Research: pre-testing and post-testing
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Research activities are typically initiated and conducted by your client, as part of their marketing remit. This type of research can provide topline insights into how a brand (and its products/services) is tracking. The information gleaned can greatly benefit an agency, to deepen client understanding and to help create more effective campaigns.
However, there is another type of research that is advertising-specific and is more likely to be initiated (or at least recommended) by your agency rather than by your client. The two main areas of research that an agency would get involved with are ‘pre-testing’ and ‘post-testing’.
If you choose to go down this route, it would be wise to form a strategic partnership with a research company – one which you trust to be objective, that has a solid reputation, and one that will happily teach you what you need to know.
Pre-testing (a.k.a. ‘copy testing’)
Pre-testing tries to predict the in-market performance of an advertisement (usually a TV commercial or print ad) before it goes live. Assessments are based on consumer responses, such as levels of attention/motivation/entertainment, brand linkage, and feedback. Pre-testing can be used to identify weak spots within an ad, to improve performance, or to help edit TVCs (e.g. 60s to 30s, 30s to 15s, 15s to 5s, etc.).
The testing attempts to establish whether the ad ‘says’ what it was intended to, and will assess the likelihood of getting a response from the viewer. It can be conducted via focus groups, projective techniques (seeking to get into the subconscious), or limited area surveys.
This form of test is based on the understanding that what works on TV may not necessarily translate into other media. Running a campaign pre-test allows advertisers to test the whole campaign, creative and media, and measures the synergies expected within an integrated campaign.
Post-testing (a.k.a ‘track studies’ or ‘ad tracking’)
Post-testing researches consumer response to advertising messages they have seen or heard. The testing can include unaided recall (recall in the absence of a cue); aided recall (recall with a cue provided); and attitudinal measures (likes and dislikes).
Post-testing can also monitor a brand’s performance, including brand awareness, brand preference, product usage, sponsor inclusion, and attitudes. Continuous post-testing will track changes over time, whilst periodic testing can be used to quantify specific changes produced by advertising (either by a campaign as a whole or by the different media used).
Post-testing is useful for determining what worked well (or not) to plan future campaigns. Tracking is usually done by telephone interviews or online interviews. Telephone interviews work well for ‘recall’ questions, whilst online interviews can incorporate visually-based ‘recognition’ as well as ‘recall’ questions.
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