When an advertisement is finished, it can be subjected to a number of other tests before being released.
Many of the pre-testing methods occur in an artificial environment such as the theatre, laboratory or meeting room. One way of testing so that the reader’s natural environment is used is to produce a dummy or pretend magazine that can be consumed at home, work or wherever readers normally read magazines. Dummy magazines contain regular editorial matter with test advertisements inserted next to control advertisements. These pretend magazines are distributed to a random sample of households, who are asked to consume the magazine in their normal way. Readers are encouraged to observe the editorial and at a later date they are asked questions about both the editorial and the advertisements.
The main advantage of using dummy vehicles is that the setting is natural, but, as with the focus group, the main disadvantage is that respondents are aware that they are part of a test and may respond unnaturally.
Respondents are shown a number of ads, and then asked which they remembered, what they liked about the ad, and so on.
Going back to the previous example, the Kotak Mahindra ad stood out in such a test because (according to respondents) it was a financial services advertisements, which had no finance aspect to it.
The readability test involves, among other things, determining the average number of syllables per 100 words of copy, the average length of sentence and the percentage of personal words and sentences. By accounting for the educational level of the target audience and by comparing results with established norms, the tests suggest that comprehension is best when sentences are short, words are concrete and familiar, and personal references are used frequently.
Such norms are especially used when it comes to designing ads for hoardings. There are established norms as to the minimum font size a text should have to avoid being missed.
Ads also try to have shorter sentences, fewer than eight words, and avoid using words like “ because”, “ and so” etc.
As a way of testing finished broadcast advertisements, target consumers are invited to a theatre (laboratory or hall) to preview television programmes. Before the programme commences, details regarding the respondents’ demographic and attitudinal details are recorded and they are asked to nominate their product preferences from a list. At the end of the viewing their evaluation of their programme is sought and they are also requested to complete their product preferences a second time.
There are a number of variations on this theme: one is to telephone the respondents few days after the viewing to measure recall. The main outcome of this process is ameasure of a degree to which product preferences change as a result of exposure to the controlled viewing. This change is referred to as the persuasion shift. This approach provides for a quantitative dimension to be added to the testing process, as the scores recorded by respondents can be used to measure the effectiveness of advertisements and provide benchmarks for future testing.
It is argued that this form of testing is too artificial and that the measure of persuasion shift is too simple and unrealistic. Furthermore, some believe that many respondents know what s happening and make changes because it is expected of them in the role of respondent.