Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing

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One of the most popular evergreen topics on C3Centricity is advertising testing. Therefore, in light of the exp anding channel options available to marketers today, I think it’s time I proposed an updated perspective.

There are countless posts which discuss how to A/B test a campaign on FaceBook or how to  pre- and post-test advertising. What seems to be lacking is an objective view of IF  you should be testing your advertising at all. So this is what I want to discuss here. I hope you will find it helpful in reviewing your own opinions concerning advertising testing. 


Should You Test Advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO! That’s not very surprising. Countless teams have suffered at the h ands of market research and the over-zealous testing of their creative – in a usually very uncreative way.

There have been many attempts at defining metrics to evaluate advertising. One of the biggest challenges from my perspective is whether or not you should test a campaign or each individual ad separately. But more on that in a moment. First I want to review the actual decision to test.

Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place; what your campaign is trying to achieve, its objectives.

It still amazes me how many companies develop a new campaign simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully, each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious.

Therefore start by identifying with whom you want to communicate and why. And share this information with your ad agency; it’s surprising how many clients don’t! Remember to give as complete a description as possible of your target audience, including the who, what, where and why. (Our 4W™ Template is great for storing all the information in a one-pager)


When to Test Advertising

Many companies have a st andard process of testing ads before they can be aired. This is usually referred to as copy-testing. An ad must appear in the “top quadrant” on both impact and persuasion before it can be used. While this is admirable for its thoroughness, it often results in multiple ads being developed, to ensure that at least one of them meets these criteria. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then hope for a “winner.” What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot.

You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one. Of course, your advertising agency won’t tell you to stop this practice, as they’re getting more work than you really need.

It’s time to think differently about ad testing and spend your valuable resources more wisely. (>>Tweet this<<) 

Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a much more efficient time to test. OK, so the ads are likely to be in storyboard format or sketches, but most people will underst and the message you are trying to convey – if it’s effective of course.

Don’t wait until you have gone further in the production and created animations, final prints or even complete films before testing. (>>Tweet this<<) That’s just a waste of resources.

If you wait until that later stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate one “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad!

Working with concepts will help you identify the real winning ideas, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copy testing – if you must, but more about that in a moment.

The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can then concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice requested. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copy testing!


What to Test in Advertising

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign.

I have witnessed many so-called “Big Ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which were impossible to visualise other than in the single version proposed.

If you show your early work to consumers, they might be inspired by the idea and suggest other related situations or portrayals. You will then have an indication of the campaignability of your idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into multiple languages.

There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages.

English is a wonderful language that is particularly suited to advertising. It provides many opportunities for word plays, idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar.

In addition, English is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.

If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” check out this fun article from Business News Daily, or this one from The Balance. They’ll both have you laughing out loud!


How to Test Advertising

Depending upon their “st andard” process, many companies will tend to use the same pre-testing method and evaluation, with no regard for the campaign’s objectives.

As previously mentioned, some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copy testing impact and persuasion metrics before their ad can be aired. However, there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

For instance, if the campaign’s objective is awareness, then a lower persuasion score may be acceptable. Likewise, if you are looking for your customer to take action, then a lower score on impact may be acceptable if the ad scores high on persuasion.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE!

In my experiences of this, it was exciting to share consumer opinions directly with the creatives. They too found it stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bl and numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

In “Copy Testing: A Confident Path Toward Mediocrity,” Tom Bick, named one of the top digital marketers of 2014 by Ad Age, claimed that copy testing tends to penalise forward-thinking marketers. He argues that the average person will default to comparing a new ad with those they’ve already seen. In other words, they will err on the side of less creative campaigns. You can read more on this in the excellent Big Commerce article and-is-it-effective-for-present-day-marketing-campaigns/” target=”_blank”>HERE.


A Unique Alternative to Copy Testing

One solution that I propose to my clients is a unique and powerful testing methodology developed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work  and real-world validation. Their knowledge base includes an extensive foundation based upon analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing.

This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. This can be particularly useful for testing ad ideas for new product concepts.

In comparisons with st andard copy tests, PhaseOne’s technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with a greater depth of underst anding. More importantly, it provides a clear explanation of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do. This makes it far easier to improve the ad, whether by cutting out sections – which saves money – or improving the explanation of benefits. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies. Just drop me a line HERE.


The Six Rules of Advertising Testing

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate.
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear.
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send.
  4. Know which concept(s) or ideas have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why.
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media.
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience.

Do you abide by these six rules before pre-testing your own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your own process.


The Future of Advertising Testing

In conclusion, let me finish with a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid-1800’s, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike.

From Day-After-Recall, to Persuasion, and from Br and linkage to Moment-by-Moment systems, it wasn’t until recently that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support.

Today, emotional analysis has become widely available. Customers’ reactions to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. While it’s still early days in underst anding the connection between emotional reactions and br and impact, things are definitely moving fast.


Digital and Traditional Media

Interestingly, when I was doing research for the original post on this topic a couple of years ago, almost all the articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC (Pay Per Click) and the positioning of paid, earned and owned media.

However, around two-thirds of budgets were still being spent on traditional media – at least in 2014 –  and Statista showed that consumers still trusted it more than new media.

A more  recent post on MarketingCharts still shows traditional media leading the ideal channel mix for marketers – but for how much longer?

Spend on digital is increasing more rapidly than was at first expected. In the US, the UK and China online is expected to surpass TV next year. Both and-traditional-media-advertising-outlook-2016-2020-68214/” target=”_blank”>MarketingCharts and eMarketer have made similar predictions for many markets in just the past couple of months.

I have covered primarily pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads. At least to me, this highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. If you are one of these organisations, then this post has hopefully persuaded you that there is a better way.

Pre-testing is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of. At least doing early assessments will provide material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Do you have a different approach to advertising testing? If so, please share your ideas below.

C3Centricity used an image from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of your Business – One Day at a Time

This post is an updated version of the one first published on C3Centricity in 2014.

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better underst and the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the information available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of underst anding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on br ands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support br and building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

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