Charles Barkley and his Multivariate Ad Testing

I never knew Charles Barkley gained weight after retiring from his basketball career until he started endorsing Weight Watchers. Standing with his arms crossed, giving that smug sort of “I’m awesome” look, he stared me down in a display ad for the mega brand that is now targeting men.

I spent a lot of time on that page and I noticed the ad kept changing, with other variations of the same display ad. Some featured other “regular guys” and another showed Charles Barkley alongside different copy. More than likely, Weight Watchers’ advertisers are doing multivariate tests to see which ads will get the best results. By multivariate, they put out many display ads at once and test the effectiveness of combinations of different features such as buttons, copy, pictures, background color, and really whatever they feel significant. I analyzed some of the Charles Barkley ads below to show you how it works. Multivariate testing increases in complexity as the number of variations increases. It’s apparent here that Weight Watchers had a good chunk of change to get this rolling.


One of the biggest variations I noticed was the buttons. You’ll see both color and call to action change in each, mainly because call to action is a big factor in driving clicks. The ad above takes a serious tone and is the only one I noticed to feature any sort of ranking. I think the content here looks crammed and somewhat busy.


This is a pretty big contrast from the last ad in terms of simplicity. They use the campaign slogan “Lose Like a Man” and nothing else. The button is now blue and a bit more rounded. I’m personally a fan of simplicity, but I don’t believe this will work for their target (men).


Here they incorporate a bit of humor. This is also the first time we get his total weight loss number. There’s a nice amount of copy here and sports are usually a great way to capture the male demographic.


Going along with the sports thing once more, “Sir Charles” is now holding a basketball. Again, there is a nice amount of content here. I also like that his weight loss number is now included in the main copy instead of below in a smaller text. It makes for the right amount of ad content.

So here’s what it boils down to:

Calls to Action: Start Now, Go, See How, Learn How

Button Colors: Red, Blue, Brown, Green

Background Color: Gray fade, All black

Charles Barkley Poses: Arms crossed, Hands in jeans, Holding basketball

The above factors are where you find the most surprising results. Believe it or not, there is often a color or call to action preference that starts to appear. Even Charles Barkley’s manly poses will make the difference. I mentioned my preferences and I’m sure you have some of your own, which is why multivariate testing can be so important. If you really want an effective campaign, don’t trust any opinions until you see some valid testing results. They would shock you.

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