Communicating effectively with your audiences can determine the success of your product in terms of sales, revenue, ROI and the size of your brand in terms of market penetration. The basis for successful communication campaigns is a sound strategy – which message should the communication convey and how? Which imagery should be chosen to be appealing among the target group? Unfortunately, however, there is no simple success formula for effective communications. 

  • A Unilever study found that using recall as the main pre-testing metric risks rewarding campaigns which are "boring, bland and emotionally uninvolving".1
  • Binet & Fields controversially claimed that traditional pre-testing favours campaigns that perform well in the short term rather than in the long term.2

Many studies point towards the elusiveness of an ultimate truth in regard to measuring the likely effectiveness of a campaign. In contrast to what standardized approaches often suggest, advertising effectiveness is rarely determined by a single metric such as recall, message take-out, persuasion or liking. It is rather a variety of measures that all should be in line with the overall objective of the campaign. Finding the correct pre-testing approach is hence crucial to develop effective campaigns that have an impact and create value.

A key question every marketer and market researcher should ask himself is whether the communication follows short- or long-term goals. Should the communication drive a change in behaviour, e.g. drive sales, in the short term or is it aimed at building the brand image in the long run? The creatives’ characteristics will be very different:

A comparison of various adverts confirmed the effectiveness of campaigns that follow an emotional strategy in the long run while in the short run a mix of rational messages and emotional storytelling has been proven to be successful.
Figure 1: Efficiency of communication types varies by time frame (Source: Binet, Les & Field, Peter: The Long and the Short of It, p. 55, 2013)


SHORT TERM advertising effects have a direct behavioural outcome, such as an increase in sales or brand awareness. It is suggested to measure these by a different set of diagnostics as they tend to relate to rational persuasion-based campaigns. Hence explicit questioning techniques are useful measures. Especially cognitive liking has been proven to best predict effectiveness among the single measures. Other single measures used by Epinion are salience, recall, persuasion and purchase intent.

LONG TERM advertising effects, i.e. brand growth, are more often related to campaigns that are highly creative and emotional. Measures that solely focus on attention and interest will not be sufficient to understand the long-term performance of an ad. Instead implicit measuring techniques are useful measures in this context. Therefore, Epinion’s pre-testing approaches can also include more emotional liking questions such as facial expression scales and implicit association tests as well as cognitive interviewing techniques when solely qualitative input is needed.

That said, a variety of qualitative and quantitative research approaches are available to identify promising big ideas, storyboards, animatics, finished films, etc. before they are aired. To find the right approach, Epinion proposes methods that are not standardised ‘off-the-shelf’ pre-testing methodologies but customised to the client’s individual needs and wishes to prevent the common obstacles in advertising pre-testing. We help your organisation to understand the emotional appeal of your advertising ideas, whether the messages you want to communicate are being delivered, whether your current communication is reaching the audience they want to reach, and to what extent your strategic communication goals are being achieved.


Please contact Antonia ( or Signe ( if you would like to know more about how we can help pre-testing you communication campaigns.

. Kastenholz, J. et all (2004). Does day-after recall testing produce vanilla advertising? Admap, 451, 34–36 
. Binet, L. & Field, P. (2013). The Long and the Short of It. IPA, 71.


- By Antonia Dedekind

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