Propositions, ads and campaign research – 7 key guidelines

Over the years we have run numerous focus groups looking at new campaigns and advertising concepts. We like to think our research has helped to clarify messages, given guidance on the most effective campaigns and saved our clients from wasting money on launching new products or campaigns to market that weren’t ready or viable.

We frequently incorporate mood boards, image ideas, tag lines and wording to test with different audiences.  It seems rather a straightforward sort of research – show a few images and words and job done.  But as with any good piece of research, there are some key parameters to bear in mind if you want your feedback to be as realistic and valid as possible.

 1: If you want to research possible words and pictures – have them on separate boards. Do not double guess what words go with what pictures. You want people to react to the images and words separately and then consider what (if any) go together.

2: Think very carefully about the type of images you are going to show. Do some initial concept work if necessary.  Do not just use a few random images that you think will do the job – people need some idea of what your intention is in order to have a valid discussion that will generate relevant insight for you.  Even if the groups dislike what is shown – it gives them some indication of what may be important, and this enables them to suggest useful and considered alternatives.

3: Likewise, do not make your wording too long winded. In real life when people view a 30 second campaign or glance at a picture on the tube, they should be able to understand the key message immediately. If you need to explain in detail what the back story is and why this campaign is being used – then you’ve already lost them.

4: Do not make your visuals look too finished – even with the facilitator ensuring that these are just prompts made up for the research – it can be hard to critique or visualise other options if the visuals look like a fait accompli. Which is why you need to take into account 1 above.

5: Don’t make the concept boards too big – far better to have lots of images on smaller cards so that the respondents aren’t overwhelmed and can pick out exactly what they like or don’t like.

6: Allow enough time to get your visuals/boards ready. This may seem obvious but honestly, it has been known for a series of focus groups to have been organised, recruited and venue booked, before the client has realised they can’t get their campaign images ready on time.  An expensive mistake I can tell you…

7: If you want to show video clips or other interactive media – make sure you pick the right venue with good tech equipment. Trying to show 8 people some ‘great ideas’ via a laptop doesn’t always work out so well.

Focus groups can work brilliantly in figuring out what impact a campaign will have – done well they can reap huge benefits in finalising a successful campaign.


Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash