Why It’s Essential To Pre-Test And Post-Test Your Advertisements


How many times have you seen an advertisement and wondered to yourself who that was aimed at? The world is full of ads that don’t quite make sense, or are vague, boring, directed at the wrong audience, or some combination thereof. The problem is that not enough businesses do pre-testing and post-testing on their ads.

It probably seems pretty understandable that you’d want to pre-test your marketing efforts before sending them out. After all, how do you know that they’ll resonate with your audience if you don’t do some work with them beforehand?

But post-testing your marketing can be just as useful, and even more so in the right case. That’s because of the differences between pre-testing and post-testing.

For the most part, pre-testing is going to be done qualitatively. That means ideas that may still be somewhat raw are being given to respondents or focus groups, and their feedback is then potentially being incorporated into the final advertising that is actually shown. There’s more room for changes, and mistakes aren’t final.

In post-testing, you’ll be measuring the results quantitatively. You’re no longer thinking about what you might want to change, or how different angles will impact the effectiveness of the advertising. In post-testing, you need to know how effective your ad actually was—was it seen by the audience you’re targeting? How did it affect brand recall? Would they be likely to buy your product after seeing the ad? Was there an eventual spike in sales that can be traced to the advertising?


One thing to keep in mind is that you should be testing many of the same benchmarks that you looked at in pre-testing. That way you can compare the results with your expectations. How accurate were your predictions regarding the ad’s success?

So what can happen if you decide not to test your advertising?

Companies Whose Ads Flopped

During the 2011 Super Bowl, Groupon aired a commercial that began as though it was an impassioned plea for help for the oppressed region of Tibet. It quickly turned on a dime and made light of the situation with a joke about fish curry.

Needless to say, many people were outraged, and most simply thought it was in bad taste. Groupon had to pull the commercial, apologize, and sit through a lambasting on social media.

And this happens all the time. Sometimes you may not even see the original ad in question because it gets pulled so quickly. Pepsi’s recent commercial starring Kendall Jenner was pulled almost immediately because of the backlash they received on social media and news outlets—most of whom accused it of making light of the Black Lives Matter movement and using protests to sell soda.

Even Bud Light came under fire for a message on their bottles that billed it as “the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” somehow not realizing the fairly obvious sexual assault connotations in that sentence.

And when you see these ads, you have to wonder who approved them? Did they show them to their target audience beforehand? It seems like many of these issues could have easily been avoided with testing.


Getting It Right

But then there are ad campaigns that seem to get it just right. They hit the perfect note at the perfect time. Do you remember Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign for the Chrysler 200? It featured Eminem, the beat from his song “Lose Yourself,” and a gritty paean to the Motor City. It all worked beautifully, and Chrysler actually posted its first profitable quarter since its bankruptcy in 2009 after the ad came out.

Making an ad like that takes a lot more testing, questioning, and rethinking than you might imagine. Is Eminem the right celebrity to use? What places in Detroit are most iconic and recognizable? How will the sound of the narrator’s voice change the tone of the ad? Those are the types of questions that ad testing can answer for you.

What Should You Test?

Three of those examples were TV commercials, but remember that the Bud Light message was a tagline on their bottles, and it still caused an uproar. It’s not only your television or internet ads that should be tested, but the entire spectrum of communications that you have with your customers.

That can include marketing copy, logos, videos, labels, and any other creative marketing efforts you have aimed at your customers.

This can be critical for your brand because you truly have to know that your marketing efforts are being well-received by your target demographics. A poorly received ad may not necessarily do damage, like with our earlier examples, but it certainly doesn’t provide you with the benefits that your advertising is supposed to bestow.

What To Expect

When you pre- and post-test your communications, you’ll be receiving direct feedback from consumers in your target audience, and you’ll have a better understanding of what works for them and what doesn’t. You’ll be armed with real feedback from consumers, and you can tailor your advertising and marketing efforts to more effectively move them down your brand funnel.