Hard Proof: Advertising Creative Drives Sales

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on May 19, 2017 3:58:17 PM

Highly creative ads have double the sales impact of those less creative, and advertising creative drives sales 5x as much as media spend.  Two break-through studies show the truth of these claims with hard data. 


Advertising creative drives sales 5x as well as media buys.jpg

Does advertising creative drive sales?  Indeed it does, according to two recent studies that have electrified the industry.  Findings include:

  • Highly creative ads have double the sales impact of those that are less creative.
  • Advertising creative drives sales 5x as much as media spend.

With so much focus on media buying today, these new studies challenge advertisers to rethink their approach. Were media buyers to place their funds on the most creatively effective ads, they’d save millions of dollars. See for yourself how advertising creative drives sales below:

Creativity in Advertising: When it Works and When it Doesn’t

Professor Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert of the University of Cologne, Germany, published this study in the Harvard Business Review, June 2013. They measured advertising creativity by converting academic classifications from communication psychology into five creative elements and impacts.

Then, consumer panels rated the creativity of 400 German TV commercials along each element.  In comparing the consumer ratings to the ads’ results, big variations in the impact of the different creative elements appeared.

According to Dr. Reinartz in HBR, “Our findings confirm the conventional wisdom that creativity matters: overall, “more-creative” campaigns were more effective – considerably so.”  He also wrote, “A euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign had, on average nearly double the sales impact of a euro spent on a non-creative campaign.” So, the Reinartz study is one example of how advertising creative drives sales. See more on this study here.

Hard Proof: Advertising Creative Drives Sales in Health & Beauty Aids”

In March 2017, Michael Wolfe, CEO of Bottom-Line Analytics, sought to compare the effects of media buys against advertising effectiveness on sales revenues. One of the world’s largest Health & Beauty Aids brands joined in and supplied sales revenues. ABX provided creative scores from consumer panels for all brand ads across all media types over a period of 30 months.

Results for Media Spend vs. Sales Revenues

In the chart below, each blue dot is an ad.  The media spend per ad is shown on the vertical axis.  Sales lift for each ad is shown horizontally.

In the ideal world, media spend on an ad-by-ad basis would align perfectly with sales revenue lift, but this is not the case. As we see below, the correlation between the ad spend and sales lift was very low at R2=.1138.

Media buys do not correlate well to sales.png

This graph shows that high media spend does not drive sales.

Results for Creative Scores vs. Sales Revenues

The chart below shows how well each ad (blue dot) scored for its creative on the vertical axis, and how well it lifted sales on the horizontal axis.

The results show advertising creative drives sales 5x as much as media spend with a correlation of R2=.5527!  This client could have generated $21 million in incremental revenue by allocating media spend according to creative scores.

Advertising creative drives sales 5x over media buys.png

This graph shows that high creative scores correlate to sales lift.

While the Reinartz/Saffert and Wolfe studies are different, both focus on the importance of creative in driving success. Reinartz/Saffert shows ads that are creative are twice as effective as those that are not. Wolfe shows that ad creative is 5x as effective as media buys in driving sales.  Clearly, a smart marketer will place media buys on ads with the highest creative scores!


Are you satisfied with how you are measuring advertising effectiveness?  Is it resonating through Awareness and Message, and having an impact on Reputation and Action?  ABX provides the largest normative database in the industry across all media types. On average you can improve your creative effectiveness by almost 20%

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