Innovations in concept and ad testing vendors (Updated)

Innovations in Copy Testing resulting in speed to test ads and the major ad vendors to date in 2017

It has been nearly 100 years since the first maverick marketers and researchers decided to find out where their advertising money was actually working, and thereby creating the first attempts to test adverts. Copy testing, also known as advertising testing, pre testing or concept testing, is now a multibillion dollar industry with incumbents that have been innovating on their techniques for over 8 decades. Familiar brands are known throughout the research and advertising world: Millward Brown, Ipsos, Ameritest, Nielsen and newcomers are also emerging like BrainJuicer and Ace Metrix.

The quest to better test, predict and control the outcomes of the creative process in branding has forced the companies to perpetually improve on their methodologies, or be left behind. While the 20th century was dominated by innovations in methodology, the 21st century has seen technology become the catalyst for change and open up the industry to startups and savy entrepreneurs. The team takes a look at some of the pillars of innovation in copy testing.

Neuroscience - An Alternative to Traditional Survey Based Copy Testing of Ads

Although the ability to test human’s physical reactions using biometric sensors has been around for several decades, the application to the advertising and marketing research industry is just now becoming common. The scientists and hardware geeks that have benefited from decreasing cost of this equipment and increasing ease of computing millions of lines of code through cloud computing, have forced the survey-based industry to consider the limitations of consumers ability to verbalize their feelings and emotions.

As a nod to the future of this approach, you’ll notice that companies like Kantar (WPP’s research arm which owns Millward Brown) and Nielsen have invested or acquired Neuroscience companies like Affectiva and Innerscope, respectively. Just about every Millward Brown Link test now includes some sort of biometric results, and most companies are racing to create benchmarks and normative databases.

Viewer Analytics - Effectiveness of Ads as Determined by User Engagement of Video Content

The emergence of the advertising technology (ad-tech) startup ecosystem in North America, Israel and Europe has created an overall shift, both in advertising and marketing research, to embrace faster and bigger data. Whether it’s social analytics, real-time targeting or sophisticated consumer data matching techniques, researchers are looking at alternative methods to understand effectiveness and opportunities to optimize creative.

A emerging trend, often encouraged by the online video platforms, is to load several advertisements on sites like Youtube, spend a few thousand dollars on promoting them to the brand’s target audience, and look at which adds become the most engaging. Metrics like total time viewed, where in the advertisement most viewers drop off, and social metrics like likes, shares and comments are becoming proxies for traditional survey based approaches. 

Of course, this method won’t provide much in terms of context or what creative qualities need to be changed, it is a quick and affordable way to get results back, and is one of the dominant forms of testing creative that is easy to produce several versions (like banner ads or static image billboard or print ads).

Design Thinking - Testing Ads Using Creative Professionals In Their Process

Human centered design, often called Design Thinking, has transformed how most large agencies are producing campaign ideas and even product innovation. Inspired by the lean-advertising movement, creative teams are allowing for minimum viable campaigns to be evaluated and stress tested internally and with consumers before the client even gets to review the work.

At we’ve productized what call Sense Check, which allows tailored groups of 30 professional creatives to evaluate any brand or agencies work to identify areas of improvement, strengths and actionable feedback to improve the concept behind the campaign.

The interesting thing about research becoming more of the design process, is that researchers from the brand clients could be adding tremendous value to teaching and imparting their process and techniques on their agencies. Basic concepts of moderating a focus group, panel bias, survey design and thematic analysis could be given to agencies which would yield more tested ideas and campaigns by the time they reach the client.

Beyond Recall and into System 1 Copy Testing

No matter what approach the industry is moving toward, most market researchers, brands and research houses are acknowledging the limitations of consumer’s abilities to articulate their actual emotions, memorization rational and future proclivity to buy or recommend a product based on a advert. Most of this can be attributed to the debates around Sytem 1 vs. System 2 thinking, which allows for the argument that inactive (subconscious) processing plays as much, if not more, of a role as a consumers’ active (conscious) decision making process.

Companies like Ameritest and Brainjucer have established much credibility in their breakthroughs of designing ad, concept and packaging tests that attempt to tease out the underlying emotional response, and not just their stated response. Although the approach still relies on stagecraft viewing environments that do not represent a typical consumer home, and survey based approach, they are a dramatic improvement on the old methodologies.

