How useful is proposition testing?

This paper examines proposition testing as a method for setting advertising strategy and questions whether content and form can be realistically separated. It has been written by Stephen King, Manager of the Advertising Research Unit of J. Walter Thompson, and is reprinted by permission of the Advertising Quarterly.

Arguments about proposition testing tend to generate much warmth but relatively little light. The situation remains confused. Among advertisers there is a whole spectrum of views, ranging from firm belief to total disillusionment. Most agency and research men tend to be opposed, sometimes in a rather negative way; but some are using great ingenuity in devising more and more complex forms of proposition testing, and from time to time articles appear in the trade Press suggesting improvements.* What is not in doubt is the importance of setting the right advertising objectives for a brand and of using research to help in doing so. This is far too crucial an area for us to accept confusion. This article aims to examine proposition testing to see just how useful a method it really is for setting advertising strategy.