How to do creative testing in offline marketing

A/B testing has been around since the beginning of advertising, but how do you use digital tools to inform offline ad creative?

One of my favorite marketing books I’ve ever read is from someone many would call the father of direct marketing: Lester Wunderman.  In his book, that’s 28 years old as of this writing, he talks about the power of creative testing, and how any direct-response marketer should always be testing new creatives, offers, or messaging.  

If you are a modern marketer, you surely know the importance of constantly testing creative, but at Incremental Media, in our offline world, we were struggling with how to do creative testing in an accurate and fast way.  Below I've outlined how we’ve updated our creative approach, and how you can do the same thing too.  

Want to share your thoughts or pick the brain of the author of this piece?  Email Eric Smith at

The Old Way

Back in 2022, we used to run in a publication called Parade magazine.  Parade was the perfect testing ground for us because it was a true A/B split.  That means you could get Ad Creative A and your neighbor could get Ad Creative B.  

Sadly, Parade stopped publishing, and that left us with a challenge: How do we replicate what Parade provided us to do creative testing in an accurate and comprehensive way?  

We started by testing in other magazine publishers and shared mail programs, but they all had caveats.  Some charged extra to do the creative split, and others had limitations like one market gets Creative A and the other gets Creative B versus one household gets Creative A and the other gets Creative B.  What if Chicago converts better than San Francisco?

We couldn’t trust any of the options at our disposal.  


The New Way

Enter SightX.  After a long research phase and exploring several companies’ capabilities, we entered into a partnership with SightX.  

SightX is a survey platform that let’s us A/B test creative and get answers in hours not months.  That means we don’t need to test creative in the real world.  The benefits were clear:

1. Accurate: We wanted to make sure that SightX was truly accurate, so we back-tested nine different creative tests we ran in the real world to see if the results held up in SightX.  The results in SightX reflected what we saw in all nine tests. This gave us the confidence to roll out SightX to as many brands as possible.    

2. Speed: As I outlined above, we can get creative answers in a couple of hours versus much, much longer in real life.  

3. Multiple Creatives: We can come up with as many creative variations as we want, and can confirm if any or all of these creatives result in statistically significant lifts.  

4. More Sales: Possibly most importantly, this means we don’t need to carve out a percentage of our media spend to run an ad creative that may lose to the control, ensuring our brands generate the highest possible revenue from their offline advertising campaigns.  

The Takeaway

Find the relevant research platform for your needs and get to testing ASAP.  Platforms like SightX can teach you a lot more than just what ad creative is best, from what features of a product or service are most appealing to what aspect of an ad people noticed first to much, much more.  


Want to share your thoughts or pick the brain of the author of this piece?  Email Eric Smith at

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