Launch of test and learn guidelines for media buying

Continuous improvement and driving value for money is at the very heart of our professional excellence.

Knowing what works well and improving our effectiveness in delivering outcomes are essential ingredients of a modern communications campaign. There are countless examples of this inspirational work being delivered at a campaign level, where data-driven insights and experimentation have driven better outcomes. 

However, in order to provide communicators across GCS with a common framework, we launched the test and learn guidelines for media buying in November 2021. These guidelines are a combined effort between the GCS Media and Marketing Data (MMD) team and OmniGOV’s implementational planning team to support you in incorporating industry best practice test and learn approaches into your campaign planning.  

Simon Baugh, Chief Executive of GCS noted at the launch event:

“The GCS Test & Learn Guidelines bring together the most innovative and inspiring work currently happening right across government communications, together with best practices from across industry and scientific rigour, to explain how you can adopt experimentation approaches to support delivering increasingly efficient campaign outcomes”. 

What is Test and Learn?

Test and learn is a set of practices based on the scientific method used to build an evidence base for improvements and optimisation, and can be applied across a wide range of problems and disciplines.  Test and Learn approaches are crucial in order to better understand how we can optimise campaign delivery. Importantly, these learnings need to be shared across government to create greater impact, enabling us as a profession to take a systematic approach to improve the effectiveness of government communication.

Some of the typical approaches to test and learn that are applied across GCS:

  1. Split testing, which compares the performance of two or more variants of the same creative or message to determine which one performs better.
  2. In-channel optimisation, which gives insights into the most effective routes to optimising ad performance and conversions.
  3. Regional or audience segmentation techniques, which can be used to target messaging to a specific demographic audience or geographic location to maximise the effectiveness of a campaign.

Case Study: GCS Benchmark Database informs test and learns for Royal Navy

The Youth (16 to 24) audience has been underrepresented in the TV marketplace in recent years, but as a core channel for the Royal Navy, the team wanted to understand whether their channel mix was optimal. OmniGOV used insights from the GCS Benchmark Database to understand TV media spend split in other recruitment campaigns. 

The analysis showed that the video investment was higher when compared to other cross-government campaigns, and that other campaigns use Cinema and Online Video platforms to generate a greater impact for this audience. Armed with this insight, the implementational planning team proposed two experiments to redistribute some of the Royal Navy’s TV spend in favour of Cinema and Online Video respectively. 

This allowed the campaign team to diversify its audio-visual budget and meet changing audience habits, improving outcomes by driving more Expressions of Interests. 

Special thanks

The MMD team would like to extend a special thanks to all our GCS colleagues, planning agencies and external industry partners in the Strategy & Evaluation Council for taking the time to review the draft guidelines before publication. Their extensive feedback drew on their own campaign planning experience and expertise within the industry, which has been reflected in the final publication of the guidelines. 

Read, share and implement the guidelines

The guidelines are now available for all government communicators as a useful resource when seeking to increase the effectiveness of campaign delivery and media within and across campaign themes.

GCS communicators are encouraged to review and reference the guidelines as part of the forthcoming Professional Assurance (PASS) application process for the 2022/23 fiscal year. 

Get in contact

For further information or support in implementing “test and learn” for your campaign, please get in touch with the Media and Marketing Data (MMD) team in GCS at

For further support activating test and learns for your campaigns please contact OmniGOV’s implementational planning team at

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