Point of view: Ad testing isn't dead

Stan Sthanunathan
The Coca-Cola Company

Ad agency creatives say ad testing stifles creativity. Clients (especially Insights departments) insist they need accountability. While research agencies believe that ad testing works and there is enough proof of that. So who is right?

With billions of dollars spent on media annually, marketing accountability is a business imperative, especially in a challenging economic environment, and delivering against this expectation is not optional.

Most ad testing approaches deliver upwards of 70-80% accurate read of the potential impact of the ad. Very rarely have I come across ads that test well but did poorly in the marketplace. So, this level of accuracy should surely make any CFO happy.

Yet agency creatives' criticism that testing stifles creativity is also sometimes valid – too often, the conversation, post-test, revolves around a lifeless set of numbers. The emphasis for researchers should be on powerful storytelling, highlighting the implications, inspiring and provoking the creatives. When this happens, they start seeing the value in testing. They don't just get a pass/fail report card on their work. They get valuable insights for making ads work better in the future.