NEW YORK: Brands seeking to understand consumers may benefit from using live experiments rather than relying on more traditional forms of testing, according to Andrew Robertson, president/ceo of the BBDO agency.

Robertson discussed this topic while speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Re:think 2015 conference in New York.

"In 'testing,'" he said, "what you're trying to do is get people to respond in an artificial environment to a stimulus that, you then extrapolate, will result in something else." (For more, including four ways data is enhancing marketing, read Warc's report: BBDO's Andrew Robertson: experimenting trumps testing.) 

"With 'experimenting,'" by contrast, "you actually put it out there. You see what happens. You either adjust, kill or double down on the work that you're doing."

If "testing" has typically represented the dominant mode of behaviour for brand custodians, that situation is being transformed by digital platforms and data.

"We're going to be able to experiment much, much more efficiently than we'll be able to test. So we'll do much more of it," said Robertson.

The specific factors driving such a shift include the ability to implement and assess different strategies at speed, providing for near-immediate insights into the most successful tactics.

"We'll be experimenting, measuring and optimising against real returns on that investment as measured by the stuff that matters – like what's selling – in a way in which we've never been able to do it [before], and proving, or otherwise, whether the work is working," said Robertson.

As evidence of these trends in action, the new demands of experimentation are already "changing the way we're working with each other," Robertson suggested."The media agencies and creative agencies have to work much more closely now than they ever have before," he continued.

"By definition, there are so many more options now. But having upfront clarity on the things that we should do – rather than on the things that we could do – has never been more important."

BBDO Worldwide was recently named as the best agency network in the Warc 100, which tracks annual performance in effectiveness and strategy competitions. More information on the rankings is available here.

Data sourced from Warc