Exposed: The five reasons digital advertising is failing

digital_nHot on the heels of this week’s report which claimed to have devised the perfect formula for outstanding ROI, a new study shows exactly what not to do to be among the brands due to waste a whopping $233.4bn in digital ad spend.

According to a CreativeX analysis from ads that ran in 2021-2, there are the five key creative attributes that contribute to digitally unsuitable advertising, most of which are what many would call “the basics” of marketing.

Unbranded Ads
Some 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.

No Call to Action
Half of digital budget goes behind ads with no call-to-action, with many marketers continuing to operate on the belief that CTAs are reserved exclusively for performance advertising. Without a CTA they fail to direct consumers to the next stage (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, Creative X maintains. 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”.

Poorly Framed Ads
Some 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 maximise 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 three-and-a-half times more effective than TV creative that is repurposed for digital channels.

Unsuitable Length
Nearly a third (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 optimising their messages and offers against the different available video lengths.

There is no single “best” ad length, but brands have opportunities to maximise 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.”

Missed Messages
Some 7% of digital spend went to videos that were not optimised 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 X claims.

Creative quality, or media suitability is not about restricting creativity. It is 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 behaviour and business needs. This balance means what people see is determined by what they like. Platforms have codified this user behaviour 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 optimising creative executions for their media placement so each execution is more likely to be watched, remembered, and recalled by consumers. It is not sufficient for a great ad, but it is required to avoid poor ads.

So, the $233.4bn question is, who is getting right?

The report states: “The likes of Diageo, Bayer, and Nestlé 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.

“Nestlé saw a 74% increase in return on advertising spend 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.”

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