ABX Advisory

Insights on Advertising Effectiveness to Boost ROI and ROAS

Should I Look at Faster, Lower Cost Options to Legacy Copy Testing?

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on Jan 4, 2017 12:04:00 PM

Taking a break from our "Data-Driven KPIs" series, today's post gets practical for those making decisions about what types of advertising effectiveness research is best for them. A recent chat with J.J. Klein, ABX Chairman, and Gary Getto, ABX President, yields today's look at when Custom or Syndicated creative testing are best.


The majority of copy testing has not changed in nearly 50 years.  These legacy systems were developed when advertisers only produced a handful of ads since they reached virtually everyone through a few dominant channels.  Thus, they could afford to custom copy test most of them despite the high cost, and focused mainly on testing TV as a standard practice.  Since everything moved at a slower pace back then, getting results back in three or four weeks was accepted.

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Today, advertisers produce hundreds of ads each year targeted to different audiences through dozens of media channels and need results quickly. But they can only afford to pretest a small percentage of their creative and despite all of the changes to the media landscape, custom copy testing is still almost exclusively on TV and video. (Image: courtesy of http://www.onlinesurveys.com.au/)

Amazingly, out of 500,000+ ads produced each year, less than 2% are pretested! The result? An incredible amount of variability with lots of good ads, but lots of really bad ads and everything in-between.  A typical distribution is shown in the graph below. Those that scored below the yellow line (which designates “average”) are an enormous waste of production and media dollars.

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According to J.J. Klein, “For decades, the ad concept testing business was really a Custom business with clients who didn’t have the budgets to measure entire campaigns.  Most advertisers would take whatever budgets were available to them and spend to develop better ways to measure TV, but never knew much about the ads after they went live. It was too expensive to test them after they had been edited.”

That’s still true for Custom pretesting, which will always have a place for big budget creative where perfection is sought.  In Custom work, the advertiser supplies the creative, usually in concept, animatic or rough-cut form, and the research company provides highly detailed reports several weeks later.  However, because of the high cost and multi-week response time, it is rare that creative that has been edited based on the results of the first test can be retested before release.

A newer methodology, Syndicated research copy testing, is emerging as a solution to the growing need to test and retest entire campaigns and competitor creative across all media types.  In this model, the research firm collects creative from monitors like Competitrack or GlobalAdSource, runs them through a survey process similar to Custom but not quite as detailed, and provides the results in 24-48 hours.  Since the cost-per-ad is so low, clients can adjust their creative and run it past the panels again before airing. 

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“Syndicated copy testing doesn’t provide the same level of detail as Custom testing for every ad, but it is about 90% as effective at a cost that is 90% less.  The same process used for pre-testing is also applied to in-market ads and provides robust creative data that can be used in market mix models and other analytics.  Your in-market trackers also become more effective since you already know how your creative is performing and can now better isolate the impact of your media plan.” said Gary Getto, President, ABX.

With Syndicated research ad testing across all the major advertising mediums, advertisers can finally measure the entire campaign and interactions and correlations between one form of media and another.

“Syndication also offers instant gratification, instant news, because the results are so quick.  Advertising is in that kind of communications space.  With each advertiser paying their fair share, suddenly very valuable data is affordable. This is the world we live in now,” said Klein.


Are you satisfied with how you are measuring advertising effectiveness?  Is it resonating through Awareness and Message, and having an impact on Reputation and Action?  ABX provides the largest normative database in the industry across all media types. On average you can improve your creative effectiveness by almost 20%

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