What is Copy Testing?

“Copy Testing” refers to a wide array of research solutions for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of advertising content. These solutions range from qualitative solutions like focus groups and one-on-one, in-depth interviews to, most typically, small-scale quantitative studies to, increasingly, physiological measurement. The stimulus itself may be in any media, in an early or rough stage of ad development or in its final stages of development prior to production.

A good copy testing method leads to better understanding of the performance of advertising executions and campaigns. It typically provides assessment of how well the execution meets its communication objectives, usually in the context of relevant benchmarks, such as other alternatives and category norms, and identifies the advertisements’ strengths and weaknesses.

Copy testing techniques differ widely in both their testing methods and in their measurement metrics. Some of the key dimensions of copy effectiveness are recognition, recall, idea communication, persuasion, liking and engagement. These measures have been validated over the years by various independent and proprietary studies, with the most well-known independent study being the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) Copy Research Validity Project.

Initially, as the history section of this site shows, companies often sold copy testing on the basis of one of these dimensions being more important than another. Today, more companies cover most of all of these dimensions in their testing protocols, although with very different measures and differing interpretations of their value. Survey research is at the core of these designs, but with the increasing interest in understanding emotions-based response, new techniques for gauging emotion using implicit or physiological systems, have emerged.