This refers to testing the campaign before it has run. The purpose of pretesting is to detect weaknesses or flaws in the campaign that may result in consumer indifference or negative response. This increases the likelihood of preparing the most effective advertising message. All the areas of advertising like-markets, motives, messages, media, budgets and scheduling may be tested.
It may be done to test two types of effects: “communication effects” and “sales effects”.
Pre-testing of advertising effects seeks to determine whether advertising objectives such as awareness, recall, attitudes and opinions, beliefs about the product and intentions to buy, have been achieved. Pretesting of sales effects seeks to determine whether a proposed message or media plan has resulted in increased sales. This type of pretesting identifies and isolates the influence of advertising on sales. A number of more advanced techniques are used for pretesting both communication effects and sales effects, both in the print and broadcast media. This brings us to the question “how campaigns should be tested”.
Given that most advertising is assigned the task of achieving specific communication goals, a number of methods have been developed for pretesting these communication effects. These may be broadly grouped under three categories:
- Opinion and attitude tests
- Mechanical laboratory methods and
- Projective techniques.
OPINION AND ATTITUDE TESTS
1. Direct Questioning: This is a method designed to obtain a full range of responses o the advertising, by asking direct questions about the advertising. Based on the responses, researchers can infer how well the advertising messages convey the key copy points.
2. Focus Groups: This is another commonly used method to pretest print ads at both the conceptual and finished stage. It is a free- wheeling discussion conducted among small groups of people and led by a “moderator”. The group may be interviewed on their reactions to advertising concepts or finished campaigns. The advantage of this method is that it is an inexpensive and quick way of obtaining insights into the advertising process. Focus groups are used extensively by Indian advertisers.
3. Dummy advertising media vehicles: This is a technique that can be applied to both print and broadcasting ads. It involves placing the “test” ads in a dummy vehicle, which resembles the actual advertising medium. In case of television commercials, the effectiveness of these may be tested by showing respondents an actual television programme, with the test commercials placed within it. Questions are then asked to measure the extent on which people recalled the test commercials.
4. Order-of-merit test: this is used mainly for pretesting print ads in finished form. A group of people are shown a series of advertisements, sometimes as many as six or seven, and asked to place them in rank order, based on some communication criterion, such as “liking”:. After all the ads have been ranked, a composite score is obtained. This score shows which ad was ranked no.1, no.2, and so on.
5. Paired comparisons: This is used when more than six or seven ads have to be rank ordered. Consumers are then asked to judge two ads at a time, and asked to choose which one is better. The process continues until each advertisement has been paired with each of the others.
6. Central Location Projection Tests: This is used for pretesting broadcast advertising. Test commercials are shown to a group of respondents along with other commercials, at a central location. Questions are asked before and after exposure to determine whether the commercials have been successful in gaining attention, increasing brand awareness and comprehension, and shifting attitudes.
7. Live Telecast tests: Here, test commercials are shown on closed- circuit or cable television. Respondents are then interviewed on the phone to test their reactions.
8. Attitude Ratings: In an earlier section, we defined attitudes as liking or dislike for a brand. Similarly, people may also form positive or negative attitudes towards ads. It is possible to measure attitudes towards ads using quantitative research techniques such as attitude rating scales.
The most commonly used type of attitude rating scale is the “semantic differential”. Under this method, respondents are asked to indicate on a seven point scale, their liking for an ad, on various dimensions.
MECHANICAL LABORATORY TESTS
These are commonly used in US and other developed countries. These include:
1. The “tachistoscope”: It is used to measure consumer perceptions to ads. Using this device, the researcher can tell how long it takes for respondents to get the intended message and how they perceive it.
This way two alternative layouts may be tested for their effectiveness.
2. The “eye camera” photographs the movement of people’s eyes while reading ads.
3. The “psychogalvanometer” is a device similar to lie-detector. It records skin temperatures and tension resulting from reading ads. The theory behind this concept is that the more tension an ad creates, the more successful it is likely to be.
4. The “pupillometer” is a device that measures a person’s pupil size when exposed to visual stimuli such as ads. The theory behind it is that the size of the pupil increases when the person finds the ad visually interesting or emotionally appalling.
It is a type of qualitative or “motivational” research adapted from clinical psychology. It permits the respondents to direct questioning, projective techniques permits respondents to indirectly project their views or feelings about the advertising situation. The following types of projective techniques are used:
1. Depth interviews: Here, respondents are shown advertising material and promoted to discuss it freely. A trained interviewer, usually a psychologist, probes the respondent about his underlying feelings and motivations.
2. “Word Association and Sentence Completion” Tests: These are a little more structured than the depth interview. Key words or sentences are used as stimuli, to which the respondent replies by projecting his thoughts. These words and sentences are taken from ads being tested. This way, the researcher can determine what they mean to the consumers.
3. Thematic Apperception Tests: In this method, pictures of people in ambiguous situations are shown to respondents. Respondents are asked to build a story around these pictures, by projecting their opinions and feelings into the story.
The problem with using projective techniques to measure advertising effectiveness is the expenses involved, including the cost of training interviewers to evoke useful responses from respondents.