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How Market Orientation Helped Griffin’s Foods Unearth Creative Gold

Is Pre-Testing a Creativity Killer?

November 2023

This is a case study in partnership with Griffin's Food using our ad testing solution.

The mere mention of the word “pre-testing” causes some marketers’ and advertisers’ pulse to start racing. Scorecards, traffic light KPI’s, go-or-no-go — the stakes are seemingly high. However, it needn’t be that way. For too long advertising pre-testing has been perceived as a pass or fail exercise, with the creative idea’s survival at the mercy of the consumer. Cubery’s reason for existence is to change this toxic paradox and to restore creative evaluation research to its rightful place as an opportunity for iterative learning.

It’s our belief that the very least marketers can do when making high-stakes creative decisions is to bring the consumer into the conversation. Give them a seat at the boardroom table and hear what they have to say; another perspective to balance the potentially loud and powerful voices of other stakeholders — each with their own agenda and biases.

Research by the globally renowned Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has shown that a marketer’s ability to predict the sales effects of advertising is no better than chance. Countless other studies have highlighted the chasm which exists between the types of people working in creative agencies and those they ultimately seek to influence.

It therefore goes without saying that inviting the consumer into the conversation isn’t just a pragmatic thing to do, but to not would constitute negligence. While the consumer shouldn’t ultimately hold any more sway in decision-making than other key stakeholders, to not — at the bare minimum — hear what they have to say is akin to putting all your chips on black. And when marketing is reduced to a game of chance it becomes ignorant to the wealth of knowledge and evidence at our disposal around how advertising really works.

New Zealand FMCG heavyweight Griffin’s Foods is a company which is committed to putting the customer first and taking an evidence-led approach to marketing decisions. ToffeePops is one of the company’s flagship brands and a much-loved Kiwi biscuit, having produced some of the country’s most iconic advertising.

As a business which sets the bar extremely high when it comes to creativity, Griffin’s Foods also provides a perfect demonstration of how advertising pre-testing can help shape and guide the development of a commercially successful campaign. And given the extremely competitive nature of the packaged biscuits category it’s crucial that precious advertising investment works as hard as possible to maintain the brand’s mental availability.

Before committing significant time and financial resources to producing a new piece of creative, Griffin’s Foods tested an early-stage animatic representation of what the fully produced film would be like. The objectives were to:

  1. Understand whether the creative idea was resonating with the target audience;
  2. Assess whether the ad was delivering on key strategic objectives; and
  3. Identify any opportunity areas prior to production.

With our decade of experience showing that animatics test extremely similarly to finished films, Griffin’s Foods were able to get clear insight into how well the idea was landing early-on in the development process. This in-turn provided the brand team with the necessary confidence prior to hitting the ‘go’ button.

Pre-testing creative - Griffins x Cubery case study - Metrics

While the first animatic we tested certainly proved unique and attention-grabbing, this was overshadowed by high levels of annoyance and irritation. With this negativity being central to the idea there was little opportunity to rectify it through executional tweaks. As a result the team made the decision to go back to the drawing board. After rigorous back-and-forth with their agency partners a new idea was identified and a second animatic created for testing.

To say that the second animatic put a smile on people’s faces would be an understatement. Not only did the new creative direction elicit a heart-warming, emotionally-charged response, but it also made ToffeePops central to the story — ensuring it wouldn’t be possible for people to forget who the ad was for.

Pre-testing creative - Griffins x Cubery case study - Connect and Compel

With the strong results providing Griffin’s Foods with the necessary confidence to go all-in on the new campaign, they promptly pushed all their biscuits into the middle of the table and green-lit production. Once complete the finished ad was then tested to:

  1. Ensure it stayed true to the initial strengths of the animatic;
  2. Sense check to see whether the suggested alterations were having the desired effect; and
  3. Identify whether any post-production tweaks should be considered to further optimize performance.
Pre-testing creative - Griffins x Cubery case study - Animatic and finished film Cubery ratings

In this respect the trusted creative team at Pitchblack Partners delivered in spades, creating a highly effective lead campaign asset. Together with the fully finished spot hitting the nail on the head with casting (while simultaneously delivering on all the animatic’s strengths), the end result was even higher levels of likeability and relatability. Griffin’s Foods were essentially able to turn an idea which exhibited low profit potential into one which hit lofty 5-star territory — meaning that it sat in the top 20% of our video advertising database.

Pre-testing creative - Griffins x Cubery case study - Cubery Rating

What were the 3 lessons we learnt along the way?

1. Stimulus for early-stage creative testing needn’t be elaborate: An animatic is a low cost (but highly effective) way of bringing a creative idea to life.

One of the most frequently cited reasons for not undertaking early-stage creative research is a lack of time or budget to produce stimulus for testing. And that’s understandable; marketers are forever being asked to work to smaller budgets and more compact timelines. But, as Griffin’s Foods proves, the stimulus for testing needn’t be over-engineered or fully refined in order to extract valuable insights at an early stage of the creative development process.

And while, yes, much hard work had been done to get to this point in the first place, the investment in the stimulus itself was minor in comparison (especially when you consider the consequences of putting further time and money into something that’s not working). Close similarities in performance between the rough and finished stimulus is a testament to how it’s possible to test a creative idea early on, regardless of how refined the stimulus is.

Read here for further guidelines on how to create early-stage stimulus for testing.

2. Early-stage testing can unearth valuable insights that elevate creative effectiveness.

As with all early-stage creative testing our focus is primarily on extracting insights which can help shape, guide, and nurture an idea through the development process. While the results in this case indicated strong potential, there was also a number of opportunity areas identified. This included advising on specific scenes within the ‘hide and seek’ story that were working harder than others and that we recommended prioritizing in the final production.

3. Iterative testing when done in a consistent and uniform way creates an invaluable repository of knowledge and learnings.

Griffin’s Foods made the decision to test a close-to-final version of the ad, with the primary objective to ensure the produced film stayed true to the strengths of the original animatic (while also checking whether the recommended alterations were having the desired effect). This can be useful for historical comparisons and to benchmark performance versus competitors. Furthermore, when the cost of testing isn’t prohibitive (and turnaround times sometimes only a matter of hours), if nothing else testing offers peace of mind prior to launch.

What are the learnings for marketers?

There’s no doubt that a level of fear and trepidation exists for many marketers as their creative “baby” is put through research. However, the benefits of testing early (rather than once an ad is fully produced and on-air) don’t even need mentioning. Bringing the consumer into the conversation not only gives marketers a complete picture of a creative idea’s potential, but it also provides an opportunity to step outside the “bubble” — learning from people who are (often) nothing like them.

Contemporary approaches to advertising pre-testing aren’t just about utilizing technology and automation to deliver speed and cost-efficiencies (albeit we can do that, too!), but equally important is the methodology being anchored in empirical evidence. This ensures marketers can be confident that the results will translate into desired business outcomes.

Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants about our ad testing & tracking solution. Expert-led, evidence-based insights — which don’t break the bank.

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