How to Evaluate Your Direct Response Creative
Ever notice how many people in direct marketing have 20/20 hindsight? It becomes obvious the day the results from a test come in. You walk around the office, and you're pelted with marketers' brilliant (but belated) insights:
"Of course that package lost. No one is fooled by check packages anymore."
"I knew that creative would win because our best customers love the color red."
"I tested that idea 15 years ago. It lost then, too."
Where were these insights before you spent the money to do the test? Is there a way to evaluate creative execution before it goes into the marketplace?
The market is always the judge of last resort, so it's tempting just to put the creative out and be done with it. We all tend to make judgments based on what we like or respond to ourselves.
But objectivity is critically important at the early stages of evaluating creative, for the simple reason that
in-market testing is expensive—and should be used only for the most important creative variables. Although creative execution is largely an aesthetic product, you as the manager must approach the task of evaluating concepts scientifically. After all, the discipline of direct marketing is based on analysis.
On a more human level, you don't want to de-motivate your creative team with random comments and personal preferences. Emotions will run high. Creativity will suffer.
To bring discipline and focus to the pre-campaign evaluation process, use a creative review checklist. It should contain key questions to ask about your creative effort and guidelines that will improve your chances of responding with productive feedback to the creative team. Going through this process will help you go into the market with the best possible creative efforts.
Neil H. Feinstein is director of creative strategy at True North, a direct and interactive agency in New York City. Contact him at (212) 557-4202, ext. 226, or NFeinstein@truenorthinc.com. Ruth P. Stevens is president of eMarketing Strategy, New York City. She consults on customer acquisition and retention for both consumer and business-to-business clients. Contact her at (212) 679-6486, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.