How Do You Test Your Creative?

How Do You Test Your Creative?

Creative testing

The goal of creative testing (also known as advertising research or ad testing) is to understand how effective your ad is based on consumer feedback. This research can take many forms, from a single test to optimize your creative before it is launched, or as a continuous tracker designed to assess your ad’s impact over time.

Why should I Pre-Test?

Pre-testing your creative can ensure less spend is lost when it comes to activation. Today's on- demand pre-testing solutions can provide you with fast and cost-effective means to ensure that the creative you deploy is as effective as possible, improving your return on investment when time and budget are tight. In an interview with AdAge, Keith Weed, Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, states: “I’ve certainly got enough evidence, real hard evidence, showing that ads we’ve pretested perform better in the marketplace than ads we don’t. It’s inarguable proof.” Russell Weiner, CMO of Domino's Pizza, suggests that short of buying more media, pre-testing is the best way to make advertising work harder, and there is evidence to back Weiner's assertion. Clancy and Dyson reported in Admap that creative has over four times more influence than media efficiency on profit impact. What does this tell us? Great media placement cannot make good on a poorly executed creative. The money you spend on media will be wasted if the ad fails to deliver a memorable impression that will influence purchase behavior. If you’re making a riskier decision, a more in-depth assessment may be worth the extra time and budget. If you are tasked with developing a completely new campaign, pre-testing can help justify a bold and innovative approach. Perhaps your production budget limits the number of ads you can make, and you need to make sure a single execution works effectively. In situations like these, the focus needs to shift from go/no go to one of diagnosis and ensuring the copy used is as effective as possible. With in-depth diagnostics feedback from the target audience, pre-testing can be used to improve and refine executions, particularly if tested in a rough form before final development.

Testing your ad after it goes live

Once commercials go “on air,” one way to know if the advertising is working is by conducting tracking research. It’s the ultimate “acid test” of advertising effectiveness. The term “tracking research,” as used here, refers to a series of surveys over time among a representative sample of target-audience consumers. These surveys can be continuous (i.e., a certain number are conducted every day or every week throughout the year) or pulsed (i.e., the surveying is conducted in waves, at discrete points in times, say every three months or every six months).

Tracking your advertising campaign can help you quantify the effectiveness of your campaign by giving you consumer reactions and responses, so you can:

  •  Evaluate the true impact of your campaign
  •  Measure your ROI accurately
  • Identify areas that need more attention

A well-designed tracking questionnaire should look to assess the following topic areas:

Unaided +Aided Brand Awareness. The creation and maintenance of brand awareness is one of the most fundamental (and most valuable) goals of media advertising. Advertising can be effective even if it does nothing more than create brand awareness.

Unaided + Aided Advertising Awareness. These tend to be diagnostic measures. These measures help indicate if the changes in brand awareness or market share are related to the advertising itself. For example, if brand awareness and advertising awareness are both trending up over time, then we can reasonably assume that the advertising is having positive effects. But if brand awareness is rising while advertising awareness is declining, then one would have reason to suspect that the advertising might not be responsible for improving brand awareness.

Advertising Message Recall. What messages and ideas from the advertising do consumers remember? Do the remembered messages correspond to the advertising messages that the advertising was intended to communicate? Advertising message recall is measured by an open- ended question to which respondents give unaided, spontaneous answers. This question helps determine if the intended messages are getting through to consumers. Advertising message recall also provides an indication of consumer memory distortion and learning effects over time. That is, once a commercial starts running, consumers do not remember everything in it equally. Some elements stick in the memories of consumers, and other elements fade away. Knowing the elements that have the highest memory value is of great benefit in improving future creative executions. 

Brand Image. Advertising can shape and magnify a brand image over time. This is one of the most important strategic benefits of advertising. However, if you include brand image rating questions in the tracking questionnaire, don’t expect to see any meaningful changes of the brand’s image in the short run. Typically, it takes a minimum of one to two years of consistent advertising to cause a measurable change in brand image. The full effects of brand image shifts play out over 10- to 50-year intervals (sufficient time to let the stubborn and the rigid of mind pass away).

Brand Trial And Usage. Trial (ever tried) of your brand and major competitive brands is a useful measure to track. Usage of your brand and the major competitive brands (i.e., how often, what size package) allows market share estimates to be calculated and tracked over time. Moreover, both “trial” and “usage” are valuable analytic variables. The survey results can be cross- tabulated by triers versus non-triers, users versus nonusers, and light users versus heavy users. 

Including a measure of volumetric usage of the target brand is always important, because one of the possible effects of the advertising is an increase in the frequency of brand purchase (i.e., an increase in the volume or amount of the brand consumed). 

Demographics. Key demographics (such as geography, age, gender, education, and income) should always be included. These variables are extremely valuable in analyzing tracking survey results and in defining the optimal target market for a brand.

Should I track continuously or just “pulse” the market? 

Continuous surveys offer some advantages over pulsed. A continuous survey provides a complete record of consumer measurements over time—with no gaps or missing time periods. The quality of data collection is higher with continuous surveys. Continuous tracking smooths out the effects of short-term disturbances, such as adverse publicity, new product introductions, and bad weather, whereas pulsed tracking can be biased strongly if some negative event occurs just as a “wave” of surveys takes place. Continuous tracking is a better monitor of competitive information, since the surveys are ongoing and not biased to the media schedule of one brand (as tends to happen in pulsed surveys). On the other hand, pulsed tracking is less expensive than continuous tracking. Pulsed surveys can be concentrated into a short time interval to provide highly precise before-after measurements for specific flights of media advertising, and the waves of data collection can be precisely timed to coincide with media schedules.

Creative Testing

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