With Zappi Amplify Ad System.
A highly predictive ad development system that brings consumer insights into every step of your creative process and ensures your ads work.
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Better advertising with better consumer insights
Don’t just create a better ad, create better advertising. Learn from your past research and create a culture of consumer understanding to raise the creative bar.
While every brand’s circumstances are different, we have identified the typical process involving seven steps.
Create more effective campaigns with end-to-end insights from storyboard, boardomatic, animatic, to final assets across TV and digital.
Since partnering with Zappi,
we have seen our creative effectiveness improve by almost a third across all our advertising. This equates to PepsiCo gaining hundreds of millions in value from greater creative effectiveness this year!
Chief Consumer Insights and Analytics Officer
Learn how PepsiCo creates winning Super Bowl ads each year, using the Zappi Amplify Ad System to bring consumer insights into every step of the creation process.
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An all-in-one platform so you can systematically & quickly connect with your consumers as you iterate to optimize your campaigns and learn over time.
The result: More agile development, saving time & resources. And more effective campaigns.
Optimize your creative with rich diagnostics - moment by moment reactions and detailed consumer feedback. PepsiCo saw a 30% increase in creative effectiveness.
Superior methodology validated by some of the world's best brands. As a result, it's 60% more predictive of ROI than other research approches, so you can invest in confidence.
This Cheetos ad was a hit during the Super Bowl and won big at Cannes. Find out how consumer insights helped the team pick the right storylines audiences loved.
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If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our nearly 10 years of working with advertisers, it’s that producing great advertising clearly isn’t easy. It requires rigorous thinking, excellent project management and genuine creativity. And it can be highly stressful because a poor outcome means a lot of time and money has been wasted, and the reputation of those involved has been damaged.
The good news is that you can achieve great results when you listen to your customers early and often.
Using consumer feedback to validate and optimize what you’re doing at each stage ensures that all your time, money and emotional energy is only spent on ideas with genuine potential.
In our work with thousands of advertisers over the years, we’ve spent our time digging into what works for them, what gets in the way and the kinds of consumer feedback they find useful at different stages. And we regularly meet with a group of experts from some of the world’s leading advertisers (our ‘Insights Alliance’) to discuss the issues of the day. We pulled together everything we’ve learned about advertising development in this guide.
Read on for our tips on how to navigate each step effectively and when to incorporate human insight to develop your best ads.
But that's not all
Who will buy our brand?
Which emotional needs is it fulfilling?
Which functional needs feed into this?
Which characteristics help people believe our brand meets these needs?
Which adjectives describe the desired personality of our brand?
What are our existing and future ‘distinctive brand assets’?*
Which human insight** will inspire our communications?
*eg logos, words, phrases, slogans, shapes, colors, sounds/music, rituals, mascotssounds/mascots
**an idea that resonates with with the target audience and isan is related to what we want people to feel about our brand (readrelated read more on this later)
Some brand owners believe they need to develop a highly differentiated positioning while others (often referred to as ‘Byron Sharpies’ these days), focus on making their brand highly distinctive and memorable.
A brand doesn’t need definitive answers to every question to develop great advertising, but having a decent idea of what the brand stands for does seem to make it easier. Take Snickers, for example — a brand whose success is frequently attributed to having a clear brand vision with advertising to match.
Teenagers and young adults
To be ourselves at our best
To fill us up when we're hungry
Snickers bars contain peanuts which are filling and nutritious and sugar which provides energy
Energetic, direct, humorous
What are our existing/future ‘distinctive brand assets’?
The phrase ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry,’ the logo/pack/red parallelogram, the ‘rip and chew’ product shot
Which consumer insight will inspire our communications?
