Client: Sugarshots, Inc.
Agency: Basement, Inc.
Ad Network: 24/7 Real Media
Ad Serving + Tracking: Atlas DMT
Site Analytics: Think Metrics
Call to Action: no button
Call to Action: button
We’re asking a lot of questions in our open source marketing campaign for Sugarshots. There are brand strategy questions, target audience questions, creative execution questions, and media cost-value questions.
That’s a good dose of marketing intelligence.
When we approach testing, we try to structure the tests so that they not only improve a campaign’s near term performance, but also give us insight we can apply to future campaigns, the website presence, and even new product developments.
The opportunity to gather long-term marketing intelligence is, in my opinion, one of the greatest values of online testing.
This week’s test offers almost none of that. It’s simply a test of two otherwise identical banners: One with a call-to-action (CTA) button, and one without.
So, why conduct this test? Because it challenges conventional wisdom. Present a banner without a button, and the one comment you’re almost guaranteed to get is, "Where’s the button? Where’s the CTA?"
In business, and perhaps the ever-changing online industry more than any other, change is the new black. And in a constantly shifting environment, it’s important to be aware that what we knew and practiced last year might not hold true today. So even if buttons were the way it was done last year, and even if they were shown to produce a lift in performance, that might not hold true today.
It’s with that in mind that we’ll conduct this week’s test on calls to action.
The first question one could ask is, "Why not have a CTA? What could it hurt by adding that button?"
Before we address that question, we need to clarify the role of the button. We’re intentionally avoiding value-added calls to action, as that would be a different test altogether. Not a bad one. Just not a true test of whether or not there’s value in placing that graphic icon within the banner.
For this test, the button’s role is therefore to simply inform or remind the viewer that the banner is clickable, and that there’s more information on the other side of the banner.
That leads us to the real question this test hopes to answer. In a day when 67 percent of North American’s are online (as reported on Internet World Stats), broadband usage has surpassed dial-up, and the internet is rapidly gaining ground on network television in vying for our media hours, do people need to be reminded that banners are clickable and link to another website?
Back to the question above: Why not have a button?
This is a topic that any good designer will carry the flag for. The mind can only absorb so much information. The faster the reaction time, the less the viewer can absorb. Every element that’s added to a banner is one more distraction from the primary message. And "click here" or "learn more" shouldn’t be the primary message of a banner.
So the logic follows that the less information we put on a given piece of communication, the more likely the reader will be to take away the key message.
Furthermore, the less clutter there is on the banner, the more likely it is to be graphically impacting. And graphic impact is a key effectiveness factor for most forms of visual communication.
There’s a fantastic book called "No-Copy Advertising" by Lazar Dzamic. It contains cover-to-cover examples of ads that have little or no copy. Flip through it and something becomes quite evident. Advertising can be gracefully effortless and still be remarkably effective. The ads in that book stick with you for days and even weeks after viewing. They leave an imprint on the mind. This effect is only confirmed by the high numbers of view-through traffic that many campaigns generate.
Urgency can certainly help an ad’s near-term performance, but it’s not the only contributing factor, and may be implemented at the cost of diverting attention from the ad’s real focus.
Of course, buttons have been around for a while. If the first banner didn’t have one, I’m sure the second one did. And I’d be delusional to think that this hasn’t been tested before. In fact, I’m sure numerous studies and tests have shown it to lift performance in some way. Especially if the button’s text includes a strong motivator.
But online media, online advertising trends, and certainly online viewers are all in rapid states of change. With that in mind, we’ll attempt to determine the impact, if any, of a CTA button in this week’s test.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. There are two banners in this test. Both are identical except that one has a CTA button, the other does not.
We’ll be running these in the same content channels and to the same behavioral targets we’ve used for the past several weeks, and all impressions will be split evenly between the two banners.
Goals & Objectives
Conventional wisdom is great, as it enables us to make quick decisions and move on to other matters. However, it’s also good to periodically revisit those conventions and see if they continue to apply.
This test won’t redirect the brand, or uncover any new target audiences. Our goal is to address what’s become a standard practice in the industry – featuring a CTA button in banners – and see if this conventional thinking holds true for our situation.
We’ll see you Thursday when we uncover the results.
Doug Schumacher is the president of Basement, Inc.