by Chris Hubble, CEO at Bastion db5
Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have about your advertising campaigns, the more powerful they will be! If you want to make sure that your ads are helping to achieve your sales and marketing goals, engaging in a copy test prior to paying a pretty penny for media placement could be worth your while in the long run. This type of research allows companies to test out their position in the marketplace and the quality of their campaign before further investing in the ad. This is often done with a rough cut of the spot to minimize investment.
Some are reluctant to copy test, asserting that it doesn’t always provide an accurate snapshot of the target market and could potentially cause a brand to move forward with a spot that’s not performing at its full potential. This might be the case for generic market research that doesn’t address the needs of the campaign. However, effective research can help a business create a better advertisement that has a significantly higher chance of performing better.
First things first
Before developing the parameters of your copy test, the best course of action is to first determine if testing will in fact be useful. In some cases, testing isn’t the right path. Consider these situations to decide if copy testing is right for your campaign:
Budget – When the expense of research is disproportionate to the media budget, it doesn’t make sense to test. Market research can cost $20,000 and upwards, so the numbers must make sense.
Researcher advice – A researcher might advise against testing if they are not able to construct a valid test that would add worthwhile value or insights.
Time – It won’t make sense to test if there is too narrow of a window between creation and launch, especially if there isn’t time for revisions or edits once the results have been tabulated. Take as an example the recent Peloton ad meant to boost sales of the company’s popular exercise bike. If you haven’t seen it yet, the ad caused a lot of buzz with many criticizing the spot for being sexist and unrealistic/unrelatable. In order to strike while the iron was hot, Ryan Reynolds’ liquor company, Aviation Gin, created a spot with the same actress hinting at the Peloton ad, but not outright mentioning it. This type of ad was definitely a risk but putting the spot through copy testing to see how it would be received by the target market would have taken too long and the gin distiller would have missed capitalizing on the hype. In the end, it payed off for Reynolds with people loving the quickly produced spot.
Philosophical rejection – Sometimes sales management is averse to copy testing, in which case no actionable steps will be taken from the results to adjust advertisements, so it doesn’t make sense to test.
Creating the right method
Once you’ve decided that you have the time and budget for copy testing, it’s important to develop a test that will optimize results. The copy test must be able to provide maximizations and minimizations in order to give a complete view of performance. These are different based on the stage of the ad copy, but ultimately end with the company having the flexibility to do something different and create a better advertisement. Depending on the stage of the ad (finished or rough draft), maximization allows advertisers to refine before they run a spot, understand insights before they execute and avoid wasting money on an ad that won’t perform—or worse, cause backlash. Minimizations will reassure advertisers before they move forward and help convince them that the spot is heading in the right direction before committing to creating a finalized draft.
In order to provide both maximizations and minimizations, research should measure how ads deliver against the company’s goals, not against a standard database of metrics. Similarly to the way Bastion db5 studied the maximization and minimization of traditional Budweiser Clydesdale ads.
The method in action: Budweiser Clydesdales
In a recent internal case study, the research team at Bastion db5 embarked on a copy testing journey studying Budweiser. The iconic Clydesdales have been featured in Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads for over 30 years. While the majestic horses do reinforce brand familiarity and are authentic and true to their brand voice, the ads weren’t telling viewers anything new and compelling. After conducting our own highly personalized copy testing and analysis, we found that the spot was under-performing in two main areas: Persuasion and Purchase Response. How can Budweiser increase their sales when their spot is failing to persuade their target market to purchase their product? Simply put, it can’t.
With these insights, it was no surprise Anheuser-Busch shifted away from using Clydesdales in a $4.5M 30 second Super Bowl ad.
Cause and effect
If businesses want to create better ads, copy testing can be a productive and smart move. The most effective market research will be strategic and designed around the goals of the company and the spot. A generic copy test could push a brand to move forward with an advertisement that’s underperforming. Effective research is the key to gain the knowledge and insights needed to shape the direction of messaging before launch.
Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. Before founding db5 in 2009, Chris served as Chief Executive Officer at Hall & Partners USA. Chris has 30+ years of experience in consumer insights with particular expertise in new product development, brand strategy, brand communications, and customer experience. He’s worked with over 50% of Fortune 500 clients. Bastion db5 has also done work for Yahoo!, Verizon Media, and BuzzFeed.