How earlier ad testing supercharges creative ROI

New automated LINK+ storyboard capability enables rapid, customised testing of early-stage ad concepts.
12 July 2023
Storyboard drawing
Duncan Southgate

Senior Director, Global Creative, Kantar


Product Development Director, Link, Kantar

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Research early to make the most of your budget

When redesigning a home you will no doubt try-out multiple concepts, ideas and layouts before you incur the major costs of knocking-down walls or starting to install a new kitchen or bathroom. The same should be true for advertising development.  Making sure early that your creative will work as intended is key to a successful, efficient development process. This is particularly important when you are trying to be creatively brave, because a beautiful film is not enough. As Jef I. Richards, a professor at Michigan State University says, “Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising’.”

Researching at an early stage allows you to make modifications before expensive production costs kick in. The most creative and effective ads generate 4x more profit, so it’s well worth using early testing to ensure your ads will work to optimal effect.

Diageo know a thing or two about developing successful ads which drive sales, such as the Johnnie Walker “Keep on Walking” campaign which featured in the Kantar Creative effectiveness awards in 2022.  One of the key learnings identified by the client Sally Smallman, was to “Test as early as possible”. She explained the importance of getting consumer insights.  "It’s too easy to be in an advertising and marketing bubble and think that we can assess a piece of work in the way a consumer would… we can’t, we really can’t…often some of the things we learn through our testing when you look back at it, it’s so obvious, but it’s having such a fundamental impact on how people are engaging with the work”.

Kantar can help with all of your early-stage needs, from uncovering insights through to developing ideas and understanding how your creative is working. With LINK+, you can now quantitatively research from storyboard stage, in both static and video formats. The LINK+ approach can be tailored to your needs; alongside an overall assessment of impact, you can look at which elements matter most for your ad and its strategy. Will the ad land the key message? Is it engaging with the consumer? Does the ad make the all-important connection to the brand? Media-neutral storyboard testing is available for initial routes, which can then be followed up with survey or AI-based testing of media-specific executions at a later stage.

LINK+ gives support to bold ideas

Testing early will give you the confidence to know whether you are heading down the right track. Differentiation is key to stand out from the crowd and build a successful brand, but boldness takes bravery, and with it comes the danger of misjudgement. We observed from recent qualitative conversations with ad agencies about inclusion in advertising that this fear is real. “If you get it wrong, there’s no hiding from the press. It blows up and the backlash is fierce. I think we default to playing it safe rather than taking that leap of faith."  Many in the UK, will remember the backlash around female representation in the following Government COVID-19 ad that was quickly pulled but not necessarily forgotten!

Coronavirus advert

Early-stage research cannot only reveal potential problems, it can also highlight winning ideas.

The recent Nordic Kantar Creative effectiveness award-winning ad for Norwegian Air Shuttle used LINK early in the creative process as they explored going with a bold new creative idea. They wanted to ensure that key elements of the story were understood and did not induce any negative feelings. A strong performance in LINK gave the client confidence to carry the idea forward. Music with a nostalgic connection was a key element contributing to the ads success. They used a version of the Norwegian Eurovision winning song from 2000 by the Olsen Brothers, “Fly on the wings of Love”, which beautifully connected with the Norwegian brand and the heart-warming story of an Ostrich looking for his dreams to come true!

Test early AND fast

Having learned how important it is to understand the consumer voice early in the process, we wanted to explore why marketers don’t always choose to research their creative.  The most recent Kantar Media Reactions study identified that 40% of marketers test little or none of their creative. The top reasons for this were cost (55%) and project time (46%), both key factors that LINK+ is helping to address.

With LINK+, you can now have more cost-effective results in as little as 6 hours. Our easy-to-use dashboards deliver results minutes after the fieldwork closes. Key metrics are available to inform on how much Impact your ad will have, alongside measures that are validated though to short-term sales, long-term equity and ultimately to your Return on Marketing Investment Profit. These trustworthy metrics are particularly helpful when you are choosing between multiple different creative routes at the storyboard stage.

Diagnostic insights about how to optimise the creative when it progresses into animatic or final production are also key.  LINK+ therefore puts rich diagnostic insights at your fingertips so you can understand precisely how and why the ad is working, and our team of Kantar creative experts are on hand to add insights to answer your brief directly into the dashboard.

LINK+ dashboard

A difficult choice made easy

With so much great creativity out there, and generative AI now making the production and creation of ads faster still, choosing the right path for your brand can be a difficult decision.  Kantar’s LINK+ for storyboard testing is here to help you shape your creative ideas at every stage of the development process, ensuring the right decisions are made at the right time and protecting your very precious marketing budgets.

To find out more about the new automated LINK+ storyboard capability, click here to request a demo and find out more.

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