Why Test Advertising Messages?

Every business owner needs to test advertising messages. If you do not test messages before rolling out your ad campaign you might be doing more harm than good, wasting your advertising budget on an effort that is destined to fail, or will fall short of your expectations or targets.

I have spent a significant part of my advertising life producing radio commercials for small to medium businesses. These are typically the type of companies who do not have the budget for a full service advertising agency, or might have their own in-house marketing department who needed someone to produce their ads. I have also been hired by advertising agencies to produce commercials for their clients. In fact, I still do radio commercials today. I have a simple radio commercial blog where you can find samples of my work… you can find it my just simply searching for radio commercials on Google… it is ranked number 1 for searchers in the Philippines, primarily because my primary client base is in the Philippines. I have also spent some time producing TV ads and local travel shows. This is how it usually works and if you are a business owner, you might know this to be true.

Let’s say you need to advertise a dated promo or a sale, or maybe even an institutional radio commercial for your business. I am sure the first people you get to talk to about this would likely be the radio station where you plan to advertise on, they would likely offer to produce your radio commercial for you free of charge, and include it in the advertising package. This happens when the Account Executive for your account also produces radio ads, if it is a big enough account then he makes a hefty commission from the placement and so would not mind producing the ad himself. He can also opt to pay a colleague a nominal fee to produce the ad. Either way what they usually do is just get information from you, then put together the radio ad copy, get it approved by you, then produce it. After they produce it, they start airing it, and voila.. your radio ad is now on the airwaves.

Ask yourself this question, what basis or data do you have to say that the advertising messages in the radio copy are going to be effective. How do you know that the wording or offer in the ad will cause a listener to take action? You don’t! There is no data, there is no testing.

This is pretty much the same on TV; where SME’s who wish to advertise on TV tap a TV company to give them a proposal for TV advertising spots and maybe a budget for the production of a TV ad. Some companies engage the services of multimedia or video production companies like Eight Thumbs to produce their TV commercial. Again the process works the same as above, production company puts together a concept or story, presents client with concept/budget, client approves, production company gets to work and submits final and approved product to the client.

Again, no testing of messages or offers to see which would be most effective in getting the TV ad viewer to take action.

This is also the same for print and design.

So how do you test your advertising messages? Here is the process I recommend.

Step 1 – Create Your Offer (O)

Write down 1-2 offers or a unique selling proposition that you want to get across to your audience.

You would need 1-2 offers to see which one is the most compelling as far as wording. This pretty much can be the same offer, but only worded differently using power words that catch consumers attention fast.

Step 2 – Create a Call to Action (A)

Identify specific and quantifiable actions that you want your target audience to do. Ask yourself this question, at the end of the advertisement, what is it you want your audience to do? Call a number, send an email, visit a website, visit your store? Write down 1-2 of these.

This way, you are able to identify which action is likely to be the most effective, and then use that action on your ad copy or across the board (radio, tv, print) to ensure that your ad will deliver the highest number of actions from your audience.

Step 3 – Create a Fast Action Bonus or One Time Offer (B)

What added fast action bonus or one time offer can you give them to serve as an incentive to immediately take the action you want them to do? Do you want them to call today and get an added 20% on a purchase? Or if they email you with their contact details they get a free product (tie up partner) with their purchase? Again, write down 1-2 of these.

You want to find out which bonus is most appealing to your audience that serves as the right motivation for them to perform the desired action.

Step 4 – Testing

You would need to combine the elements above, with the ultimate goal of finding out which combination of the three above, delivered the highest number of conversions.

To do that, you would need to put them to the test on the web, since testing on the web is affordable and accountable, and allows you to track behavior of your audience. Behavior in relation to the wording of your online advertisement text you use for the test and behavior in relation to the offer on the page they land on.

Landing Page Creation


So given the 2 variants of each element above, you would have a total of 8 different test messages. You would then need to create 8 different landing pages on your website, each landing page focused on each of those messages.

Let me give you a legend.
O=Offer
A=Action
B=Bonus

So the different versions would yield the following combinations.

Test Message 1
O1=Offer Version 1
A1=Action Version 1
B1=Bonus Version 1

Test Message 2
O2=Offer Version 2
A2=Action Version 2
B2=Bonus Version 2

Test Message 3
O1=Offer Version 1
A1=Action Version 1
B2=Bonus Version 2

Test Message 4
O1=Offer Version 1
A2=Action Version 2
B1=Bonus Version 1

Test Message 5
O2=Offer Version 2
A1=Action Version 1
B1=Bonus Version 1

Test Message 6
O2=Offer Version 2

A2=Action Version 2

B1=Bonus Version 1

Test Message 7
O2=Offer Version 2
A1=Action Version 1

B2=Bonus Version 2

Test Message 8
O1=Offer Version 1
A2=Action Version 2
B2=Bonus Version 2

Send Traffic to Landing Pages
There are man ways to send traffic but I will keep things simple and recommend 2 methods. What is important is, you would need to use Google’s Free Web Optimizer so that you send traffic to one URL, but the web optimizer will rotate all the 8 pages displaying a different page for every new visitor that lands on the URL. Each time a new visitor lands on that URL they see a different page/advertisement, but if they go back to the URL, they will only see the same page that they saw when they first landed so they are not aware that you are testing and rotating different pages with different messages.

Make sure that you have Google Analytics tracking installed on your pages so that you are able to see the behavior of visitors on those pages.

Email. You can simply send out a message via email with a link that you want them to click.

Social Networks. You can post a link on your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Multiply, Linked In) for people to click.

Step 5 – Evaluating Results
There are generally two things I would look for to establish if a web page and content on a page (your test advertising message) is effective.

First, is engagement. I would check how people that landed on a page behaved. Did they stay long and browse other pages or did they leave in a matter of seconds. Staying long on a site and browsing more pages are signs of good engagement, which means the offer on the landing page (page that they first landed on your site) which you are testing is effective.

Second, is conversions. The Google Optimizer and Google Analytics asks you to create a goal page, this is a page that visitors arrive at only after performing a certain action. Find out which of the 8 different pages you are testing has the highest number of conversions, then you have found your winning advertising message. If however an action you want to measure is a phone call, and are testing two different actions, each action should have its own phone number. So that if people call phone number 1 (associated with A1) more times than they call phone number 2 (associated with A2) you know which offer or bonus is more effective.

An even simpler method of testing is to simply create two different advertising messages, and put them on two different pages. Then send a batch of visitors to one page and another batch of visitors to the other page and track which converts better.

If you do not want conversions as a metrics gauge for your test, you can simply get a poll or survey. Where you send out an email to people asking them to rate which of the two pages had an advertising message they were more likely to take action on.

What is important here is, you have been able to methodically develop data to support your choice of advertising messages that you use on your radio, TV or print ad copy. Advertising messages that are either proven to work or voted by people as messages that would work on them.

Using this strategy will help improve conversions on your advertising efforts, allowing you to maximize on your advertising budget.

If you have questions or comments about Testing Ad Copy, please post them in the comment section below. You can also send me questions through the Contact Form.

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