Ad Concept Testing: Benefits, Process, and Example Questions

Ad Concept Testing: Benefits, Process, and Methods

Ad concept testing is like taking a test drive before purchasing a car.

This is a large investment, so it is important the vehicle will meet all your expectations. The same can be said for marketing and advertising campaigns.

We have all been there. The light bulb goes off in your head. This is the golden idea for an advertisement about your company's newest offering.

It is engaging, entertaining, and effective all at once. It sounds like a recipe for success! But wait…what if the message doesn't ultimately resonate with the audience?

What if you spend your entire marketing budget on an advertisement that doesn’t offer any ROI?

And to top it off, your co-worker just had another great idea that sounds like it could work, too.

So, where does your marketing and advertising team go from here?

Put these ad concepts to the test. In this blog post, our market research company will share how our team helps clients with ad concept testing research.


What is ad concept testing?

The easiest way to explain ad concept testing is that it is a way to develop and refine marketing campaigns before they go public. As we like to say at Drive Research, it is essentially a test drive.

Asking key questions among the target audience can get you answers about factors such as:

  • Pricing
  • Ad copy or messaging
  • Graphics and visuals
  • Advertising channels

Whether the goal is awareness or conversions, the only way to really know if your ad is compelling enough is to concept test.

Once the feedback is gathered from respondents, an analysis of the data will often reveal new ideas and revisions to give your campaign the best chance for success.


What are the benefits of ad concept testing?

Using data to select the right campaign is almost sure to save your company money.

Before you invest any unnecessary time and resources into these ideas, find out which one gives you the best chance to increase the return on investment.

Ad concept testing allows a company to put several ideas in front of a target audience and get honest reactions to help make decisions.

If there are a lot of directions you could go with your campaign, you will be glad you completed ad concept testing.

Our market research company often recommends concept testing for advertising to brands who are:

  • Promoting a new product or service
  • Referencing a sensitive topic
  • Speaking to a new target demographic or market

What research methods are available for ad concept testing?

Your organization won't be short of options if you are looking to conduct ad concept testing. In this section, Drive Research has provided a few ideas of effective qualitative and quantitative research methods.

1. 1-on-1 Interviews

A detailed way to conduct ad concept testing is via in-depth interviews with a single participant.

In these interviews, an ad concept may be presented to the participant in-person as a sample advertisement or read over the phone.

The advantage of this approach to testing is the wealth of information you can collect from following-up on the participant's answers to previous questions.

Any response that is particularly interesting can be probed to understand why the participant feels a certain way.

This kind of depth is useful for discovering new ideas to incorporate into the ad campaign. Ads still in the beginning stages of development may be a good fit for 1-on-1 interviews.

2. Online Surveys

Another way to test potential advertisements is through surveys administered online.

Concepts can be easily programmed into a survey as an image, text, or video for the respondent to review.

A benefit of all online surveys, the data gathered from respondents can be measured to give clear, statistically significant results.

Ads and ad preferences may be compared across respondent segments, as well.

Consider online surveys for ad concept testing when there are established ideas that can be tested against one another, whether they are all internal ideas or an internal idea vs. a competitor ad.

3. Focus Groups

The third option for ad concept testing is to conduct focus groups. In this setting, ad concepts would be introduced to a handful of focus group participants by the moderator.

Concepts could be included in an activity or displayed on a screen for discussion as a couple of examples at a focus group facility.

Similar to the 1-on-1 interviews, focus groups would facilitate interactive conversations about the ad concepts. The benefit of the group dynamic would be how the participants play off of one another and spark ideas about the concepts.

Interested in renting a focus group facility? Here are four factors to consider before making your choice.


What is the process of ad concept testing?

The best way to explain the process of ad concept testing is with a real-world client example from our market research company.

In this section, we will explain an online survey we conducted to help a life insurance company.

The Challenge

Many people hate the concept of talking about or acknowledging their own mortality. Plus, there is little to no gratification that leads to making this type of investment.

As a result, selling and advertising life insurance is no easy feat. It requires unique advertising messaging that stands out and resonates with their target audience.

In this case, a life insurance company was interested in creating a marketing campaign with light-hearted and humorous undertones.

Because they were selling a sensitive topic, our client wanted to conduct ad concept testing to make sure they would not offend potential customers.

The Solution

Our New York market research company recommended using an online survey to collect feedback for the advertising concepts.

While there are a variety of methods one may choose for ad concept testing, online surveys are beneficial to those who are looking for quick, actionable, and inexpensive feedback.

How to recruit respondents

To recruit respondents in the stated geographies, the concept testing survey was administered using a targeted email list to residents in defined geographies specified by the life insurance agency.

Survey targeting criteria

The targeting criteria for the survey included:

  • Those aged 21 to 54
  • All genders
  • S. residents
  • 80% parents and 20% no children
  • Filtering out those who work in life insurance, advertising, and public relations

The number of survey responses

The life insurance company requested a sample size of 1,000, which offers a +/- 3% margin of error.

This means if the survey were conducted 100 times, 95 out of the 100 times results would yield within +3% or -3% of the stated totals.

The survey questions

The survey measured and explored emotions and attitudes around the advertising concepts. It included a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions with visuals.

The concept survey also consisted of advertising videos from the client to gather the reactions of respondents. The survey included questions such as:

  • Overall did you think the campaign was funny, boring, offensive, relatable, opportunistic, unexpected, depressing, or light-hearted?
  • Would you share this campaign with your friends?
  • Does this campaign make you more like to consider [INSERT CLIENT NAME] for your life insurance needs?
  • Do you have any other thoughts or feedback on the overall campaign?

The survey length

On average, the survey took no more than 7 to 10 minutes to complete and included up to 25 questions.

The Process

Drive Research follows a systematic in-house approach our team has built for ad concept testing projects.

Our method uses a step-by-step and task-oriented approach to project management from kickoff through completion, guiding, and communicating with the client throughout.

The process our market research firm follows for a concept testing survey includes:

  • Scheduling a kickoff meeting to discuss key objectives, timeline, and expectations with the client.
  • Sending a project workplan to assure both parties understand each step and due date of the concept testing research.
  • Writing and programming the questionnaire based on the client’s objectives.
  • Launching the ad concept survey to a small sample of respondents. This verifies the survey is working as intended and respondents are comprehending questions as needed.
  • Fully launching the survey to a larger pool of respondents and performing quality data checks as fieldwork continues.
  • Creating live dashboards so the client can see responses as soon as they come in. This dashboard also offers cross-tabulations of charts and graphs.
  • Executing the survey analysis and reporting. The life insurance client received a report that included a background, executive summary with themes, and recommendations.

The Impact

The results helped fuel the next steps in marketing and strategy for the life insurance company by offering facts and evidence from residents in the market area.

Based on respondent feedback the client was able to measure what percentage of their target demographic would resonate with the ad – or be offended.

While the actual results of the ad concept testing survey remain private with the life insurance agency, they were happy to have concrete evidence to guide their decision-making.


Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is an ad concept testing market research company. Our team works with small and large organizations all across the United States and across the world.

We can help you design, field, analyze, and report on an ad concept testing study for your company.

Interested in learning more about our market research services? Contact us.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily carroll about the author

Emily Carroll

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Coordinator. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.


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