2021 was a red-letter year for our company. We raised our series A and grew our team by making some truly crucial hires. It was also a red-letter year for the importance of creative intelligence. New privacy regulations — like the ones built into iOS 14 and GDPR — made effective audience targeting nearly impossible, meaning marketers and advertisers quickly realized the increased importance of their ad creative in generating leads and sales. Our customers — innovative marketers like Crocs, Segment, Guitar Center, and Quip — tested thousands upon thousands of ads on our multivariate ad testing platform this year. And through these tests, they gained invaluable intelligence about how their ad creative — as well as the images, messages, and CTAs in their ad creative — performed. There are some seriously transformative insights you can only learn from testing in this way. And we want to share some of the more surprising ones we saw in 2021.
Our customers test different types of images to see which ones garner conversions and which ones do not. Two types of images that our health and beauty customers often test are those that show a model using the product and those that show just the product itself (either siloed out in a studio shot or placed within a setting). Overwhelmingly, images that show a model using the product were the winner, boosting conversions by an average of 1,200%. These types of images help customers understand how the product works rather than just what it looks like, building a tutorial of sorts right into the ad.
Testing messaging, including discounts, can also unlock powerful findings. When our direct-to-consumer customers positioned the exact same discount as a dollar amount rather than a percentage, the dollar amount proved victorious. Perhaps showing the dollar amount allowed customers to skip doing the math to understand what they’d save. This subtle but important difference resulted in a 300% increase in sales on average.
It’s common for SaaS companies to use screen shots or product abstractions of their software in their ads. They give people a sense of how the product works and what the user interface involves. With the availability and popularity of running software in dark mode came the option to test light mode vs. dark mode imagery in ads. For our SaaS customers, images depicted in light mode worked better for engagement, driving a 38% increase in CTR. On the flip side, images depicted in light mode drove higher conversion rates, resulting in a 32% lower CPA.
Contrary to our findings for health and beauty brands, our apparel customers found that images of clothing alone — usually placed in a setting (laid out on a chair or next to some accessories) — outperform images of that same item of clothing on a person. Perhaps seeing clothing on a model with a body shape dissimilar to their own makes it more difficult for customers to envision themselves wearing that item. In any case, this change resulted in more than a 600% sales increase on average.
Background colors are a simple yet powerful variable to test. One specific shade could make an incredible impact on your ad performance — and it might be one you never thought to try before. This year, our direct-to-consumer customers found that warm background colors, like red and orange, drove significantly higher engagement rates — a 45% boost on average.
Maybe not so surprising is that images of beaches in ads were consistently a top performer for travel brands on Marpipe. But what might be surprising is just how well they performed — resulting in almost 70% of all leads this year. Perhaps the idea of a beach vacation rings particularly inviting as we close in on two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be interesting to see if beaches continue to reign in the coming year or if a new type of destination will take over.
To capitalize on findings like these, you first have to uncover them for your brand. Using a multivariate approach to testing ad creative is the only way to get there. Imagine what you might find out with a simple shift in your testing process. It could be the shortcut you need for next-level ad performance in 2022 and beyond.