Copy Testing: Methods, Examples

Copy Testing

Copy testing is a specialised discipline of market research that evaluates the effectiveness of an advertisement based on consumer responses, feedback, and behaviour. Copy testing is also known as pre-testing. It encompasses testing of all media channels including television, social media, print, radio, and internet. Pre-testing is worthwhile for a company to comprehend whether an advertisement carries a message strong enough to register in its prospects’ mind.

Before the release of an advertisement, there are multiple tests which are done to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. These assessments are conducted even after the ad is transmitted to determine the effectiveness of it.

The main resolve of copy testing is to square ads which are unlikely to connect with the audience. If in case the prospects don’t connect with the ad, the chances are that they might get a wrong message or that the ad might go unnoticed. Organisations often employ market research firms for evaluation. The ad is relayed to a small group of people, and their responses are evaluated. The responses are further quantified to give a meaningful review to the company. Here the market analysts analyse real-time responses post watching the advertisement. The analysis is done with respect to various factors like the facial expression after watching the ad, how and what the respondents felt, and so on. Copy testing often evaluates ad based on demographics and certain changes in the ad are made with respect to its demographics.

Memory tests (recall/recognition), direct response tests, persuasion tests, continuous measurement tests, psychological response tests are some of the quantitative methods of copy testing. These techniques are based on statistical principles and reliability.


Advertisements can be pretested at several levels. Pretesting that occurs in the creative process is called concept testing. Pretesting done in the later stages is called copy testing. These tests are helpful to select one amongst various ad executions. Copy tests are usually conducted using quantitative research methods.

Types Of Copy Testing

There are seven main copy testing techniques namely-

  • Consumer Jury
  • Rating Scales
  • Portfolio tests
  • Psychological tests
  • Physiological tests
  • Sales tests
  • Day-after recall Tests

1. Consumer Jury Test

  • A consumer jury test is a method of testing advertisements that involves asking consumers to compare, rank and evaluate your advertisements.
  • It is the most traditional and simplest amongst all the copy testing methods. A personal interview may be conducted, or a group of about 50 to 100 people may be assembled and requested voting based on their preferences, interests or even influences to purchase the product.
  • It then presents a rating given by a group of audiences who mostly represent the potential buyers of the product. A consumer jury method is controlled and cost-effective.

This method has a few disadvantages like

  • The consumer may become a self-appointed expert.
  • Possibilities of a halo effect
  • Numbers of evaluated ads are limited.
  • Preferences may overpower objectivity.

Example: Analyzing Television programs and commercials using a Program Analyzer.

2. Rating Scale Copy Testing

  • Rating scale requires established standards for a productive copy and numerical weights for each standard. Advertisements are later rated according to scale values, and a numerical grade or a percentage is obtained.
  • A rating scale test provides a list against which you can check your ad. It also assists in determining and singling out the elements that are good and bad in an ad copy.
  • The weights may be assigned to different aspects on the basis of which the copy is to be tested depending on their scale of significance.
  • This method is mostly used by professional advertising agencies which rate advertisements without any trouble.

Example Of Rating Scale Copy Testing

3. Portfolio Tests

  • Portfolio testing is a copy testing technique in which some dummy copies are kept in a folio along with the regular advertisement.
  • A group of ads mostly test ads and control ads, or a combination of both are placed in a portfolio.
  • After going through a portfolio of a different variety of a particular advertisement, respondents nominated from the target market are asked to remember in detail those ads that they remember.
  • The ad giving a minimum playback is considered to be the best one.
  • It is important to observe whether the choice of advertisement is a dummy advertisement or the regular one.
  • If found dummy, the actual advertisement is improvised accordingly.

Disadvantages of portfolio tests

  • Various factors other than creativity and presentation may affect recall.
  • Recalling may not prove to be the best way.

4. Psychological Tests

  • Psychological Copy testing is a technique in which various methods including word association, sentence completion, depth, interview and storytelling are welcome.
  • A catalogue of reactions namely self-pity, security, fear, nostalgia, and so on are set.
  • Alternative ads are then rated based on how readers respond.
  • The psychological technique is difficult to implement since skilled interviewers are required.
  • Copy testing is psychological in nature; hence some psychological tests are administered.


In this test, the ease of readability is ascertained by a series of questions and techniques developed by psychologists before the ad is relayed. This technique ascertains the depth of understanding of the reader through the advertisement.


The effectiveness of an advertisement can be gauged by the degree of credibility the consumers have in the product. Scale technique is used to measure the credibility by putting forward certain statements of product claims. The statement that gets the maximum votes is declared as the most effective statement.


Psychologists have come up with various attitude tests that can be applied to copy testing. In this, the prospective consumers are exposed to sample messages. The psychologist or the interviewer asks a series of questions to ascertain the attitudes evolved from the messages.


This advertising technique seeks consumer association with the product and its brand name. This test is helpful when an advertisement relays a specific theme or slogan, which the reader may recall. This is also known as a theme presentation technique.

5. Physiological Testing

In physiological copy testing, tests are conducted using special laboratory equipment’s which records individual physiological responses to the ads.

  • Here the physiological reaction of the respondents is considered more crucial than what he says.
  • There are three elementary instruments that are used in these kinds of tests- the Eye Moment Camera, Galvanometer and the Pupilometric device.


Eye moment camera measures the eye moments of consumers across the layout of test ads. The direction of the eyes and the pauses made are taken note of so that the areas of interest are gauged.


A galvanometer measures skin responses to ad stimuli like the perspiration through the palms. Increase in the perspiration decreases resistance and faster the current passes, hence tension is generated. The greater the tension, more effective the ad is considered to be. This technique cannot be used for ads that are very sensitive.


Pupilometer was designed by Eckhard Hess and James Polk. A pupilometer records changes in pupil dilation. Dilation demonstrates reading and attention. Contraction depicts dislike of the respondents to what is being read. It evaluates interesting visual stimuli. The left eye is photographed to record dilation.

6. Sales Copy Testing

  • In this technique, advertising campaigns are conducted in the markets chosen for testing.
  • The effectiveness is ascertained by the actual sales in these markets.
  • The market with the highest sales is considered as the best market for an effective sales campaign.
  • Certain suitable changes are made in the other markets for the campaign.
  • Sales tests are very practical measures to evaluate advertising effectiveness when advertising is the dominant element and the only variable in a company’s marketing plan.
  • Sales tests cannot be conducted instantly.
  • These forms of tests, especially the field studies prove to be very expensive and time-consuming.

7. Day-After Recall Test

  • A day after recall test is a method of measuring the percentage of people who recall seeing the ad the day-after it was relayed on the television.
  • It is done to make sure that the ad message is passed on to the consumers.
  • The consumer response is possessed by conducting interviews on a one-on-one basis.
  • Test standardization is employed to avoid misleading results.
  • Day-after recall test advocates increase in sample size.
  • The day-after recall tests are one of the oldest forms of copy testing.
  • Few advertisers still employ because of limited data and analysis.

There are a few disadvantages of this copy testing technique

  • Interviews prove to be expensive.
  • Few people report seeing an un-seen ad.

Example: HUL launched an ad for AXE Signature, in which a subtle form of romance is used with the main message of its lasting fragrance. If the consumer after watching the ad can only recall the romance part then the ad is not considered to have done well on a recall test.

The marketing campaign is an expensive affair. To ensure that your organization obtains maximum benefits for its investment, it is critical that you conduct research and testing before the campaign, and repeat its effectiveness again. In general, copy testing is appropriate for a strategic research in which one aims to scrutinize the relative effectiveness of one advertising theory over the other. Copy testing assists in the evaluative research in which one attempts to take a final call.

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