NEW YORK: Strong creative plays a more important role than media plans in boosting sales, according to a new study.

ComScore ARS assessed numerous digital and TV ad campaigns, measuring the shift in shopper preferences via a "simulated purchase exercise" among one panel exposed to communications, and one which was not.

It found 52% of any increase in market share could be attributed to the "quality" of the creative work concerned.

Media plans – including variables like gross rating points, wearout, continuity and scheduling – provided just 13% of this growth.

Broader dynamics such as price, promotion and distribution were responsible for the remaining 35%, the company stated.

"Based on our years of research in this space, we've determined that the quality of the creative is four times more important than the characteristics of the media plan in generating sales," said Jeff Cox, evp, comScore ARS.

"Getting the creative right is absolutely essential, and yet its importance so often gets minimized in the process of developing an ad campaign."

ComScore ARS also analysed the specific creative strategies employed in each campaign, premised on the unique value proposition used, weighted alongside factors like brand share, loyalty and category competitiveness.

It then scored the actual execution using a conventional copy-testing formula, consolidating these two sets of data into a single rating.

In all, 70% of platforms boasting an "above-average" creative approach yielded similarly impressive final ads, and 30% leveraging an engaging idea presented an "average" finished product.

Two-thirds of campaigns described as "average" on the first metric achieved an equivalent status regarding the second, and 20% delivered sub-standard commercial communications.

When creative strategy fell below the norm, 65% of resultant ads scored badly during pre-testing, while a further 35% were largely in line with industry benchmarks.

"Now is the time for advertisers using digital, as well as more traditional media, to get serious about optimising their creative on the front end so they don't get a rude awakening when the ads don't work and they are left wondering what went wrong," Cox concluded.

Data sourced from ComScore ARS; additional content by Warc staff