Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

CreativeX reveals the top five creative contributors to wasted digital ad spend 

Analysis announced at Cannes Lions 2023 from CreativeX, whose technology powers creative decision-making for the world’s largest brands, has revealed the five creative best practices that brands are consistently failing to include in their digital content. 

CreativeX analysed the creative quality of over 890,000 ads across an estimated $1.37 billion in media spend in 2020-21. This was activated globally across six paid channels: Snapchat, Twitter, Meta, YouTube, Amazon, and TikTok. 

The analysis found that failure to adhere to five statistically validated creative best practices is limiting the creative quality of advertisers’ digital image and video ads and is responsible for over $700m in wasted digital ad spend in 2020-21 (approximately 55% of digital spend analysed). If this data is extrapolated to all of 2023’s projected digital ad spend, advertisers stand to waste $233.4 billion.  

These are the 5 key creative attributes that contribute to digitally unsuitable advertising: 

1.     Unbranded Ads: 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, leading to hundreds of millions of unbranded impressions and missed opportunity to build brand awareness and association.  

2.     No call to action: 50% of digital budget goes behind ads with no call-to-action (CTA). Marketers continue to operate on the belief that CTAs are reserved exclusively for performance advertising, and failing to direct their users to the next stage of the consumer journey (by directing them to follow, sign-up, learn more, watch a longer version, etc).  

3.     Poorly framed: 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.  

4.     Unsuitable length: 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.  

5.     Missed Messages: 7% of digital dollars went to videos that were not optimized to be viewed without sound.That means that key messages were delivered in the audio or voiceover with no subtitles or supers overlaid, despite running on digital platforms where over 90% of videos are watched without sound.         

Anastasia Leng, CEO and Founder of CreativeX commented: “The continued shift to digital over the last few years has substantially accelerated the volume and variety of image and video content brands are required to create to succeed on social, programmatic, and retail media.  

“Chief marketing officers at the likes of Diageo, Bayer, and Nestle 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.”