5 tips for choosing an ad testing platform

So, you need to test an ad. Which ad testing platform will work best for you depends on more than just speed and cost.
28 April 2021
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leila buckley

Head of Market Activation, Kantar Marketplace

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Advertising testing has been around for a long time, but it is a practice that has never stopped evolving. Ad testing platforms now offer speed and agility at a reasonable cost; however, it can be a challenge to find the right one. With that in mind, here are five tips that can help you choose the right ad testing platform based on your needs.

1. Check the platform’s ad testing credentials

There is far more to choosing a good ad testing platform than speed, cost, and a good user interface. Advancements in technology have made it relatively easy for tech-first market research companies to enter the space – but that does not guarantee that best-practice research design principles are built into their software.

Take the time to understand the depth and breadth of the platform’s history with ad pre-testing. Do they offer proof that their test can anticipate sales results? Do they cover the countries you need to test in? Can they provide the normative data you will need? Normative context – or comparison against a sample of other brands’ ads – can be extremely valuable in quantifying performance but benchmarks should be sensitive to market and media differences to be truly meaningful.

2. Identify what decisions you need to make based on the results of the ad test

Before you begin testing, ask yourself what conclusions you need to make based on the data: for example, do you simply need to understand whether the creative is fit for purpose (a go/no go decision) or are you looking for more in-depth guidance on content optimization? Additionally, consider the level of risk associated with these decisions, how much time you have and how much influence you have in shaping the content. The answers to these questions will determine the type of pre-test you need.

A good ad pre-testing platform will provide different levels of depth based on the advertising decisions you’ll be making. And depending on your needs, you may want to consider not only the survey questions but also what additional methods are offered, like facial coding and non-verbal response measurement.

3. Understand the platform’s technical support and add-on service options

More and more companies that have in-house insights teams are turning to self-serve ad testing solutions. Self-serve shouldn't mean you have to do it alone, however.

These days, the timelines for most ad testing projects are incredibly tight. If something goes wrong, you’ll want to make sure that technical support is responsive and accessible 24/7. Similarly, if the findings from your test are inconclusive or seem contradictory, you may want help interpreting the findings. Particularly when it comes to understanding ad test results, it helps to have specialized research expertise and hands-on advertising experience readily available.

4. Determine the criteria against which you'll measure your ad’s success

Effective advertising should cut through and deliver against the marketing objectives set for that piece of content – whether it’s short-term sales, building brand awareness or another goal. Different brands will have different objectives, and even a single brand’s objectives, will change over time. A good ad test should predict both the ad’s effect on short-term sales and longer-term brand building. Will the content help reinforce the brand’s meaningful difference and influence sales not just now but for the future?

Before committing to an ad testing tool, make sure that its pre-test has a solid framework that can be adapted to your various advertising objectives. This will allow you to set KPIs according to the task in hand, while still utilizing a consistent framework across all your tests.

5. Assess the robustness of the results dashboard

Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant and been disappointed because of the way the food was presented on the plate? Like the entrée you receive at the restaurant, you want the reporting findings to be presented in a way that is visually appealing and easy to digest.

Is the design clean, simple, and intuitive? Does it draw your immediate attention to the key findings? Can you export the findings? Can you quickly and effortlessly get to the insights and – more importantly – share them with colleagues?

Additionally, consider whether the platform offers additional benefits beyond providing study level data. Some platforms like Kantar Marketplace offer a library of your past studies, allowing you to compare results and draw insights across studies. The ability to conduct meta-analysis can offer tremendous opportunities for longer term, more strategic analysis and learnings.

Ad testing platforms have the potential to transform the way we work

Maybe all you need right now is to test a single ad. One test and done. But maybe there is an opportunity to transform the way you do research beyond just speed and cost.

These days brands are seeking a different approach to the way they do things, either to help them fail fast and learn quick or to embed a more iterative way of working. In this instance it is worth having a closer look at what else the platform could provide.

Global reach means that the right ad testing platform can be standardized across countries and categories, using the same metrics to make decisions and compare effectiveness. Such platforms have the potential to become test and learn systems that distil best practices specific to your brand’s advertising and product categories. Automated research platforms can offer more than just a test.

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