Testing process for Advertising effectiveness & Method

04/07/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

Research can be conducted to optimise advertisements for any medium: radio, television, print (magazine, newspaper or direct mail), outdoor billboard (highway, bus, or train), or Internet. Different methods would be applied to gather the necessary data appropriately.

There are primarily two broad types of advertising research viz. Pre-testing and Post-testing. Pre­testing is testing the advertisement before running it so that the likelihood of preparing most effective ads, by allowing an opportunity to detect and eliminate weaknesses or flaws increases. Post-testing is done after the advertisement is run on the media. This is more expensive and elaborate but most realistic as well because the advertisements are tested in real life setting.

In another way of advertisement research can be classified into two types of research, customised and syndicated. Customised research is conducted for a specific client to address that client’s needs. Only that client has access to the results of the research. Syndicated research is a single research study conducted by a research company with its results available, for sale, to multiple companies.


Pre-testing, also known as copy testing is a form of customised research that predicts in-market performance of an ad, before it airs, by analysing audience levels of attention, brand linkage, motivation, entertainment, and communication, as well as breaking down the ad’s Flow of Attention and Flow of Emotion. (Young) Pre-testing is also used on ads still in rough form – e.g., animatics or ripomatics. Pre­testing is also used to identify weak spots within an ad to improve performance, to more effectively edit 60’s to 30’s or 30’s to 15’s, to select images from the spot to use in an integrated campaign’s print ad, to pull out the key moments for use in ad tracking, and to identify branding moments.

Pre-testing thus is undertaken to:

  1. Establish whether the advert ‘says’ what it was intended to
  2. Assess the likelihood of getting a response from the reader

Some of the commonly used Pre-tests are as follows

Pre-tests for Print Media Advertisements:

Consumer Jury Test:

Few consumers form a group and act as jury to show their preferences for one or two ads out of several being considered. The jury members rank the ads and respond to the questions like which was the most impressive ad or which ad provoked you most to go ahead and buy the product or which ad did you notice first and so on.

This test is conducted by two methods namely Order of Merit Rating and Paired Comparison test. In the Order of merit rating test the jury the jurors rank the advertisements as per their preference. The consensus emerges about the best ad copy at the end. But the best may be the best amongst the worst ones.

In the paired comparison test at a time two ad copies are compared one-to-one. Every single ad is compared with all others. Sources are recorded on cards. They are summed up. The winner gets the highest score. This technique is easier than order of merit. Till ten copies, there is good accuracy; which later decreases. The number of comparisons one is required to make with the help of the following formula:

  1. (n-l) / 2

Where n= the number of ads to be rested.

Portfolio Test:

Along with the regular advertisements some dummy copies are kept in a folio. Then the consumer-sample sees the folio. The consumer is then asked about what he has seen in each ads. The ad giving minimum playback is considered the best. But then it is necessary to observe whether the chosen advertisement is dummy or regular. If found dummy the actual one is improved on the same lines.

Mock Magazine Test:

Unlike the above method of keeping the advertisements in a folio, test ads are introduced in a real magazine to an experimental group to read. The control group is also exposed to the same magazine, but is without test ads. Later a recall test is conducted to assess the effectiveness о I test ads.

Direct Questioning:

A consumer jury is formed and either the whole ad or its different elements are tested by asking direct questions. Sometimes there is one single question only and sometimes an elaborate questionnaire is prepared to assess attention strength, read-through strength, affective strength and behaviour strength of the ad. For each component the copy is allotted some points. Each ad is rated from the best to the worst.

Perceptual Meaning Studies (PMS):

In this method the respondent is exposed to test the ads for a limited time period. Tachistoscope is an instrument that may be used in this test. After the respondent sees the advertisement, he is subjected to a recall test for the product, brand illustration and the main copy.

Pre-tests for Broadcast Media Advertisements:

All the above methods can be applied to broadcast media also. In addition, some special methods are available to pre-test broadcast media ads – TV and radio ads. The techniques used are:

In Home Projection Tests:

A movie projector screen is installed at consumer’s home to show him the test commercials. He is questioned before and after the exposure to the advertisements. The questions are related to the ad and the change it causes after exposure. The strong and weak points of the ads can be assessed.

Trailer Tests:

Two groups of customers are considered. Both are given discount coupons to purchase the brand under consideration and are invited to shop in a real life shopping environment, a departmental store, a shopping centre etc. The prospects are invited to the display their products. Now one group is shown the test ads whereas the other group is not. The redemption rate of coupons is measured for both groups which may give an idea about the effectiveness of test ads.