Near Real-Time Copy Testing - Embracing the Speed

The old tussle between speed and quality in research is an evergoing battle, but this decade will surely belong to the speed camp. A traditional test used to take between 60-90 days, which slowed down just about every process dependent on the outcome including the creative and media planning. Thanks to companies like ZappiStore, clients can now get topline results back in 24-48 hours. Of course, the quality, depth, and customization of testing may be sacrificed for the quick results, but most brands and agencies are not in need of anything more than a test to prove or disprove a hypothesis on their creative or concept. Getting recall or virality scores is not often part of the research challenge, and topline metrics can be more than enough for the client to gain the confidence they need to proceed with one execution over the other.

Where To Next?

The short answer is: we’re not sure. The evolution of new technologies, methodologies and structural changes in copy testing is much like the scientific process: it progresses through debate, new voices and a slow accumulation of knowledge disseminated with the rest of the ecosystem. Industry bodies like ESOMAR and The Advertising Research Foundation would do well to reinvigorate the debate at their conferences and allow for new voices to be heard on their media platforms. We’ll be sure to keep looking out for the new “next big thing” and will share with you here on our blog if we do.

A list of concept and ad testing vendors

Brainjuicer now System 1 Research (Part of System 1 Group)

One of the most innovative market researchers according to the 2015 GRIT Top 50, System 1(formerly brainjuicer) has carved an undeniable name for itself with its dedicated and powerful behavioral science and marketing for companies. The re-brand aims to “double down” on its ad testing and tracking areas.


Behavioural science: Consumer decisions are made quickly, emotionally and subconsciously. Makes use of emotive metrics, technology, diagnostic testing to test and predict profitable growth potential. Behavioural science is at the heart of System 1 research and promotes their ideal of 5 star marketing.

What System 1 research also measures:

Innovation testing: Uses a 1 out 5 star rating tool to predict profitable growth of innovations, through we-rather-than-me screening and scanning of early stage ideas. Also uses emotive metrics and diagnostics to predict and shape late stage ideas.

Ad testing: For TV, print and radio advertisements and digital content, tests what people are feeling,how strongly they are feeling it and why to predict profitable growth potential.

  • System 1 Ad testing: Diagnostic, Express and Self serve methodologies are offered to conduct effective ad testing.
  • System 1 Digital content testing: Predicts both profitable growth potential and shareability and click through. Provides the option to test digital content and copy through social media. - image 1.png


One of the heavyweights in the research industry, studying consumers in over 100 markets to provide you with trends and habits worldwide. They remain relevant through their own data and understand the latest consumerist habits to provide you more firepower.


Concept quick predict:

  • Lets marketers test innovations up to 3x faster than traditional methods, but without sacrificing confidence in the data.
  • Powered by Nielsen’s 12 Factors for Success system (predictive analytics system).
  • Through software automation, Quick Predict speeds up Nielsen’s predictive analytics, equipping marketers with high-quality insights and quick answers in a matter of days.

What Nielsen also measures:

1. Advertising Intelligence: Uses spot monitoring methodology to estimate advertising expenditure across media types.

2. Consumer Neuroscience: By using the latest neuroscience technologies in combination with traditional survey methods, Nielsen helps brands understand consumers’ non-conscious and conscious emotional responses, memory activations and attentional patterns, empowering them to better navigate the increasing complexity of modern consumer behavior. - image 2.jpg

Millward Brown

A long-standing market research powerhouse that is able to provide an array of impressive services worldwide from strategy, brand, advertising, to media and digital. You can expect some of the best and most innovative practices to date.


Millward Brown’s Pre-Link Now

Able to place the ‘why’ in ad performance by delivering qualitative research and helping improve the ad’s creative. It delivers a fast and cost-effective testing solution that alleviates marketers’ woes regarding performance and budget.


  • Fast consumer feedback on your creative(5-10 working days).
  • Consumer feedback that spans 26 countries in 16 languages.
  • To check creative in any format; animatic, videomatic, storyboard, print.
  • A common language and framework across qual and quant research.

