The System1 Guarantee : How? What? Why?

For as long as I have worked in this industry – both as a Marketing Leader and Ad Agency boss – there’s been a tension between creativity and the bottom line.

The market research tools and channels change, but the arguments don’t. “Research ruins ideas!” “Awards are meaningless!” “Data makes us soulless number-crunchers!” “Social is self-indulgence!”

The debates produce more heat than light. They give us incisive papers and mad, brilliant rants, but it’s the tension itself that holds the industry back. Because, quite frankly, it’s nonsense.

After all, we know from the seminal work of Binet & Field and the IPA that the best ads drive profitable long-term growth for brands. We know for fact that the most effective ads are the most emotional ads. And we know creativity is what sparks that emotion and keeps it fresh. The more people feel, the more people buy.

Or to put it another way, creativity drives the bottom line.

That said, we still need to draw the link between creativity and sales – and if possible ahead of time.

That’s what we do at System1. We develop an idea – then we predict its effectiveness. If we don’t create great emotional work first time, we’ll keep on working until we do.

It’s a test-and-learn philosophy. Test everything, test early, find an idea with potential to make a difference, iterate, test and repeat to improve it and only launch the best.

We run every idea we produce through the quali-quant ad-testing model developed by our sister company, System1 Research [formerly BrainJuicer]. We use that model because it’s centred on emotional response, which rewards creativity and better predicts profitability. We have no control over the methodology or the results it delivers. If we did, we would not have had to re-work so many ideas. It’s rare that we get it right first time.

Here’s how the process works. We use the simple measure of long-term growth used by the IPA – % points of market share gain for every point of Extra Share of Voice (ESOV). Analysis published by the IPA shows that the average ad achieves 0.5% market share gain for 10 points of Extra Share of Voice (ESOV). Our testing model gives every ad a 1- to 5-Star rating, based on how consumers respond to it emotionally. Analysis conducted by Peter Field on behalf of the IPA has demonstrated the relationship between our Star rating and brand share growth. An average 2-Star ad will achieve average levels of growth (0.5% points) for 10% points of ESOV, a 5-Star ad will, on average, achieve 3% points of market share gain. We then use our powerful brand monitoring platform to track long-term brand growth.

Of course, very few advertisers have the budget for 10 points of ESOV, but the model works for any level of ESOV, and it also applies where ESOV is hard to calculate, as it often is in digital work. The basic point is that a highly emotional 3-Star or higher ad delivers more “bang for your buck” than an average, flat ad that makes audiences feel nothing – and therefore buy nothing.  Of course, 5-Star ads are very rare (4% of the many thousands of ads System1 Research has tested around the world) – so if you are lucky enough to have  a 5-Star Ad, you definitely shouldinvest in it!

Our Agency guarantee is to produce work that gets 3-, 4- or 5-Stars – and therefore will drive profitable growth beyond the average ad. Nothing less.

If an idea fails to reach our 3-5 Star guarantee, we either re-work it, or start again from scratch, at no extra cost to our clients.

We do this because we know creativity creates profit – and we are adamant we should hold ourselves accountable for that.

Written by Rod Connors; Managing Director – System1 Agency.



At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident, creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand tracking tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.
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