People’s temperament changes when they’re hungry; they’re not themselves again until they’ve had something to fill themselves up
Either way, it’s important to have a clear idea of what associations, emotions and key moments you want to connect with your brand in people's minds. We’ve seen teams using ‘keys,’ ‘onions’ and even ‘Piñatas’ to help them define their brand. These checklist-style frameworks typically address the following questions:
Alternatively, the advertising task might be much tougher. In the early ‘90s, for example, the prevailing style of décor in Britain was fussy, frilly and fancy. To succeed in the UK, IKEA needed Brits to start thinking of this style as being unfashionable so that they would embrace IKEA’s clean, contemporary Nordic designs. This strategic priority led to the hugely successful ‘Chuck out your Chintz’ campaign.
The primary role of advertising might be to simply let people know where they can fi nd a brand that they already like. For example: ‘New IKEA store - just off Junction 9 of the M6.’
The best way we have come across to determine the role advertising should play starts with a situational analysis. You have to establish what people need to know, think and feel about your brand to make them want to buy it, and what they must know in order to actually buy it. Compare this to what they know, think and feel about your brand now. Once this is clear, the role for advertising can become remarkably obvious. Just make sure it’s single-minded — don’t ask too much of your advertising.
Do you know what role your advertising plays in achieving your brand goals? Some brands have advertised for so many years that the answer is not immediately obvious.
Creativity is important because advertising that’s different, unexpected, and resonates emotionally is able to bypass people’s attention filter. This means it either gets noticed and acted upon immediately, or it sinks into memory to affect purchase decisions weeks, months and even years later.
Creative content is the key factor
The creative quality of your advertising depends heavily on how well you and your creative agency work together. You need to guide them using your knowledge of your brand, the market and the consumer — but also give them the freedom they need to come up with a truly creative idea. Listening and collaboration skills are vital.
If the first two of your seven steps have gone well, you can be confident that you have a strong creative brief. This means means your agency should know exactly how you want people to see your brand and the role that advertising needs to play.
Before embarking on advertising development, you need to make sure your creative agency is fully on board with your thinking. It’s worth asking them to give you their take on the situation. If they’re fully aligned with your thinking, that's great. If they challenge you with a new thought that makes you stop and think, that’s even better!
Given how fragmented the modern media environment is, brands need big ideas that work across multiple channels and formats. A strong one-off TV ad is great, but it’s of little use if it represents a creative cul-de-sac. ‘Big ideas’ lead to advertising that works across print, outdoor, digital display, social media and TV — and inspires strong executions for years to come.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to ask your agency to articulate the underlying idea behind the advertising – the big idea that connects ads across all media – and share examples of how the big idea could be brought to life in a variety of different channels. The greater the variety of storylines the agency comes up with that work as executions across different media channels, the better.
Creativity provides an opportunity for your advertising to drive sales, but only if it’s harnessed for the brand’s benefit. Members of our Insights Alliance say they have come across lots of highly creative advertising that captivates the audience but fails to involve the brand.
When developing advertising with your agency, an important question to ask at every step of the process is:
When people remember the advertising, how can we be sure they will remember the brand?
Several members of our Insights Alliance have mentioned a simple technique they use to judge whether an advertising idea is likely to be well branded. They ask themselves: If I showed this idea to a friend (who doesn’t work in advertising/ marketing) and asked them to explain their understanding of the idea, could they easily do so without mentioning the brand? If so, the brand probably doesn’t have a clear enough role in the idea and careful thought will need to be given to whether it could play a bigger role.
Brands can play a number of different roles in the advertising idea, such as the hero, the helpful catalyst or the proud sponsor of something the audience cares about. What’s important is that the advertising excels in at least one of these branding mechanisms.
If you want a good return from your media investment, you’ll need your agency to produce highly creative, original work. Creative quality has a huge influence on advertising effectiveness, even more than other factors like media reach or targeting. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘the most variable of variables' when it comes to media return-on-investment.
Does it reflect the insight and convey desired brand associations?
Here is a set of criteria you may find useful:
Consumer feedback at this stage can help identify the route with the most potential and provide insights into how to make it stronger– but it needs to be interpreted with great care. We’ve heard horror stories of promising ideas being condemned because the stimulus used in the research completely under-represented the idea’s true potential.
