Magazine article Marketing

Ad Testing: Stifling Creativity?

Magazine article Marketing

Ad Testing: Stifling Creativity?

Article excerpt

What is our job in advertising and marketing? We try to paint a fresh perspective on an object that is as complex and unique as a human-being, but may be as familiar and taken-for-granted as a spouse: a brand.

It is crucial to establish how research can help us to produce the fresh and clear advertising that inspires millions of small acts of trust; the acts of trust known as purchase.

Most research, qualitative or quantitative, fails because it is done too theoretically, too mechanistically and too late.

To illustrate this look at the role of research in the biggest purchase decision we make every four or five years: that of our Government.

The four major polls published on Election Day, when averaged out, yielded an incorrect assessment of the winning margin by one in 12 adults. How many marketers have based vital, commercial decisions on statistical margins smaller than that?

The Market Research Society investigation of the polls showed that understandable factors such as deregistration and overseas voters accounted for less than half of the discrepancy.

The major revelation appears only as a modestly phrased question: "Do people overclaim the desirable ie. their intention to vote for "worthy" or "unselfish policies?"

You do not have to be Brain of Britain to notice that a climate was created by the media and others, in which it was unacceptable to admit you were voting Tory because it was seen to be a selfish vote not an ideological one.

This is the simple, unequivocal reason why one in 12 people lied despite the apparent anonymity of the polls.

People asked a straight question sometimes don't tell the truth or at least distort it. We observe that all the time, but we refuse to believe it's a factor in research.

To find the real truth, one has to get under the skin of the data. In the week before the election, an average of 50 polls showed a dramatic strengthening of the Liberal-Democrat vote -- an increase of 2.6%. There was no apparent reason.

But as history proves, the Liberal-Democrats are a protest vote for many people; especially for those who do not wish to admit to voting Tory. The sign was there. Nobody looked behind the figures.

Too often, marketers and agencies forget they are human and become ludicrous Peter Snow figures analysing awareness indices and impact scores...and getting it wrong.

Take the joy-stick section of Link Tests. Consumers are asked to record their levels of interest during a commercial by moving a joy-stick. Aside from the simple problem that people cannot read interest or enjoyment until at least one or two seconds after noticing it in themselves, there is an added problem... When people are most involved in something, they forget to move the joy-stick.

Besides, it is undesirable and unproductive to artificially dissect something that is designed to work as a whole. One apparently uninteresting section might be an important set-up, a vital echo of something that went before, or a rational support point without which everything is just puffery.

But there is a much more dangerous enemy lurking in our midst -- the pseudo-scientific claims of "Research Systems Corporation".

A US-based company, they are claiming a guaranteed system of pre-testing that increases the odds of profitable advertising expenditure from 50:50 to 90:10 based on one measure called the "ARS Persuasion Score".

Suffice it to say that the reason "ad testing" is so popular is that it's cosy: it is far too often a lamp-post to lean against, not a lamp to illuminate. …

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