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Creating effective ads through copy testing

Advertising shapes consumer opinion and builds brand awareness. It can also help brands tap into consumer emotion, arguably the biggest driver of brand selection.

One of the most iconic commercials ever, Apple’s 1984, cemented the company’s revolutionary status and cast rival IBM as an imperial villain. The message was clear: Apple had arrived to bring disruption and innovation to the world of technology.

Before you drop big dollars on anything from a local print ad to a Super Bowl TV spot, it’s worth measuring your ad’s potential effectiveness. That is, testing to see if its intended message is landing, and whether anything can improve its performance. An ad test survey, formally known as a copy test, can cover any medium, including radio, television, digital, outdoor, etc. These tests can help you answer questions like:

  • How does the ad impact consumer perceptions of the featured brand?
  • Is the ad memorable, and what do people like or dislike about it?
  • Is the ad’s main message getting through to consumers?
  • Does it convince the consumer to act in any way?

With these objectives in mind, let’s go through the key elements of an effective copy test, and review some recommended question types.

4 core elements of ad testing

  1. Pre-exposure
  2. Ad exposure
  3. Post-exposure
  4. Profiling questions

1. Pre-exposure: These questions measure consumer attitudes and impressions about a brand before they are exposed to advertising. The goal here is to get a baseline measure of consumer perceptions you want to impact through advertising. For instance:

  • What is your overall opinion of the following brands?
  • How interested are you in buying the following brands?

2. Ad exposure. Next, you want to expose people to the ad itself. Copy tests can be performed on any type of ad or media, including video, sound clip, text, print ad, etc. Here are a couple of different methods for ad display, depending on your goals:

  • Isolation display: The ad is shown without any other stimuli. This allows the respondent to focus solely on the ad you want to learn about, and answer detailed questions about it.
  • Clutter display: The ad is shown in realistic context, among other stimuli and advertisements. This lets you measure whether the ad is effective enough to break through the clutter and make an impression. While this method is good for tracking the overall impact of your ad, detailed feedback is often lacking. That’s because respondents in this type of setting don’t usually pay close attention to a single ad.Video ad testing allows you to layer in additional techniques to capture respondent reactions:
    • Dial test: While watching the video ad, respondents can move a slider to one pole or another, indicating how much they like or dislike the ad.
    • Eye tracking: This technique provides valuable information on which parts of the ads are actually seen and command the most attention. Eye tracking is also a valuable tool to investigate brand placement.

3. Post-exposure. General ad feedback, recollection and reaction are captured. This measures the ad’s overall impact and whether it caused the desired changes in respondent perceptions.

  • What was your overall impression of the advertising?
  • Was it memorable?
  • What did you like or dislike about it?
  • What was the main message behind the ad? What was it trying to communicate?
  • How well do these attributes describe the ad? ( selection criteria could include general emotional attributes, key brand attributes related to the ad, etc.)

It’s valuable to repeat the pre-exposure questions here as well, to see if responses have changed following ad exposure.

4. Profiling questions. People generally respond differently to an ad based on their existing attitudes and behaviors. For instance, someone who has just bought a home will naturally be more interested in a commercial about homeowners insurance. Thus, it is critical to understand each respondent’s basic buying behaviors for the industry, brand and competitors in question. Categories and examples of profiling questions include:

To understand general shopping behavior and brand affinity:

  • How often do you shop?
  • Which of the following brands do you shop for?
  • Is buying this category of product currently on your to-do list?

To understand how price plays in purchase consideration:

  • Which of the following best describes your attitude towards making new product purchases?
    • I only buy when something is on sale or offers a true bargain
    • I look for deals first, but can’t always wait for them
    • I stick to what I need, but am usually not swayed by prices
    • I’m more swayed by what I want than the price tag

Putting it all together

Using these basic ad testing building blocks, you’ll be able to determine which of your ad concepts are most worth pursuing. In addition to providing excellent insights, this process saves valuable creative and production time. It’s a proven technique used by well-oiled marketing machines who want to get closer to their audience, and make the most of their budgets.

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FocusVision Decipher

If you’re looking for an easy, yet innovative survey and reporting solution to handle everything from ad testing to more complex studies, check out FocusVision Decipher. Insights teams from around the world have used Decipher to get to the heart of customer experiences and drive their brands forward. Learn more about Decipher.

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