Regardless of how consumer feedback is obtained, it’simportant to have a frameworkfor assessing the potential of big ideas.
Is there a clear, credible role for the brand?
Does it resonate with the audience, creating an emotional response?
Does it help make the brand distinctive?
Will it work for executions across multiple channels?
Is it versatile enough for different marketing tasks?
Is it socially exciting enough to create buzz/ word of mouth?
If a single, perfect big idea for your advertising emerges at once — you are very lucky! But moreIf more often, the agency will have two or three promising ideas but not know for sure which to takeoften, take forward.
With qualitative research, there’s less risk of this happening because the moderator can guide respondents to focus on the core idea (even ifthis if they have responded negatively to one of the ways the idea has been brought to life in the stimulus). Quantitative research can also work well, but only if it can measure the strength of the big idea when it’s presented at its best— and not be affected by aspects of the stimulus that inadvertently taint people’s response to it.
A storyline that doesn’t resonate with its audience will never lead to a great ad, no matter how well it’s executed
There are several flaws with this approach:
Money is spent on producing and running ineffective ads before the results are available and acted upon
A/B testing doesn’t tell you how your advertisingA/advertising stacks up with competitors’stacks competitors’
You don’t learn how to make your advertising more effective in the future
It’s hard to be bold without human input to ensure you don’t go too far or make a misstep
Getting feedback on storylines before they are made into ads is more valuable. It tells you which storylines will be most effective, why, how they compare to benchmarks and how to optimize them before they are developed into finished ads. You can identify which storylines have most potential by gauging if they:
Resonate powerfully with the audience
Convey the desired associations
Have a prominent role for the brand
If a storyline does all three, you’re very likely to have an effective final ad. If not, your team can have an informed discussion about whether and how any issues could be resolved.
We believe that building time into the advertising development process to research storylines is well worth it. The more iterations you explore, the greater the likelihood of landing on the right one and knowing how to best bring the story to life in a final execution. This can be done via qualitative in-depth interviews or quantitative approaches. What’s important is that people see and respond to the storylines individually so that comprehension and responses aren’t contaminated by an artificial social dynamic.
A storyline is a way in which the big idea could be brought to life. Brand owners don’t always see the point in researching storylines, because how can feedback be useful if it comes before you have spent tens/hundreds of thousands on production values to make the ad impactful and compelling?
Another objection to getting consumer insights on storylines is that A/B testing can be used after the campaign has gone live tothat to see which ads are most effective.
Our point of view is that obtaining human insight early is always beneficial. The effectiveness of an ad, after all, comes from both its storyline and the execution that brings the storyline to life.
From what we’ve heard, a lot of ads are produced without obtaining any feedback on the storyline, leading to disappointing pre-test or in-market results. It’s well worth identifying the most promising storylines before investing further time, money and emotional energy.
A third reason for systematically researching your final ads is to build a knowledge bank you can use to create learning and optimize future ad performance. Once you have collected results from a number of projects, you can look for ad characteristics that are linked to higher performance (often called ‘meta-learnings’). Many of the world’s most famous and effective ad campaigns started off with average performance but improved over time thanks to the feedback loop provided by pre-testing. Examples include Stella Artois ‘Reassuringly Expensive, Lynx/Axe ‘The Lynx Effect and Oxo ‘Oxo Family.’
Researching a rough version of an ad (e.g. an animatic) gives you plenty of opportunity to tweak both the storyline and the execution– for example, you can make the story easier to follow or make the brand’s role more prominent. It also helps you specify in the production brief what needs to be done to make the final ad as effective as possible.
Some of the best ads ever created were researched as roughs and were improved as a result of the learnings. Guinness ‘Surfer’ (repeatedly voted ‘Best Ad Ever’) is just one example.
