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Copy testing is an aspect of marketing research where a company analyzes advertising material before releasing it. The company wants to determine how effective the material is so it can decide if it needs adjustment before it is ready for prime time. Companies can save a lot of money by copy testing, as the ad will run right the first time. It can also prevent embarrassment or a black mark on a company's reputation by allowing it to catch a potentially offensive advertisement before members of the public see it.
Companies can use a variety of techniques in copy testing. One option is to show the advertisement to a small group of individuals and gauge their response. This is often done through a marketing firm that regularly conducts marketing research and has the necessary tools to present materials and evaluate responses. Advertising research firms can also subject materials to scrutiny in their own facilities, with analysts who will determine if an ad meets a stated goal or needs work to be functional for the company's needs.
Concerns with copy testing include whether consumers will understand the ad, if it successfully targets the right demographic, and how consumers feel about it. In testing where the ad is shown to small groups, the analysts usually film the response and have the members of the group fill out a survey. Analysts can examine real-time responses like changes in facial expression during a video advertisement, and the survey can provide more information about how consumers felt while watching the ad.
One purpose of copy testing is to eliminate ads that simply do not work. If consumers don't seem to get the ad, are confused by the contents, or take away the wrong message, the company knows it needs work. This might be as simple as changing the flow to make it more logical. In other cases, it can require more extensive retooling. Sometimes an ad makes sense in development, but doesn't work in the wild. A company might realize, for example, that an ad contains content consumers may read as racist and find offensive.
The process can also include evaluating whether it is appropriate for the target demographic. Copy testing may show that the people who are supposed to get something out of the ad find it not to their taste, or experience conflicting emotions. The target demographic might be bored or disinterested in the material. Changes can shift the presentation and focus consumers so they pay attention. This can be especially important when a company branches out operations into new countries. Consumers in different regions of the world may respond differently to the same advertising material, and the company needs to make a good impression when it introduces itself in a new market.