The Ultimate System for Data-Driven Creative
Data Driven Growth

The Ultimate System for Data-Driven Creative

Jon BrodyJon Brody

July 15, 2021

Can you answer four questions? 

  • who are your brand’s best user segments to scale through 
  • what messaging resonates best for what those people care most about
  • why does some creative provoke the most positive response across your user segments 

Finally: if aliens invade and rescuing earth requires you to spend $1,000 on marketing more profitably than you ever have…how confident are you on the combinations of Channel x Audience x Message x Design that will get you the best possible outcome?

It’s common for even established businesses not to be able to answer these questions with confidence. 

Growth suffers as a result. 

When you can’t, you are at a critical disadvantage to allocate your growth budget (both media and people) in a way most likely to create a positive connection with your desired audience - which is what produces positive performance outcomes.

After all, each time you spend $1 of media or 1h of resource you are making an investment on an expected outcome. The more information and higher-quality information you have before making that decision…the choices become increasingly derisked your expected return of value goes up.

The less complete information you have the more guesswork gets added to your marketing: continuously diagnosing the why behind an ad performing “good” vs “bad” requires an ability to analyze data and creative in a fully unified way. 

Think of this as a Fundamental Theorem of Growth Marketing, not unlike The Fundamental Theory of Poker.

Marketing is a game of people, probability, competition, and incomplete information. The perfect marketing team can simultaneously problem-solve like a detective, think boldly like a poker player, and execute like a chess player. 

It is good to apply basic, scientific principles to marketing…but marketing is much less scientific than most would like to admit.

A winning system starts with being able to analyze creative using metrics that add context and greater precision to the ‘why’ behind an ad’s performance based on specific goals. Your users are not cookie-cutter shapes and your approach to creative shouldn’t be either.

Let’s dive in: our recommended system is called ACED. → here’s a simple example of how we structure things, Data-Driven Creative Analytics.

The ACED Model Ladder Uses For Creative Audits

When determining what type of creative you should produce - and test - across user segments start by unbundling performance into the following categories. 

Each category is measured by a unique metric and your data should inform how well you are (or aren’t) doing with respect to mastering each stage.


  1. Awareness: interrupt the reader (the “scroller”) and get them to stop
  2. Consideration: transform that attention into an emotional response
  3. Engagement: amplify that response into a positive desire
  4. Direct Response: move them into a measurable conversion outcome

The Importance Of Using The ACED Framework

This system helps you diagnose an ad’s performance to understand the “Why.”

Contextualizing the “Why” within the ACED framework informs you how to best proceed to improve your ads. These improvements can come at the testing level (more validated information to inform better, more resonant concepts), or the iteration level (more precise understanding of how to evolve an ad to fit a specific need of the user segments being successfully targeted which you want to scale).

For example, an ad may have a fantastic click-through rate but be underperforming at the cost per lead metric. Is this ad a success or should it be turned off?

It’s often not so black and white.

An ad with great CTR % but low CVR % often needs to be continued but signifies the need for an additional ad campaign to be launched that provokes the segments who have become positively aware to take further action in a follow-up. It also signifies a greater priority to examine mid-funnel (ie website/landing page) consistency and build a mid-funnel creative test into your planning.

The ACED framework can help you decide what’s truly worth keeping in your creative marketing audit. It’s more than just whether it’s performing. It’s how it’s performing. At Ladder, we’ve been using this framework for quite some time, and it’s been a huge asset to our company.


Key Metric: 3-Second Ratio Scroll/Thum Stops

Common questions your creative should answer are:

Are we memorable? Does each ad have a clear brand message that will stick in the mind of the audience? Are we demonstrating brand consistency while ensuring we avoid sameness with our competition?

How have we communicated our core, company proposition?

Creative analysis should incorporate the following factors at this stage: 

- search volume (branded)

- mentions (how many VS. expectation/set kpi for mentions if any)

- SOV/SOI (share of voice/impressions) - what worked, what didn't?


Key Metric: Avg Video Watch

The next step in the ACED model is consideration. Common questions here include:

Are people being told a clear narrative that makes them think about how you help them and solve pain points?

What pain points are you testing across which audiences?

For younger challenger brands, it’s also important at this stage to develop additional trust by utilizing social proof. 

Creative analysis should incorporate the following factors at this stage: 

  • Sentiment tracking - across organic and paid channels. Always look at the full user journey/cycle and identify points where users’ interests are piqued.
  • Look deeper at your approach to audiences - assuming you are targeting *through* your creative, which segments did you build around? What was your approach to broad targeting settings within your channels?


Key Metric: Click-Through Rate

The third step is engagement. This is the purest expression of how effective your creative is. 

How do we make our product/service be seen as a must-have where this is urgency on your customer’s part to learn more?

Creative analysis should incorporate the following factors at this stage: 

  • Depending on the market you’re in (tech/CPG/B2B/FS/Auto/Real Estate etc) identify a specific action we want a user to take. Maybe it’s to book a call or complete an online purchase
  • Are we focused and consistent in our CTA between the ad and the landing page? Unnecessary cognitive load is an enemy of performance..  
  • Do timings or seasonality (times/days/seasons) impact a users’ desire for the space we are in, and if so does this impact what optimal creative should look like?


Key Metric: Cost per Acquisition (ex, Cost per Lead or Cost per Customer)

The ultimate result.

As companies scale spend it almost always requires an approach to creative that helps your brand standout and satisfy customer needs across each of these stages.  Everything done is done to serve one purpose: maximize conversion volume while staying within the efficiency thresholds of your business model.

Creative analysis should incorporate the following factors at this stage: 

  • Have you made use of cognitive biases?
  • What offers (ex Demo Request, Content Email, Free Trial) and calls-to-action have you tested?
  • How many steps are in the conversion journey post-click?
  • User Experience - does the experience onsite incorporate insights from your acquisition testing?
  • Post Conversion - what content serves your user segments after conversion in order to strengthen the performance of down funnel behavior?

A Simple Framework to Audit Your Creative

How do we distill this framework into a data-driven formula that can be consistently reported on?

  1. Awareness

3-Second View/Impressions → dividing by impressions equals the % of people who engage → anything above 20% is a solid benchmark

  1. Consideration

Average Watch Time → is our creative capturing attention in a meaningful way → 3 seconds and above on most channels, or 30 seconds on YouTube, is a solid benchmark.

  1. Engagement 

CTR % → did our content produce positive action → 1% and above signifies both the ad and it’s call-to-action was truly compelling (*note: this can vary by platform and macro trends)

  1. Direct Response

The true north goal you are driving towards at the bottom of the funnel, from CPA to CPL to CAC depending upon the funnel

Finally, to extend this to a true Full-Funnel Creative Audit (Top = ads, Mid = website/landing pages, Bottom = email/post-conversion website layouts), we assess if a consistent message or winning creative concepts are being articulated top, mid, bottom-funnel. 

Does the experience flow seamlessly across each touchpoint through your entire brand experience?

There are three areas to improve funnel performance that all revolve around your creative:

  1. Improving consistency
  2. Improving messaging
  3. Improving design

Not sure where to go next with your growth? We can help. Contact one of our strategists today.

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