Another major benefit of researching finished ads (even if you do it after they have gone live) is to benchmark your advertising against your competitors’ – or at least’ least against relevant database averages. A/B testing might tell you which of your ads are strongest and help you maximize in-market impact, but that won’t help your brand in the long run if even your best ads fall short of your rivals’, and you don’t know how to make improvements.
A classic ad pre-test will tell you, with reasonable accuracy, how effective your advertising will be and give you the chance to fine-tune it. The earlier you obtain feedback, the better.
This is where brand tracking can help. Short-term uplifts in brand measures have been proven to correspond to long-term advertising sales effects. In other words, if you see measures like the ones here lifting when you spend on advertising, you can be confident that the advertising is going to have a good long-term effect.
Measuring the long-term sales benefit of advertising can be harder. Although there is universal acceptance that there are long-term sales effects from advertising and that they are typically at least twice as large as short-term effects, econometricians do not always agree on how they should be measured. Also, it inevitably takes a long time (three years or more) before long-term effects can be measured accurately — which is of little use to a brand manager who needs to decide whether or not to continue spending on a campaign in the next quarter.
If you have done a good job in steps 1 and 2,the creative brief will specify exactly which key associations the advertising needs to build in consumers’ memories. It is these associations you should focus on in your tracking. Brand growth is known to correlate highly with both unaided brand awareness and brand consideration, so these measures are also important to track. Your ads should be creating positive feelings toward your brand and keeping it top of mind, so that when people think about buying the category, your brand comes to mind and they feel good about the idea of choosing it.
Patience is also important because of the value of creative consistency. If your brand features the same distinctive brand assets in its advertising (and other touch points) over time, they will become increasingly linked to yourover your brand. This will not only make your brand more salient, but also make it easier for your future advertising to be connected in memory with your brand.The commercial benefit of building distinctive brand assets is often underestimated by marketers.
The purpose of advertising is usually to generate an immediate sales uplift and/or build brand memorability that will have a positive influence on sales in the long-term.
Ideally, of course, the additional profit created by the advertising will be greater than the media investment and the cost of developing it. So, you need to measure sales uplift in order to determine if your advertising is working or not.
The impact of advertising on immediate sales can often be measured fairly accurately – for example by comparing advertised and non-advertised periods or regions. But don’t forget to take into account the sales effects of any sales promotions, because they tend to have a much bigger immediate impact than advertising.
If you see good responses on these brand tracking dimensions early on, you need to keep the faith, stick with the campaign and be patient. It typically takes 18 months before the accrued long-term sales effects of advertising pay back the investment of an ad/campaign. Also, it can take aback a while before you and your creative agency learn how to make the campaign sing. Quite often, consumer feedback inspires a ‘breakthrough’ ad that captures the public’s imagination, establishes the campaign idea and makes future ads moreestablishes more effective.
Human insights early and often ensure you have great market orientation around what truly resonates and works for your target audience. Iterating with storylines (through storyboards) enables the insights to be valuable and usable and avoids the frustration caused by hearing about issues too late in the process – after emotional energy and hard cash has already been spent developing ads.
By eliciting human feedback at the right time and in the right way, ads can be bolder, without the risk of a misstep. Insights can be used to iterate, validate, optimize and learn for the future. The role of the system is not to ‘test’ or give a red or green light, but rather to ensure more of the advertising hits the sweet spot.
Meaningful insights can be accessed for all channels, helping you maximize your total budget and build resonance with your target audience over time. This means you can invest in media with confidence knowing that your advertising resonates and will deliver great ROI.
Advertising is not for the faint-hearted nor near-sighted, but its rewards can far exceed investments in other areas. If you decide to invest inAdvertising in advertising, be clear on the role it needs to play, embrace creativity, obtain human feedback early and often during development, and if it seems toadvertising, to be working in-market, stick with it to reap the long-term rewards.
Advertising development isn’t easy. It requires the blending of disciplines to create something unique and tailored to the needs of the brand, and the patience to allow its long-term effects to pay dividends.