Theatre Test:

A group of people who could be a captive audience for an entertainment programme is considered and a questionnaire is sent to them. The free tickets are later sent to them for the programme where the test ads are run. On viewing these, they are asked to fill up another questionnaire. It assesses product, brand and its theme.

Live Telecast Test:

The advertisements are put on air either by narrow casting or live telecasting. These ads are test ads, and not the regular ads. Later, viewers are interviewed to know their reactions.

Some Other Pre-Testing Techniques:

Sales Experiment:

Before a product advertisement is launched nationally, a small ad campaign of one or more advertisements is run. Two or more test centres are selected to do so. The ads are run for a fixed period say one to four months and then the sales responses are noted. It is a very useful and effective measure for FMCG items and those ads who aim to motivate buyers to take an immediate sales action.

Direct Mail Tests:

A group of prospects are selected from the mailing list randomly and are sent different test ads. Then to measure the response, the orders against each lot are noted.

Physiological Testing:

In this test, rather than what respondents say, what is considered more important is the physiological reaction of the respondents. Three principal instruments to do so are:

Eye Movement Camera:

It measures how the eye moves over the layout of test ads. The route taken by the eye and also the pauses are noted so that the areas of interest and attention can be judged.


It measures skin responses to ad stimuli like perspiration by gland activity through palm. More perspiration decreases the resistance and faster current passes. The tension is generated. The greater it is, the more effective the ad is. The technique is of limited use for ads of a very sensitive nature.

Perceptoscope or Pupilometric Devices:

They record changes in pupils dilatation. Dilatation indicates reading and attention. Contraction shows dislike of the respondent to what is being read. It evaluates interesting appealing visual stimuli. It is developed by Eekhard Hess and James Polk. Left eye is photographed to record dilatation.

Pre Testing is also called copy testing by some experts. Copy testing is a specialised field of marketing research, it is the study of television commercials prior to airing them. Although also known as copy testing, pre-testing is considered the more accurate, modern name (Young) for the prediction of how effectively an ad will perform, based on the analysis of feedback gathered from the target audience. Each test will either qualify the ad as strong enough to meet company action standards for airing or identify opportunities to improve the performance of the ad through editing. (Young)

We saw various tests which are all pretests. Following is another classification of pretest or copy tests. There are four general themes woven into the last century of copy testing.

Report Card Measures:

The first theme is the quest for a valid, single-number statistic to capture the overall performance of the advertising creative. This search has spawned the creation of various report card measures. These measures are used to filter commercial executions and help management make the go/no go decision about which ads to air. (Young). The predominant copy testing measure of the 1950s and 1960s, Day-After Recall (DAR) was interpreted to measure an ad’s ability to “break through’” into the mind of the consumer and register a message from the brand in long-term memory. Once this measure was adopted by Procter and Gamble, it became a research staple.

But every thing was not that bright about these tests. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, tests were conducted to validate a link between the recall score and actual sales. For example, Procter and Gamble reviewed 10 year’s worth of split-cable tests (100 total) and found no significant relationship between recall scores and sales. (Young) In addition, Wharton University’s marketing guru Leonard Lodish conducted an even more extensive review of test market results and also failed to find a relationship between recall and sales. Harold Ross of Mapes & Ross found that persuasion was a better predictor of sales than recall.

Diagnostic Measures:

The second theme is the development of diagnostic copy testing, the main purpose of which is optimisation. Understanding why diagnostic measures such as attention, brand linkage, and motivation are high or low can help advertisers identify creative opportunities to improve executions. (Young)

But then again this method was not perfect. Different approaches have been developed by research companies to determine the report card measures of attention, brand linkage, and motivation. For example, Unilever analysed a database of commercials “triple-tested’’ using the three leading approaches to the measure of branding (Ameritest, ASI, and Millward Brown) which shows that each of the three is measuring something uncorrelated with, and therefore different from, the other two. (Kastenholtz, Kerr & Young).

Non-Verbal Measures:

The third theme is the development of non-verbal measures in response to the belief of many advertising professionals that much of a commercial’s effects – e.g. the emotional impact – may be difficult for respondents to put into words or scale on verbal rating statements. In fact, many believe the commercial’s effects may be operating below the level of consciousness. (Young) According to researcher Chuck Young, “There is something in the lovely sounds of our favorite music that we cannot verbalize – and it moves us in ways we cannot express.” (Young, p.22)

Moment-by-Moment Measures:

The fourth theme, which is a variation on the previous two, is the development of moment-by- moment measures to describe the internal dynamic structure of the viewer’s experience of the commercial, as a diagnostic counterpoint to the various gestalt measures of commercial performance or predicted impact. (Young)

In the early 1980s, the shift in analytical perspective from thinking of a commercial as the fundamental unit of measurement to be rated in its entirety, to thinking of it as a structured flow of experience, gave rise to experimentation with moment-by-moment systems. The most popular of these was the dial-a-meter response which required respondents to turn a meter, in degrees, toward one end of a scale or another to reflect their opinion of what was 011 screen at that moment.

