When you work in digital advertising, the focus is always on data. Data to show return on investment. Data to show what targeting is working. Data to show how to spend your budget. Often, one critical area of data that is overlooked (both to gather and analyze) is ad creative. From the visuals to the copy used in ads, what we say and display is just as important as audience segmentation and dollar allocation. And not only is it important to analyze what you are doing in your own digital campaigns; it’s also important to keep an eye towards the creatives used by competitors. This information can help you find gaps in your digital marketing creatives that can help you get ahead and engage with your ideal audience in a way that really “speaks” to them.
As we have expanded our creative service offerings for our clients, we have started making creative competitor audits a standard part of our deliverables to our partners. This process has helped us uncover some actionable insight as well as areas for improvement. Here are a few tips for you to get started with creative competitor audits and how the information you generate can be useful to digital advertising campaigns.
Creative competitor audit process
In our audit process, looking at creative competitors starts by looking a couple of key creative criteria. This includes evaluating competitors’ current digital ads, landing pages, and company mission statements.
We picked this criteria to give us a look of all of the active digital efforts from our client’s competitors. Understanding active digital efforts from businesses we are competing against is important. The information we uncover and package into an audit gives our clients a single place to look and understand all of their competitors’ efforts. It’s a quick view of what each competitor is saying and how they’re saying it – visually and textually.
Additionally, the audit information gives us as a digital agency a look into the industry space we are audity. This helps us not only keep clients ahead of the curve of competitors, but also help our internal team make informed defensive and offensive decisions for advertising our client’s offerings.
Audit criteria and analysis
We analyze a variety of digital creative components, from the photography and design style to the copy and language used by competitors.
We first analyze each competitor’s “about” or “why we do what we do” section of their website. This gives us an opportunity to see why they think they’re the best in the industry. It also helps us uncover how their teams work, and gives us insight into how they portray their business and people in words and visuals.
We then look at the style of competitor’s digital ad designs – Do they use photography of people? Landscapes? Iconography? Typography? Are there trends among all competitors? If so, do we want to try to incorporate those ideas into our efforts or do something totally different to stand out from the crowd?
Finally, we analyze the type of copy they use with their designs. We ask ourselves the following questions (and many more!) and analyze each component:
- Do they use empowering messages?
- How often do they use scare tactics?
- Are testimonials featured?
There are benefits to each type of messaging and we can see how those have played out for our competitors.
By establishing a set of criteria for evaluation, we aim to leave no stone unturned when we are evaluating a competitor’s creative assets for digital campaigns.
Using audit information to improve digital campaigns
The creative competitor audit is a living, breathing resource for clients and something that is updated quarterly to reflect current efforts from competitors. The audit helps to build a plan of both strategic decisions and tactical execution that clients can deploy throughout the entire year. The goal is to show the landscape, creatively, so these decisions can be based on industry trends, and be made in a proactive versus a reactive manner as time passes and changes occur. Information found in the completed creative audit that can be used over time include:
- Competitor insights
- Creative timeline
- Digital creative recommendations
- Creative testing plan
The creative timeline can be used to map out months of digital creative work. It helps us to launch new efforts based on things we liked/disliked about what our competitors are putting out there in an organized manner.
Additionally, all of our audits include a draft creative testing plan. This consists of A/B test ideas of visuals and messaging that we can deploy throughout a chunk of time. By already having an idea of creative tests, we are able to deploy different digital ad combinations quickly while keeping an eye on performance.
An audit is a great place for any digital creative team to start to understand both what your client is doing and what competitors are focusing on in your industry. The audit serves as a guiding document to help put a proactive plan into place to make sure digital creatives are reaching your ideal audience in a way that makes sense as well as keeping your team ahead of the competition.
Interested in a creative audit of your digital campaigns? Reach out to us today.