What Millward Brown also measures:

1. Native ad effectiveness: Able to measure the effectiveness of native ad campaigns or native advertising through a panel-based approach to determine whether you’re meeting business objectives. Using Kantar’s large panel or their Ignite Network, they send out invites to the panel of people that saw the campaign online and with a set of survey questions brands are able to learn if they won with brand awareness, reach, recall, or gauge brand familiarity and favorability.

2. Brand Lift Insights: The impact of your digital advertising plays a major role in Kantar’s arsenal of measuring tools. Brand Lift Insights offers brands the chance to validate their online campaigns with metrics gathered from consumer perceptions of your brand online. It is able to evaluate the differences in attitude of two groups, those that have been exposed to the ad and those that haven’t to determine the effectiveness of advertising exposure using a survey-based approach and control/exposed research design. You’ll know what works and what parts don’t of a campaign and optimize budgets accordingly. - image 3.jpg


Is a well-known advertising research company based in New mexico, focusing particularly in brand and marketing communications research. Some of the major innovations Ameritest have developed span from TV to Radio, digital, print, out of home and early concept testing.


In TV ad testing Ameritest offers three main solutions for storyboard tests, that is; Flow of Emotion, Flow of Attention and Flow of Meaning. All three fall under the term Picture Sorts (visual components) that marry the importance of ad recall, deep emotional connection, and understanding the brand positioning ideas of an ad.

Flow of Attention:

Able to understand which parts of the ad are more likely to be remembered in consumer memory. Through the use of verbal and nonverbal measures of a story and a flow of attention chart is able to measure four things of an ad:

  • A rising opening: Indicates if a strong hook of the ad exists from the viewer at the very beginning.
  • Overall Trendline: Tells you whether the ad continuously builds engagement and attention or not.
  • Continuous Flow: Indicates whether viewers are understanding the flow of the story.
  • Relevant peak points: Tells you the main images people will most likely remember overtime which can then help reveal if those are the most important parts of the ad you want recalled for.

Flow of Emotion:

  • Graphs out the positive and negative emotions experienced when watching a TVC.
  • Uses pictures and a tool that allows people to rate the video according to the emotions they had while watching.

Flow of Meaning:

  • This tool aims to understand what meaning and emotion each image carries within the overall ad.
  • By categorising images this helps the advertiser better grasp what the viewer was thinking and feeling during the ad.

What Ameritest also measures:

1. Early testing: Ameritest understands the importance of testing ads before they go live and that researching pays big dividends. Optimizing from the storyboard level develops a greater probability to create something that resonates with the audience and is impactful enough so as to avoid wasteful dollar spend.

This includes: Key performance measures of branding and motivation, Verbal diagnostics for liking and communication, Picture Sorts for visual analysis and Copy Sorts that tells you copy recall and relevance.

2. Digital Testing: Ameritest incorporates a five-dimensional classification system which is rendered from consumer perception. Essentially they tackle four things when testing; Key performance measures of attention, brand linkage and motivation, verbal diagnostics, Picture and Copy sorts. - image 4.jpg


A global market research company that provides research services to a global client base. Ipsos’ research solutions are based on BQC (Better, Quicker, Cheaper) methodologies and processes. Ipsos also ranks third in the global research industry and are built around the positioning of media and advertising research; Marketing research; Client and employee relationship management; Opinion & social research; Mobile, Online and Offline data collection and delivery.


  • LIFE path: Ipsos Marketing launched LIFE Path to assist clients understand consumer choices along their journey. LIFE Path offers a holistic, modular approach and path to purchase understanding that involves social media intelligence, passive metering, and qualitative and quantitative research - so marketers can assess which touchpoints are most influential in generating sales.
  • LIFE path provides complete understanding of the consumer decision making process from purchase trigger to channel choice. What makes this solution unique is its use of proprietary analytics to reveal influential touchpoints and their effects on sales.

What Ipsos also measures:

Ipsos Connect: Ipsos Connect measures and amplifies how media, brands and consumers connect through compelling content and great communication. Ipsos Connect products include Digital, Media Planning, Ad Development, In-Market optimization and monitoring. This new research solution merges the legacy brands of Ipsos ASI and Ipsos MediaCT.

