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How Do Color and Entropy Affect Ad Performance?
Mar 10, 2022

Advertisers are all attuned to the impact of both entropy and color on the success of their ads, but how do they work together and how much is too much? Our analysis showed that:

Mid-entropy ads yielded improved CTR, particularly as the saturation of the colors increased.

In our series,
Engaging Creative, we dig into questions we get from clients about key levers of creative effectiveness and apply analytics to test hypotheses about the drivers of performance.

But first, what exactly is entropy? 

Entropy is a statistical measure of information transmitted by an image. An image with lower entropy typically has fewer colors and less variation. Higher entropy means the reverse – lots of colors and elements coming together in a single image to convey lots of visual information.

How does entropy relate to my ads?

If you feel your ads look busy, they are likely high in entropy. Advertisers have lots to say in ads but very little space to do it in, especially in digital channels. Ever try to convey the value of your brand, an offer, and how to redeem it all in just 728 by 90 pixels? That task’s not easy, especially if you try to balance lowering entropy to reduce fuzziness or uncertainty for the viewer of your ad but still want your ad to be compelling enough to stand out on a webpage. By reducing entropy too much, you risk losing the plot in your marketing story in an attempt to make your call to action clear. Advertisers have to strike a balance between too much and too little content in their ads as a result. So how busy is too busy?

Ready to start powering creative effectiveness for your brand? Here's a sneak peak into how helps enterprise brands evaluate creative effectiveness. Get in touch to learn more.

And what is color saturation?

Simply put, saturation is a measure of how strong a color is. 

Imagine you are watering a potted plant. The more water you pour in, the wetter (or more saturated) the soil becomes. Color saturation is similar if you imagine that you are filling the pixels on your screen with the pure essence of a color, making it stronger and stronger the more color you pour into each pixel. A fire truck and brick are both red, for example, but a fire truck is a more saturated red than the brick.

How do entropy and saturation come together to boost ad performance?

By assigning numerical values to the pixels of each color of an image, we calculated entropy at three levels, combined that with measurement of varying degrees of color saturation, and related that to CTR performance. What did the data tell us?

Mid-entropy ads yielded improved CTR, particularly as the saturation of the colors increased, as seen in the green line of the graph below.

Interestingly, at low levels of color saturation, all entropy-levels performed similarly, since low-saturation color does not translate to high visual impact. 

In addition, high entropy ads are consistent in performance regardless of saturation, because the positive impact of bright colors is counteracted by overly-busy visuals. 

What combination of entropy and saturation is best to avoid? 

Steer clear of the low entropy ads (not much going) combined with heavily saturated colors. What’s our hunch as to why? Think “road sign” – it’s the clearest way to be seen but not at all intriguing. 

Footnote for the Analytics Techies

Our model was fitted to variant-level data from April 2020 - April 2021 and  filtered to exclude extreme CTRs (>2%) and variants with low serving (IMPRESSIONS < 1000). 

Ad entropy groups were defined by top 33%, middle 33% and bottom 33% based on entropy ranks across all qualifying ads. 

Finally, the significant main effect of midEntropy, and the significant interaction effects of lowEntropy:saturation and midEntropy:saturation, had a statistical significance at alpha level 0.05.

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