By Michael Wolfe
We know that across some areas of research and analytics, there has not been a lot of change in how data is reported over the years. Advertising or copy testing, in my opinion, is one of them. Well, this is in the process of changing. Several months ago, I connected with a little-known ad testing firm called Advertising Benchmark Index or ABX. This company has been around since 2010, but primarily as a supplier to suppliers. They are now offering services direct to advertisers.
ABX is a new and refreshing paradigm for ad testing. They do both custom ad pretesting and also have a syndicated service of tests for ads already in the market. Their key point-of-difference is that they have automated their online interviewing process such that they have driven out about 80% of the cost of ad tests, compared to other and more established testing firms. What this has done for clients, is provide them with ad-testing data for “all ads” across “all media channels”. Also, ABX reports and compares ad test scores across all relevant competitor brands. As shown below, for the casual restaurant category, in one chart, you can see total brand performance across all ad channels and all brands.
Back in the days when I worked on the client side and for a major ad agency, I was pretty involved in ad copy testing. Because of the relative high expense of each copy test, clients seldom had the luxury to test all of their produced ads. Generally, clients would only copy test about 10 to 20% of their ad inventory. Also, for the most part, copy tests were limited to mostly TV and perhaps some print, but not other channels. Because ABX has streamlined the testing process at lower costs, clients can now see test results for all their ads. Below is a report of all ads tested for one company’s brands. One of the major benefits that ABX has to offer is that, because they complete all ad tests in less than 48 hours, brands have enough time to substitute higher scoring ads for weaker performing ads and have a pathway for improving overall effectiveness. This can add $5M to $40M in revenue for most brands.
Testing All of One Company’s Ads across Media
With all of this, there is one last benefit from the ABX ad testing that, in my opinion, supersedes all the others. That is the ABX testing scores have been and can be validated with actual sales. One retailer client, for example, reported that by scaling their advertising data in a marketing-mix model with the ABX test scores, the overall statistical fits of their models improved by 15%. All of this permits the actual measurement and monetization of ad creative. Ad agencies, take notice.
ABX now has the world’s largest normative database for ad testing. Beneath the curtain, each test produces measures or KPI’s, which provide deep diagnostics for each ad. There are 5 KPI’s derived from each test. These include (1) branding-recall, (2) message cut-through, (3) ad impact on brand reputation, (4) likeability and (5) various calls-to-action, including purchase-intent. All of these data are reported on a company online portal.
The future of ad testing
As Stan Sthanunathan, VP of CMI at Unilever said, he wants “better metrics, faster and cheaper”. In the important area of ad effectiveness metrics, ABX shows how they are addressing this issue by delivering 100% ad testing coverage in under 48 hours at lower costs than their peers. This certainly is a different and new paradigm from past ad-testing regimes; and they could be setting themselves up as the standard bearer for future ad testing in the MR industry.
I was a little skittish about writing this article because I didn’t want to sound like a commercial. But true innovation needs to be reported, wherever and however it appears. This is the real thing.