad favorability and ad performance for new ad formats like in-content and virtual product placement, for example.

Measuring Campaign Effectiveness

While large studies can create more awareness about the correlation between creative and ROI, what brands really need to drive lift is a way to measure the effectiveness of their own creative. Creative analytics solves for that. Thanks to AI, marketers now can measure detailed elements of their own creative and match them to performance. Sophisticated computer recognition models allow marketers to break down their creative decisions and see performance trends at a level never before available, and in the click of a button.

Creative analytics can help maintain a minimum of platform best practice, inform the creative production process, and drive campaign optimization throughout the course of a campaign. A 2022 study conducted by Meta and Nepa found ads that meet their best practices achieve a 1.2 to 7.4 percent increase in short-term sales and a 1.2 to 2.7 percent increase in long-term sales and can lead to a significantly higher ROI.

There is a reason to be optimistic. In today's tough market, a study from Gartner finds that campaign creation and management makes up the largest investment for CMOs who participated in the study. They note that CMOs are going "back to basics" to focus on the elements of marketing that matter most. This is a positive trend, and one that can help correct the creative conundrum, as long as CMOs dedicate resources to tying creative to ROI. Connecting the dots is the only way to lock in creative effectiveness for the long term.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jill Gray is EVP of marketing and enablement at VidMob.