Test your animatic live on the air

Last week I saw an animatic being aired live. On one of the big nets I think. Maybe ESPN. An animatic is a moving storyboard. Basically, it’s a series of hand-drawn stills with voiceovers, music and titles. The remarkable thing was this animatic was from a multi-billion dollar consumer company.

At Time Life Books back in the ’80s we would spend about $130K per commercial and produce 2 or 3 per new campaign. After a few of your $130K beauties goes down in flames you eagerly begin a search for a way to insure your success before sinking all that budget into a doomed concept. So I suggested to one of our agencies – I think it was Wunderman – that we test the animatic on air before producing it. They rejected the idea saying research groups would give us better information. I recall Andy Jones going on about “mind mapping” and such. What consumer would respond to a “fake cartoon commercial” anyway?

Forget research groups and one on ones, I said. They’re not indicative of what a live test will yield. With research you just waste your budget twice. Being the client, I prevailed. So we tested 4 different creative executions for a new book series Time Life was preparing to launch. And the CPO results came in quite reliably. There were enough responses in each test cell for a confident rollout. So we produced the top 2 winning spots and aired them as usual.

Turned out, the animatics OUTPERFORMED the actual productions! Test after test, this was a consistent finding and a disturbing reality to creative teams everywhere. We figured the novelty of an animatic was lifting response and that it would fall off after some time. Nope. Today, animatics still deliver accurate results and often outperform the actual productions. And with better graphics programs and talented editors (like ours, of course!), the animatics look pretty impressive.

Makes the branding folks crazy.

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