Zappi offers an ad development system via our flexible and easy-to-use platform, which provides human insights from big ideas through storylines, early and final executions so you can create winning ads people love.
Cheetos picks storylines for award-winning Super Bowl ad
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Putting the consumer at the heart of creative development
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Why you should get human feedback on your storyboards
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Your goal is to create advertising people love, notice and remember in order to change or reinforce what they know, think and feel about your brand. Accomplishing that isn’t easy, and it can’t be done without human insight. Everyone involved in your ad development process is too close to the brand, the objectives, the category and the work that’s been done on the ad — making it hard, or maybe even impossible, for them to truly understand how people will respond.
Using consumer feedback to iterate, optimize and validate what you’re doing at each stage ensures that all your time, money and emotional energy is spent on ideas with genuine potential.
Here is a representation of a typical ad development process. Human insight can and should play a critical role at each stage.
But before diving into the kinds of insights that are mostBut most valuable at each stage, and how best to access them, it’svaluable it’s worth covering the stages of the process to make sureworth sure we share a common language. Often the stages havewe have diff erent names in diff erent companies and agencies.
A typical ad development process
Human insight at each stage of the ad development process
Let’s revisit the Snickers example from earlier to bring these stages to life
Now that we’re using the same language to talk about the stages, let’s turn our attention to the types of insights that are most useful at each stage.
Insight + brand’s take on the insight
At these early stages, you’re looking for a human truth to serve as theAt the foundation for your campaign. Some of the best campaigns are based on anfoundation an insight that feels universal and relatable, but that isn’t something most peopleinsight people have thought about before. In other words, it should seem obvious but nothave not cliched.
Observation, ethnography and social listening can provide this deepObservation, deep understanding of people and their lives to unearth insights relevant to theunderstanding the brand’s moments/occasions/category.
At the big idea stage, you need to check that your idea sparks enthusiasm, delight or surprise in people. It’s also useful to confirm the idea provides a realistic role for the brand.
You can use either qualitative or quantitative research at this stage, it’s just important that you get feedback that is diagnostic and deep enough to support the development of the idea. Open responses are critical at this stage to help you identify whether respondents fully understood the idea so you can make the right decisions about how to move forward.
Feedback on your unfinished ads can help you optimize, validate and feed your production brief. You want to make sure the ad engages people, connects with the brand, conveys desired associations and triggers emotions while avoiding missteps that could have a negative impact on your brand.
Quantitative research can help you put numbers and nuance behind each of these areas to identify where you can improve your ads.
Once you have a finished ad, you still want to understand if it engages people, connects with the brand, conveys desired associations, etc. — so you can lean on the same type of insights you used with your unfinished ad.
But in this case, you don’t have as many opportunities to improve the ad if you find one of these areas is lacking.
If you’ve leveraged human insights throughout your process, you shouldn’t learn anything surprising at this stage — you should simply validate what you already know. But you can still make a big impact by changing music or voice overs, making cuts to slower parts or editing calls to action at the end — so don’t get discouraged if you get negative feedback on your finished ad.
There are many different people involved in putting together a great ad campaign, each with their own opinions about what will resonate with the audience. Human insight gives you a way to test things out, optimize and learn as you go — so your idea gets bigger and better over time. And if something doesn't work, you know exactly why and only have to go back one step rather than back to the drawing board.
The idea is that when you get feedback on your idea throughout the process, you will feel confident your ad will be a hit by the time it’s done!
An example: Snickers
Understanding the most powerful insights at each stage
Once you have a few ideas for storylines, you need to identify which ones resonate the most with people and which elements will be critical to land in the final execution. If there are aspects of the story that are unclear, it’s helpful to know that early on so you can clarify or pivot before you invest too much in the execution.
Qualitative or quantitative research (again with open responses) can help with this. Focus on getting granular feedback on the individual scenes and elements of the story so you can make sure the story is told and executed in the clearest and most powerful way.