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If you work in an advertising agency, marketing department, or like, us, in market research, knowing the right way how to test advertising copy is essential prior to launching a campaign. For large campaigns, companies will spend tens of thousands of dollars on the media buy alone, not to mention what it takes to put the creative work together. Prior to testing a campaign, testing advertising copy ensures that it resonates with your desired audience, and, most importantly, that the ad will result in a higher probability of people taking action once they see the advertisement – by calling, going to the website, or gaining brand recognition.

At InterQ, we frequently partner with creative agencies and marketing departments to test advertising copy prior to campaign launch. In this blog, we’re going to be discussing the difference between concept testing and how to test advertising copy, with some technique suggestions for each method. Ready? Here we go.

How to test brand concepts

So let’s start off with brand concept testing. This is also known as pre-testing, and it’s typically done prior to developing the campaign concepts that will be more fully vetted in the advertising copy testing phase. This stage is still exploratory in nature. Some like to call it “ideation.” Whatever the term you want to use, it is typically qualitative in nature, meaning we gather together a room of customer-types and chat with them in a focus group setting. Essentially, during concept testing, we’re trying to figure out which ideas are going to fly. An experienced moderator will weigh some concepts against each other. The moderator will try to understand the concepts that resonate most strongly with a group, and careful attention is paid to ensuring that the audience reflects the desired purchasing audience that the product is being developed for.

Once this phase is completed, the copywriters, art directors, or marketing managers get together and put together the proposed concepts, based on the themes that the concept testing phase pointed toward.

It’s now time to test advertising copy.

How to test advertising copy

The creative teams will typically assemble 3-4 campaign executions for each theme that they’re exploring. Using mock-ups that are relatively similar to the final result, these ideas are most often tested quantitatively, using online surveys. Here, the team is looking for statistical significance. In contrast to concept testing, where rich, non-predefined feedback matters, when testing advertising copy, we want to see statistical weight behind the desired option.

The team will recruit a statistically significant number of target consumers to review the advertising concepts and pick their favorite. Online testing is now used frequently to test UX designs, online copy, pay-per-click copy, digital ads, mockups of print ads, and even mockups of OOH pieces, such as billboard or digital display designs. Online tests can be used to test videos and commercials, as well, though the testing environment isn’t as controllable as when done in person.

A second, and crucial step, to test advertising copy is to then perform recall tests at least a day after the original concepts were shown.

Memory and recall advertising copy testing

Traditionally, before the proliferation of online panels, advertising copy was tested through mailed surveys, phone calls, and by gathering people in environments where they’d see the ad mock up in conjunction with other ads to see if the new ad had any resonance. Now, with online panels, we can ask the same participants to recall what they remember about the advertising concepts after the initial test has been completed. Often this is the day after or up to a week after. The participants are again contacted and asked to take a survey. They will be asked questions based on memory (what was the brand name, what was the brand message), as well as meaning – (what was the advertisement promising, what contact method was presented for you to contact the company). These tests are an important indicator of how catchy and meaningful the ads were, when shown in the context of similar brands/product categories.

When quantitatively testing advertisement copy, it’s important to ensure that we’ll be able to meaningfully interpret the numbers, the sample is able to be separated from random noise, our process of collecting the sample is randomly selected from a desired target market, and that it is sufficiently large to form statistical significance.

Before you invest, test

In any digital context, where the competition for advertising copy, keywords, and PPC campaigns is in the tens of thousands of competitors, testing advertising copy will ensure that your ad stands out amongst the competition. Similarly, in a traditional advertising context, with a high investment, testing advertising copy helps confirm that the campaign ideas are relevant and that the copy and images are memorable. Without going through the correct methodology of testing, your company or advertising agency could be pushing out messages that are not memorable and are easily forgotten.

Interested in testing advertising copy or concepts? Request a proposal today >