  • Ipsos ASI: Advertising research specialists in brand communications research focused on assisting in communicating the right message through the right touch points to influence better results.
  • Ipsos MediaCT: Helps clients make better decisions and connections in the digital space. Supports companies in the rapid and fast moving world of convergence, media, technology and telecoms.

psos UU Qualitative Market Research: Ipsos UU is one of the largest qualitative market research resources in the world with over 100 trained specialists with expertise in  Advertising, Marketing, Media, Loyalty, Social and Reputation research. Ipsos UU provides insight on both the private and public sector; how the two are different, how they are the same and where the threads of behaviour and attitude interlink.


Founded in 2007, another innovative player backed by some leading technology to deliver timely, actionable data with real-time ad campaign optimization. It’s got some major venture capital ventures and industry leaders behind it such as WPP and Hummer Winblad.


Ads are shown to 500 respondents and participants are engaged in a custom ad survey that questions them qualitatively and quantitatively so as to gather rich insights through demographic segments. They’re able to measure the performance of a TVC and provide feedback that’s actionable.

  • Provides 12,000 data points for each ad.
  • Ace Metrix Live platform delivers results within 24hrs available to clients online.
  • Ace score provides a score for 6 factors that communicates how well the ad directs consumer behaviour. That is; Likeability, relevance, information, change attention and desire, re-watchability, purchase intent and brand linkage.
  • Qualitative research is a major component in understanding the emotional response and humor behind the score.
  • Respondents are sourced from world-class sample suppliers and includes proprietary sample balancing to remove bias.

What Ace Metrix also measures:

1. AceMetrix Pre: An ad pre-testing solution delivering qual and quant data at customizable capabilities. Testing before market or “test and learn” is an approach Ace Metrix believes helps the final ad outperform in-market.

2. AceMetrix Viva: Learn how well your Spanish language ad creative breaks through with the US Hispanic demographic.

  • Competitive review against current, historical and competitive ads.
  • Qualitative and quantitative data with access to voice-of-the-consumer verbatims.
  • Fast actionable insights that deliver results within 48-72 hours of testing. - image 5.jpg


An innovative platform that allows you to buy research services through an automated, self-service system at fast speeds. You’re able to test at an early stage and often enough during the development stage. They focus on new product development, pack testing, creative testing or social media monitoring.

ZappiStore’s goal is to work with the best thinkers in the research industry and help them bring that thinking to clients in a way that retains the quality that they value but also answers the cost and time questions.


Creative testing Video:

This tool allows you to track  emotional responses to your video second-by-second as you receive feedback on which areas were liked or disliked. And evaluate if brand messaging cuts through strongly enough.

  • Emotional Comparison: You can quantify emotional responses with a list of ZappiStore’s own emoticons.
  • Lovers & Haters Summary: Learn where people loved, hated or were indifferent to parts of the idea.
  • Likes & Dislikes word Clouds: Get the verbatim responses to what they enjoyed or didn’t.
  • Emotional Engagement: Discover the most frequent emotion against the strength of emotion felt.
  • Story Recall: Tells you what the main story is that consumers take away.

What ZappiStore also measures:

1. ZappiStore Product Test: You’re able to evaluate ideas for your new product, from the emotional reactions to finding out how it scores through important metrics such as; Brand Feeling, Brand Linkage, that’s unique and different so as to predict in-market outcomes.

  • Heatmaps provide which areas of your product consumers liked most.
  • Find the key messaging that resonated with viewers.
  • Get consumer suggestions.
  • Custom Questions, 3 custom questions of your own can also be added.

2. Favor it: If you’re looking to answer questions such as; Which is the best logo for a single concept, idea or product? What messages or claims work the best for a single concept, idea or product? Or What’s the best name for a single concept? Then you’ll want ZappiStore’s Favor it. It will:

  • Get a detailed view of how each product ranks against each other.
  • Heatmap technology provides verbatim feedback to inform you which elements perform well.
  • The Golden Question allows you the power to add a question that is vital to understanding how well your brand is really doing. You can also choose from up to 20 existing and custom attributes. - image 6.jpg

Check out and download ZappiStore’s neat User Guide here for more.