But then the things were not that easy. Unless the dial-a-meter is calibrated by normalising the data to each individual’s reaction time, the aggregate sample data will be spread across many measurement intervals. Second, dial-a-meters contain an uncertainty range around which moment is actually being measured because of differences in respondent response times. Relatively little has been published to validate dial-a-meter diagnostics to traditional measures of overall ad performance such as recall and persuasion.


Post-testing or Ad tracking, as otherwise known, can be customised or syndicated. Tracking studies provide either periodic or continuous in-market research monitoring a brand’s performance, including brand awareness, brand preference, product usage and attitudes. Advertising tracking can be done by telephone interviews or online interviews—with the two approaches producing fundamentally different measures of consumer memories of advertising, recall versus recognition.

Purpose of Post Testing:

The purpose of ad tracking is generally to provide a measure of the combined effect of the media weight or spending level, the effectiveness of the media buy or targeting, and the quality of the advertising executions or creative. Some newer forms of online tracking, separate the issues of the quality of the creative component from the quality of the media buy and instead focus on the relative performance of ads versus the competitive ads that are airing at the same time. All forms of tracking data are used to provide inputs to Marketing Mix Models which marketing science statisticians build to estimate advertising return on investment (ROI).

Some ad tracking studies are conducted by telephone while others are conducted on the Internet. The two approaches produce very different measures of advertising awareness because the interviews tap into consumer memories of advertising using fundamentally different measures, recall versus recognition.

For example, with an Internet study, the respondent can be shown a few memorable, de-branded still images from the TV ad or a de-branded version of a print or Internet ad and then answer three significant questions:

  1. Do you recognise this ad? (Recognition measure)
  2. Please type in the sponsor of this ad. (Unaided awareness measure)

iii. Please choose from the following list, the sponsor of this ad. (Aided awareness measure)

A telephone survey does not allow for visuals. Verbal descriptions are very difficult to provide for a campaign that has several ads featuring the same character(s) in the same situation with only slight changes. Telephone is not considered a flexible enough methodology to be used in all situations.

The data that a post-test might provide are as follows:

  1. Decision Analyst
  2. Top of mind brand awareness
  3. Unaided brand awareness
  4. Aided brand awareness
  5. Brand fit
  6. Brand image ratings
  7. Brand trial
  8. Repeat purchase
  9. Frequency of use
  10. Purchase intent
  11. Price perceptions
  12. Unaided advertising awareness
  13. Aided advertising awareness
  14. Unaided advertising message recall
  15. Aided advertising message recall
  16. Aided commercial recall
  17. Ad wear out
  18. Promotion awareness and usage
  19. Market segment characteristics
  20. Media habits
  21. Lifestyle/Psychographics
  22. Demographics

Different techniques of Post-Testing:

Among the various post testing techniques used most common ones are:

  1. Penetration tests: Recognition/recall
  2. Progress tests or Sales Effects Tests.

Apart from this, perceptions, image and attitudes can also be measured to assess the effectiveness of ads. The attitude measurement may be used in combination with penetration (recall) tests.

Penetration Tests:

Daniel Starch had given the details of this test for the first time in his book Principles of Advertising (Chicago- A W Shaw, 1923). These tests are also known as Recognition/Readership Viewership tests. They are aided recall tests dating back to 1923. Since then they have been conducted in the US by the Daniel Starch Organisation. Here, the respondents are shown the issues of magazines they claim to have read. They are asked to recognise the ads, asked whether they have read them. The results are put into three categories:

(i) Noted (N): A person who only remembers having seen the ad in the issue under study

(ii) Seen-Associated (A). A person who not only remembers seeing it but also claims to have seen or read some part of it. He may even associate the ad with the product or advertiser

(iii) Read-Most (RM). The person who has read half or more of the written material in the ad.

The above categories of readers are expressed in percentage terms. This method is also adaptable to broadcast ads where commercial advertisements on tape are played. McGown (1979) gave the following formula to calculate Readers per Dollar:

Readers peere Dollar = Percent noted X Magazin’s primary readers / Space cost in Dollar

This method however is not error free. This method is always subject to reporting errors by the respondents. They might deliberately exaggerate or at times unknowingly suppress information. At times they guess answers to please the interviewer and hide the fact that he or she has not seen the advertisements.

