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First Ever Video Ad Split Test?

Today, it’s very easy to test your video ad creatives.

You can test several videos at once, put some money behind each one, track how they are performing using real-time online dashboards, see which winners emerge, iterate on the winners, test some more, etc.

You can do all of this in a very short amount of time, and with a relatively small amount of ad spend.

Back in the 1950s, it wasn’t so easy.

As far as I can tell, 1951 or 1952 was when we saw the first video ad split test.

Before the 1950s, marketers had been split testing with print advertising for a long time. So, the concept of testing different ads and tracking the various response rates was nothing new.

But with print advertising, this testing was done by using coded coupons that people brought to retailers, or coded mail order response slips.

How do you split test a video ad in the 1950s?

The first-ever TV commercial ran 10 years earlier in 1941 and was aired in New York, right before a baseball game. It reportedly cost $9 to air and was seen by about 4,000 people. (Hey, that’s a $2.25 CPM!)

Fast forward to the 1950s…

Kelloggs had a flakey cereal frosted with sugar. In case feeding kids sugar for breakfast wasn’t appealing enough, they wanted a mascot to help target this cereal to children.

There was some initial testing that included Elmo the Elephant, Newt the Gnu, Katy the Kangaroo, and Tony the Tiger.

Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu didn’t make it to the final testing stages, and a final split test was done between Katy the Kangaroo and Tony the Tiger.

Take a look at the commercials by watching the video below!

I don’t know if these commercials actually ran side-by-side, or what the exact testing methodology was. But for tracking, they stocked a bunch of boxes with Tony the Tiger on them, and a bunch of boxes with Katy the Kangaroo on them. Then they figured out which ones sold the best.

I’m sharing this with you just because I think it’s super interesting.

Of course, this cereal and the winning mascot survive to this day. Tony the Tiger is one of the most recognizable characters of all time and Frosted Flakes are still one of the top three cereals in terms of annual sales.

And quite frankly…They’re Grrrrrrreat!

So the next time Google or Facebook or Apple announces a big change that will affect your ability to track conversions… Chill out.

Conversion tracking is grrrrreat, and you should track as much as possible and monitor your results obsessively.

But no matter what limitations we have when it comes to tracking conversions inside our ad campaigns, we’ll always have it easier than printing a bunch of cereal boxes with different mascots on them and counting up how many of each one is being sold.