Pretest­ing threat­ens to kill cre­ativ­ity in ad­ver­tis­ing

Campaign UK - - NEWS - By Si­mon Gwynn

In­dus­try lead­ers have added their voices to the warn­ing that tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing pretest­ing mod­els are a threat to cre­ativ­ity.

Adam & EVE/DDB group chief ex­ec­u­tive James Mur­phy con­demned tra­di­tional pretest­ing as old-fash­ioned dur­ing a ses­sion at Cannes Lions. He re­vealed that his agency’s award-win­ning work for John Lewis would not have made it past this type of process.

Lucky Gen­er­als found­ing part­ner Andy Nairn called pretest­ing a throw­back to “an age where mar­keters be­lieved that con­sumers were ra­tio­nal be­ings mak­ing very con­scious choices and where per­sua­sion was the dom­i­nant com­mu­ni­ca­tions model”.

Mea­sur­ing ex­plicit re­sponses was no use for cam­paigns that re­lied on an emo­tional re­sponse, ac­cord­ing to Dar­ren Bent­ley, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at Money­su­per­mar­, be­cause “peo­ple in gen­eral aren’t great at talk­ing about how they feel”.

Pretest­ing was a “cop-out, the last refuge of the ner­vous and risk-averse ad­ver­tiser”, Ju­lian Dou­glas, vicechair­man at VCCP, ar­gued. He added that us­ing the same ap­proach over many years led to for­mu­laic so­lu­tions.

How­ever, Jane Bloom­field, head of sales and mar­ket­ing at Kan­tar Mill­ward Brown, home of the Link test, de­fended the prac­tice. She said pretest­ing should be part of a mul­ti­fac­eted cre­ative de­vel­op­ment process.

Bloom­field said: “There are a whole range of tools and tech­niques avail­able to ad­ver­tis­ers. Re­search is some­times an af­ter­thought – it can come quite late in the process. If you start ear­lier and in­clude the agency and brief them in­cred­i­bly well, that’s go­ing to guide how you de­sign a cre­ative de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.”

While warn­ing against “killing cre­ativ­ity” by over-test­ing a cam­paign, Pete Markey, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at TSB, con­ceded that pretest­ing was “still valu­able but needed to evolve”. He added: “A com­bi­na­tion of in­sight ap­proaches helps to build a bet­ter and stronger pic­ture.”

Too much reliance on pretest­ing also threat­ens to un­der­sell the strengths of an idea, Mark Evans, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at Di­rect Line Group, ar­gued. Di­rect Line’s cam­paign fea­tur­ing Pulp Fic­tion char­ac­ter Win­ston Wolfe had tested quite well but the risky hu­mour of the ads meant in­stinct was also re­quired.

Evans said: “Test­ing was im­por­tant in or­der to align the whole or­gan­i­sa­tion, but we also needed a dol­lop of brav­ery to drive through the no­tion of hav­ing a gang­ster as our spokesper­son in one of the low­est-trust sec­tors in the econ­omy.”

The preva­lence of test­ing is a symp­tom of the fall­ing value of ad­ver­tis­ing to mar­keters and an “ass-cov­er­ing mea­sure” for ju­nior mar­keters in­creas­ingly tasked with mak­ing de­ci­sions, Fold7 strat­egy part­ner Ye­lena Gauf­man sug­gested.

Brands should in­stead fo­cus on the strat­egy un­der­pin­ning it, Gauf­man said: “If you know the think­ing be­hind it is sound, the cre­ative work can be a much more hu­man, in­stinc­tive thing.”

Na­tion­wide chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Sara Ben­ni­son pointed out that brands had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where it was un­nec­es­sary to prove “some­thing will work in the­ory be­fore it has a chance to in the real world”.

Di­rect Line: cam­paign tested well but still re­quired ‘a dol­lop of brav­ery’

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