Copy Testing


Copy testing is a specialized field of marketing research that determines an ad’s effectiveness based on consumer responses, feedback, and behavior. Also known as pre-testing, it covers all media channels including television, print, radio, internet, and social media.

Features of an Effective Copy Testing System

In 1982, a consortium of 21 leading advertising agencies— including N. W. Ayer, D’Arcy, Grey, McCann Erickson, Needham Harper & Steers, Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, and Young & Rubicam—released a public document where they laid out the PACT (Positioning Advertising Copy Testing) Principles on what constitutes a good copy testing system. PACT states a good copy testing system must meet the following criteria:

  1. Provides measurements which are relevant to the objectives of the advertising.
  2. Requires agreement about how the results will be used in advance of each specific test.
  3. Provides multiple measurements, because single measurements are generally inadequate to assess the performance of an advertisement.
  4. Based on a model of human response to communications—the reception of a stimulus, the comprehension of the stimulus, and the response to the stimulus.
  5. Allows for consideration of whether the advertising stimulus should be exposed more than once.
  6. Recognizes that the more finished a piece of copy is, the more soundly it can be evaluated and requires, as a minimum, that alternative executions be tested in the same degree of finish.
  7. Provides controls to avoid the biasing effects of the exposure context.
  8. Takes into account basic considerations of sample definition.
  9. Demonstrates reliability and validity.

Types of Copy Testing Measurements

Recall Measures

The predominant copy testing measure of the 1950s and 1960s, Burke’s Day-After-Recall (DAR) was interpreted to measure an ad’s ability to “break through” into the mind of the consumer and register a message from the brand in long-term memory. Once this measure was adopted by Procter and Gamble, it became a research staple.[1] In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, validation efforts found no link between recall scores and actual sales.[2][3][4][5][6] In addition, Wharton University’s Leonard Lodish conducted an even more extensive review of test market results and also failed to find a relationship between recall and sales.[7]

Persuasion Measurement

In the 1970s and 1980s, after DAR was determined to be a poor predictor of sales, the research industry began to depend on a measure of persuasion as an accurate predictor of sales. This shift was led, in part, by researcher Horace Schwerin who pointed out, “the obvious truth is that a claim can be well remembered but completely unimportant to the prospective buyer of the product—the solution the marketer offers is addressed to the wrong need” (Honomichl).

As with DAR, it was Procter and Gamble’s acceptance of the ARS Persuasion measure (also known as brand preference) that made it an industry standard. Recall scores were still provided in copy testing reports with the understanding that persuasion was the measure that mattered (Honomichl). Harold Ross of Mapes & Ross found that persuasion was a better predictor of sales than recall[8] , and the predictive validity of ARS Persuasion to sales has been reported in numerous juried publications (Adams & Blair; Jones & Blair; MASB; Mondello).

Diagnostic Measures

The main purpose of diagnostic measures is optimization. Understanding diagnostic measures can help advertisers identify creative opportunities to improve executions.



  1. ^ Honomichl, J. J. Honomichl on Marketing Research, Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books, 1986.
  2. ^ Adams, A. J., & M. H. Blair. “Persuasive Advertising and Sales Accountability: Past Experience and Forward Validation.” Journal of Advertising Research, March/April 1992: 20–25.
  3. ^ Blair, M. H. “An Empirical Investigation of Advertising Wearin and Wearout.” Journal of Advertising Research, 27, 6 (1987): 45–50.
  4. ^ Blair, M. H., & A. R. Kuse. “Better Practices in Advertising Can Change a Cost of Doing Business to Wise Investments in the Business.” Journal of Advertising Research, March 2004: 71-89.
  5. ^ Blair, M. H., & M. J. Rabuck. “Advertising Wearin and Wearout: Ten Years Later.” Journal of Advertising Research. October 1998: 7–18.
  6. ^ Jones, J. P., & M. H. Blair. “Examining ‘Conventional Wisdoms’ About Advertising Effects With Evidence From Independent Sources.” Journal of Advertising Research, November/December 1996: 37-59.
  7. ^ Lodish, L. M., M. Abraham, S. Kalmenson, J. Livelsberger, B. Lubetkin, B. Richardson, & M. E. Stevens. “How TV Advertising Works: A Meta-Analysis of 389 Real World Split Cable TV Advertising Experiments.” Journal of Marketing Research, May 1995: 125-139.
  8. ^ Ross, H. “Recall vs. Persuasion: An Answer.” Journal of Marketing Research, 1982, 22(1): 13-16.

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