Advertising testing 101

Advertising testing 101There was a day not long ago that advertising testing involved sitting large numbers of people in a room and showing them ads embedded in pilot television shows with a pre-exposure survey and a post-test assessment following the programming and ad exposure. My how things have changed!

With the advent of online survey platforms, marketers can test multi-media messaging at several points in the advertising creation cycle. This has given those in consumer and B2B market research unparalleled ability to provide consumer insight to brand managers, creative directors, and media agencies at a fraction of the cost of old-school methods.

However, with such ability comes the need to avoid potential pitfalls. Let’s look at a few ways we can steer clear and keep our eyes (and ears) on the advertising testing process.

First up, we should employ whatever existing research is available about consumer buying patterns, media habits, attitudes, interests and funnel these insights to the creative and strategy teams. This should be enough to prime the creative process. If not, consider primary research involving both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Keeping in the spirit of the day, if qualitative is called for it can be done online via one of the many available tools.

Before launching any advertising or promotional campaign, a survey is called for. This first survey can be used to test various designs for their resonance with key market segments. Reaching those segments can be done via contacts from your internal database or marketing research online community. The sampling plan and survey design should incorporate best practices around randomization and experimental design.  For those unfamiliar with an experimental design, you might consider one of the many publications on the topic such as How to design and report experiments by Andy Field and Graham Hole. Results from this phase should be funneled back to the creative geniuses for refinement of the message and/or design.

A second step should involve pre and post measurement of key metrics including brand awareness, likelihood to consider the brand (aimed at prospective customers) and ultimately changes in unit and dollar sales. As with the creative survey, this tracking study should be conducted using best practices for sample selection, including internal sample and/or that provided by an external supplier. The goal is to produce unbiased customer feedback.

Key takeaways:
1.    Online surveys can be used to positively impact the creative design process and inform go to market strategy for advertising and promotions.
2.    These surveys can leverage online technology to test messaging for radio, television, print or online consumption.
3.    More than one survey will be needed so plan your timeline accordingly.

If you are testing your advertising via a survey you can leverage an advertising testing template. Political marketers are well seasoned in the art and science of advertising testing. This article shares solid insight for testing political ads.