The Top 5 Creative Mistakes Killing Your Ad Performance

And one bonus mistake that can make or break your campaign

Competition for consumers’ attention has never been more fierce, and the performance of your ad creative matters. With the ever-expanding complexities and energy spent on media planning, often the creative execution is overlooked. However, a recent study by analytics firm NCSolutions found that “creative quality is responsible for almost half (49%) of the incremental sales driven by advertising.” 

As marketing organizations have grown to accommodate the expanding media landscape, an inevitable consequence is the siloing of teams, budgets, and decision-makers along platform and technology lines. The bigger a marketing agency gets, the more difficult it is to maintain cohesion and harmony across campaigns and various media channels. 

In many cases, the best solution is the hands-on approach, especially if you are truly paying attention to your brand.

Additionally, with the rise of programmatic ad buys and increasingly intelligent MarTech platforms advancing the insights and capabilities available to ad buyers, sometimes the creative is simply taken for granted to the detriment of your campaign. 

So, with that in mind, here are five mistakes that might be killing your ad performance: 

  1. Trying to Accomplish Too Much – Pick a single objective, and keep your message short and easy to understand. Don’t try to say too much. If it’s an awareness campaign, don’t include a purchase CTA. Make sure everything aligns with the awareness objective. With a broad target audience and awareness KPIs (reach, saturation), your efficiency measures are reach and/or saturation per dollar spent, so the call to action should be some version of “learn more,” as you’re higher in the funnel and trying to create interest as opposed to the actual purchase. Certainly you’ll take the purchase, but by aligning your message with your objective, you’ll have a much higher probability of hitting your goals and eventually creating more sales.
  1. Not Targeting Your Creative – You spend extra budget to target specific audiences; don’t deliver them a generic ad. If you are a video streamer trying to reach females aged 18 to 35, you’d better make sure you’re featuring programming that your target likes. Region, time of day, demo, psychographics – all of these things should factor into which ad placement you deliver. Much of this can be managed efficiently through a creative process that involves templates. In many cases, DCOs can help solve the issue, but make sure that the creative looks premium no matter what variables are selected. In many cases, the best solution is the hands-on approach, especially if you are truly paying attention to your brand. 
  1. Not Adapting Your Ad Based on Placement – In mistake #2, we discussed the importance of adapting your creative for your target audience. Equally important is considering your ad placement. Imagine you create a 30-second TV spot and make an edit that highlights the killer (expensive) song you licensed or the highly recognizable voiceover talent you hired, and then you decide to run that spot across your digital banner campaign. The results may not be what you expect, because almost no one listens to a video ad in a banner. So that audio is wasted. Or let’s say you want to run it on TikTok as a paid placement. Well, if the first frame of your video looks like an ad, users will skip your ad before the first words of your message appear. 
  1. Failure to Optimize – Don’t be precious with your creative. Every creative unit is a hypothesis; remember to save budget for testing. Test creative variations as well as targeting, delivery, and placement variations to get a data-based picture of what works best. The great thing about an A/B test is that there is always a winner. That said, when optimizing, do not forget about your brand. That same NCSolutions study mentioned above, points out that brand is the second most important factor in incremental sales. So by all means, optimize, but stay true to your branding guidelines to avoid the “optimization creep” that can gradually dilute your brand. 
  1. Disconnected Ad and Landing page – The ad creative and landing page must work together. The ad should give the user a clear expectation of where a click will lead them, and the landing page should reflect what they saw in the ad. This might sound obvious and simple, but the challenge occurs because marketing organizations are often structured so that the ads and landing pages are created by totally different teams or even different agencies. This means the ad creative and the landing page creative are built on different timelines and are often approved by different stakeholders. Even when everyone starts on the same page at kickoff, the two projects become siloed and can end up as an incongruent pair. 

Bonus Mistake: This extra point is not exactly about your creative, but making this mistake can thwart an otherwise great creative campaign before it even begins: failing to have a thorough kick-off call early in the process with your media and creative teams. Media and creative teams need to communicate in order to ensure that your creative, and ultimately the entire campaign, drives the highest possible success rate.