Digital advertising: the ultimate focus group

Image from “The world is your focus group.”

A situation came up today that often emerges in large campaigns for big clients: do we have time to focus test the copy?

This is a natural reaction by marketing and communications professionals. You’ve got to be careful, after all, before you commit time and money to the production of all those print and broadcast ads that will go out there and live on — potentially — forever.

But this is a digital-only campaign. Banner ads. And really simple ones, at that. The look and feel is established, and the only element at question  is some novel copy.

“Do we have time to test it?” Yes, you do. By running the campaign, and watching the analytics.

As long as you are sure that your new messaging is on-brand and will not cause unintended offence or ridicule, there’s no better way to measure creative performance than simply counting the click-through. (Along with social media monitoring for unsolicited reactions and commentary.)

It’s common practice in pay-per-click media, such as Google Adwords, or Facebook Social Ads. These require nothing but creation and input of copy, so they can easily be created as a multitude of messages to compete with each other among highly-targeted audiences. But more dynamic banner ads take a little more work. And their worth it.

Wondering which words will pull the most clicks? Expose the different headlines to separate, but statistically identical, markets. You’ll find out almost instantly which one is more successful. The same goes with imagery. Colours. Etc.

The only real risk is to inundate people with too many messages, and create confusion. But al long as you are consistent on the basics of strategy and brand, and you have an efficient and responsive agency, it’s probably worth it.


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