A manifesto for testing ideas

The creative team at Brass spend their time generating ideas for campaigns across different media. From time to time my team research them.

Advertising research ignites passion like no other area.

The researcher is often regarded as the anti-Christ; a philistine wrecking all things creative. As an unnamed creative put it:

“I remember a mono-tonal researcher reading out my witty, hilarious and potentially award-winning scripts with all the passion of a haddock in its death throes – all the while managing to put the. Emphasis. Completely in the. Wrong. Place.”

Fair enough. If a reportage researcher had trampled on my ideas I’d be pretty testy about the subject too.

We recently gathered our thoughts on advertising pre-testing for a pitch. Our view?

Creative development requires us to adopt two roles: objective researcher and communications advisor.

Before research begins, internal clients and creative partners often have preferred creative routes. In the fieldwork phase our role is to ensure objectivity. In practice this means treating each route equally, without favour. It is also about encouraging those viewing research to observe dispassionately, instead of selectively listening for any note of praise for their chosen route and ignoring the remaining evidence.

In the debrief phase our role changes from objective moderator to communications advisor. In practice this means three things.

First, not being intimidated by naturally opinionated creative types. We work with these folk every day. Their NHS hipster specs and skinny jeans don’t scare us.

Second, clearly articulating the merits of each creative route. Much of the evidence from qualitative research can be intangible. We spend time and effort ensuring our delivery of findings is clear, precise and accurate. This minimises discussions which ‘go off on a tangent.’

Third, it means having an opinion. It is our job to tell you what to do. How best to flex the creative approach to suit the target segment. How to amend the proposition if it feels inconsistent to customers. How to simplify a narrative if it is confusing.

Interpretation, experience and tact are king.

A manifesto for testing ideas:

Research is not an end in itself; it is a tool to assist the evolution of ideas.

Research should offer up principles to deliver better campaigns, not just executional tweaks.

Done right it won’t reduce the magic.

Done right it will ensure creative and client can proceed with confidence.

Done right the creative agency want to have their ideas researched.

About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at an insight consultancy. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
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