There are however some methods as follows which might increase the efficiency of measurement.

  1. The tachistoscopic method: Advertisements are shown to the respondent, either whole or part, at high speed; and then they are asked to furnish information based on those ads.
  2. The screen method: Several screens are put over an ad which are then removed one by one an recognition is obtaited at various levels of visibility.

iii. Two more methods often used by researchers are Pre-publication control which requires a recognition survey of previously unpublished advertisements and confusion contra methods where some unpublished advertisements are mixed up with some published ones and then recall is measured.

Gallup-Robinson Impact Test:

Gallup- Robison is a commercial research firm which has formulated standardised aided recall tests to survey advertisement impact. A respondent is shown a magazine cover and is asked whether s/ he has read the issue. If yes, then s/he is asked to describe anything s/he remembers seeing in that issue. S/he is then given a deck of cards with brand names on them which appeared on the issue and is asked to indicate which ones s/he remembers seeing in the issue.

Recognition Vs Aided Recall:

  1. In the aided recall method, the test issue is kept closed, and the respondent is required to answer, entirely on the basis of his memory, whereas in the recognition method, respondents first qualify as readers of a particular issue.
  2. The aided-recall method has a more exacting requirement; in effect, it eliminates many persons of “less desirable” characteristics from the audience which is not the case with the other one.

iii. Studies in USA have revealed that the recognition method gives an average advertisement score that is six times the average PNR score.

  1. The aided-recall advertisement readers are younger, and have a lower educational, occupational and income status.
  2. A Printed Advertising Rating Methods (PARM) study has concluded that the aided-recall method gives much lower ratings, which are sensitive to such methodological factors as the lapse of time before the interview, the competence of the interviewers and the type of the sample.

Unaided Recall Tests:

This is a kind of recall test where the respondents are not given any clue to recall the ad. This proves to be more demanding than the aided recall, as respondents recalling the brands without help shows a greater degree of penetration of the ad.

Types of Unaided Recall:

Day-After- Recall (DAR):

One day after the advertisement appears the readers or viewers are questioned after that.

Total Prime Time (TPT):

Here the main item of research is viewer’s television viewing time.

Triple-Association Test (TAT):

This test measures how much a viewer or reader has learnt about the brand from the advertisement. The respondent is told about some product feature or benefit and he is to find the brand name for that. For example if a respondent is asked that which toothpaste ad shows that it has salt in it and the respondent says Colgate active salt we understand that the learning objective of the advertisement is successful.

Progress Tests:

These tests assess the total sales effect from the ad and hence is also called sales effect test. In other words, the various stages through which a customer passes and finally purchases are because of the advertisement or not is analysed. Though the increase of sales due to advertisement is slightly difficult to be measured, yet we have the following established methods

The Netapps Method:

Netapps stands for Net-Ad-Produced-Purchases. Daniel Starch and Staff Company developed this method. It takes a sample population of which some have read or viewed the advertisement and others have not. In each group those who did and did not purchase the brand under investigation are found and analysed as to what percentage bought under the influence of the advertisement.

Intend-to-buy Test:

The readers or viewers of the advertisement are asked about their intention to buy. For positive responses further investigations are done to find the strong influences in the advertisement because of which they decide to buy.

Sales Result Tests:

Following are some of sales results tests which measure the additional sales generated by the ads.

Past Sales before and after the ad are recorded and the difference is accounted for as an impact of advertisement.

An audit may be run on the dealers inventory before and after the advertisement.

Enquiry Tests:

Some consumer durables companies issue coupons as a part of the advertisement copy and when they are circulated to the customers, they are supposed to fill it up and send it back to the company. So when the customers are filling in the coupons they are seeing the ad copy as well. So from the number of coupons received estimation can be made as to the number of the readership of the advertisement.

Attitude Tests:

The change in attitude of the customers after the advertisement campaign is measured and marketers observe whether there has been any change in the customers’ attitude towards the brand under investigation. Further they assume that a positive attitude towards their brand may lead to further purchases. Generally the attitude is measured by rating it on a scales like Likert Scale, Thurstone scale, Differential Scale, Guttman Scale etc.

Thus like any other aspect of market research, advertising research also aims towards the investigation of various real facts from the market. It attempts to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the communication efforts of the organisations. On these evaluations, many important strategic communication decisions depend. Hence it proves to be a very important area as today the organisations know that apart from the sales figures, brand image and goodwill are also very important which depends a lot on the advertising efforts.