Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland


Carroll, may have written a children’s tale. But this piece of wisdom also applies to writing better SEM ad creative. People want choices more than they care what those choices are—specifically, people want choice in the form of “selection.”


At the risk of falling down a rabbit hole, Boost Media dug into the data discovering that messaging “choice” in retail SEM creative is akin to Alice eating from different sides of the same mushroom. One side makes Alice grow very large and the other side causes her to become tiny. Similarly, when messaging choice in the form of “selection,” performance grows larger with up to a 164% better CPI*. Yet when advertisers convey choice via words like “variety” and “options,” CPI shrinks by as much as 116%.


We’d be as mad as the Hatter to claim that we fully understand the nuances of why these similar words perform so differently in retail SEM creative. But we can learn from Alice: She didn’t want to be stuck in the queen’s court with no choice but to be beheaded by a pack of cards. Yet throughout her adventures, when she did have choices, confusion clouded her decision-making. We can surmise that customers want some choices, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time making decisions. Perhaps “selection” is the sweet spot that communicates choice without bogging down potential customers with a variety of too many confusing options.


Insights for your CMO 

  1. Customers want choices yet they don’t want to be faced with confusing decision-making. Advertising should speak to this.
  2. You may have specific brand values that you encourage your marketing team to convey such as “price, quality and selection” or “Value, style and service.” Whatever concepts your brand stands for, they can be messaged using a variety of similar words that may resonate very differently with consumers. Leverage data from SEM ad creative testing to select the best-performing words that stand for your brand.

Tune in next Tuesday for more CMO insights plus retail SEM ad copy benchmarks.

*CPI refers to Conversions-Per-Impression (A metric that takes both click-through-rate and conversion rate into account)

Click here to see our methodology.

Featured image credits to


About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale. The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.