“Groping in the dark in this field has probably cost enough money to pay the national debt. That is what has filled the advertising graveyards. That is what has discouraged thousands who could profit in this field. And the dawn of knowledge is what is bringing a new day in the advertising world.” – Legendary Copywriter Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising, 1923

Nearly 100 years later, it’s 2020, and the dawn of knowledge has barely broken its way through the darkness. While most marketers still let intuition drive their creative decisions, others test their way to truth. When what truly matters in marketing is your ROI, creative tests are lights at the end, middle, and beginning of that dark tunnel.

If you’re like me and you care about the performance of your creative, then you would benefit from data we’ve uncovered over the past year of continuous testing.

So, without further ado, here are 7 creative tests you should try if you want to increase your conversion rates in your next campaign.

  1. Design Theme Tests
  2. Color Tests
  3. Image Tests
  4. Copy Tests
  5. Layout Tests
  6. Ad Types Test
  7. Video Sequencing Tests

1. Design Theme Tests

A design theme is a collection of creative assets formatted in a uniform position across creative variants. What does that mean? Let me just show you:

Design Themes for multivariate testing

To test design themes, you need to make designs that differ in large ways, but that also have space to replace products with other products, copy with other copy, and so on…

Using the design themes above, we found the top performer (BottomFloat) earned 5x more ROAS as the bottom performer (MiddleFloat), and over 2x better than the other theme (OnlImage). From only 3 designs we saw a 5x improvement.

Test your design themes.

2. Color Tests

Color plays a huge role in marketing. Whether they’re branded colors, background colors, or text colors, the colors you choose in your ads are a large part of what resonates with your audience.

Testing color is crucial. For a personal campaign, we tested 19 colors: 3 shades of Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Pink. One shade of Black.

Multivariate Color Test

The worst color, a shade of green, cost 370% more to get the desired result than the winning shade of Orange. More incredible is the fact that the performance difference from one shade of blue to the next was 303%. Just a slight shift in shade had a 303% impact on CPR!

Test your colors.

3. Image Tests

Images are often thought of as the core piece of an advertisement. With images, you can test just about anything you can see: products, people, plants, animals, graphics…

There are two kinds of common image tests:

  • Model vs. Product shots
  • Photo vs. Graphic images

Model vs product vs graphic images

We’ve found differences as large as 200% between products and models, and up to 65% between photos and graphics.

Test your images.

4. Copy Tests

Copy comes in all different shapes and sizes. There are hundreds of books on types of copy and to an extent, copy is what closes the deal on a conversion.

Copy testing has been around since the beginning of advertising, but given the scope of this article, I’ll note the highest-level category of copy tests: Pathos (emotional e.g. humor) vs. Logos (rational e.g. stats) vs. Ethos (social e.g. testimonials).

The three core groups of rhetoric have huge impacts on performance, but those impacts are highly dependent on audience and level of awareness/depth in the funnel. To keep it concise, I’ll note that we’ve seen 750%+ changes from one kind of copy to the next.

Test your copy.

5. Layout Tests

Layout tests are awesome. They prove that tiny changes cause mountainous movements in ROI more than anything else. Because the changes can be so tiny.

Take ‘text alignment’ for example. There are 9 spots you can place text in an ad:

Text Alignment Multivariate matrix

215%. That’s the cost of aligning text in the wrong spot. 215% higher CPR. From a shift as small as bottom center to top right. The fact that such minimal changes have such large effects still blows my mind. But people respond to ads in less than a millisecond, so every little effort matters.

Test your layouts.

6. Ad Types Test

This is a special category. There are two basic types of ads: Image and Video. Image subtypes include static, carousel, and collections.

There’s much debate as to which type is better. We’ve seen volatile results, but the important thing in testing image vs video is to keep them relatively similar. If you have a full length live action film up against a static picture of your movie star, the video will obviously win. If you have a carousel with a few images that you animate into a video, you have a true test.

Image vs. video a/b test

We often find in those cases, images perform better than video. Given their lower cost to produce, this is an especially important test to try.

But overall, for this special category, all I’ll say is ‘results may vary’.

Test your ad types.

7. Video Sequencing Test

Video sequence is hands down the most important test to run if you’re running video ads. Sequence refers to the order of events or scenes in your ad.

We like to cut videos into ‘units’ of 2-3 seconds, treating each like an image. Then we’ll flip around the order to find the best performer. You can use modular storytelling where each unit can fit in any spot, or you can use motion graphics and string together scenes systematically.

The reason video sequence tests are so important is because the first unit in your video is the thumbnail your audience will see and hopefully watch, click, and buy.

We’ve seen a 267% difference in CAC from the best intro scenes to the worst.

Test your video sequences.

Bonus: Non-Creative Tests

Before we wrap up, I want to give special mention to a few non-traditional categories of testing that aren’t necessarily creative tests.

You can test:

  • Audiences: For 375%+ differences
  • Pre-product ideas: To find product-market fit
  • Pricing models: Test until the price is right
  • KPIs: Purchases, Leads, Clicks, ROAS, CAC, CTR to track effects at different stages of the funnel

One last tip, you can and should always test against a control for any category i.e. copy vs. no copy, product vs. no product, background vs. no background, targeted audiences vs. ‘broad’ audiences and so on.


Testing your creative is important. 100%+ important. Even the smallest change can have immediate, unreasonably high returns. And if you continue testing, you can keep those returns improving indefinitely.

Now you’ve got 7+ tiny tests to try yourself; Let me know how it goes!

Happy testing!