5 Ways to Conduct Agile Ad Testing

Dylan Liang

Dylan Liang


Dylan is a member of the marketing team with a background in political science and messaging.

Ad testing is the process of iterating on consumer responses, feedback, and behavior to create the most effective advertising. This process can also help advertisers understand the return on investment their campaigns night deliver before actually rolling out completed concepts to the public.

In what is now an ubiquitous quote about military combat, Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke once famously remarked that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” We believe that the same applies for ad messaging - ad ideas are only as great as consumer opinion.

Here are 5 ways to conduct Agile ad testing so that only your best and brightest ad ideas go live.

Active Ad Testing

These ad testing methods involve directly approaching customers with various ad messaging concepts to gain their input before or after an ad goes live. This is not to be confused with primary and secondary research, as active ad testing and passive ad testing (referenced below) both fall under the larger category of primary research, rather than replacing primary research as a strategy.

Online Focus Groups

Traditionally, in-person focus groups and customer panels have been used by marketers to collect insights from current and prospective customers before an advertising campaign goes live. While conducting such research activities potentially give advertisers direct access to customers, the main drawback for such in-person activities is the relatively high cost involved in recruitment and moderation.

Alternatively, online focus groups can allow you to test ad messaging with large numbers of customers directly, at a fraction of the cost. Platforms such as Remesh allow you to analyze hundreds of verbatim responses in real-time, so that you can receive qualitative insights on your ad messaging at scale.

An online focus group conducted on Remesh
(Read findings report)

Physiological Tools

The development of new tools and technologies allow marketers to understand how customers feel about products and messaging, sometimes even without the customers having to say anything! Physiological tools, such as facial coding, can allow you to measure the physiological responses customers have towards your ad messaging or concept, uncovering any subconscious feelings they may have towards it.

One of the most prominent physiological tools include eye tracking, which allow researchers to map out where customers’ lines of vision are focused on when presented with stimuli. Within the realm of ad-testing, this can allow marketers to understand if customers are spending enough time looking at a featured product, or if a company’s logo is in a prominent enough position that is noticeable by the customer.

Gazepoint, for example, uses the insights from its eye tracking tool to optimize user engagement and interaction with marketing and advertising materials. 

Advanced Neuromarketing

Finally, advancement in the fields of neuroscience have also provided marketers with unprecedented access to consumers’ neural activity when they are exposed to ads and marketing material. Emerging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allow researchers to view increased brain activity during ad testing, which unlock deeper insights into customer emotional responses and engagement levels.

While this technique provides marketers with sophisticated insight into how consumers think, the high cost involved with such research is a key drawback that has limited the adoption of neuromarketing to a handful of brands and companies.

Read: 3 Qual Concept Testing Methods & Case Studies

Passive Ad Testing

Rather than directly approaching customers for feedback, these ad testing methods primarily involve observing how customers interact with a digital ad, and extracting insights from that behavior.

A/B Testing

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a method of testing by which two versions of an ad are tested at the same time. In this testing method, the target audience is evenly split into two groups, with each group exposed to one version of the ad. By comparing the relative performances of the two ads, marketers can then make a judgement on how impactful that amended variable is on audience engagement.

Source: Microsoft

The benefit of using A/B testing is that it is straightforward and inexpensive to conduct. It is also a surefire methodology for companies looking to enhance their marketing strategies. "We have recognized A/B Testing's ability to help continually improve a company's spending efficiency," said Adam Coomes President of marketing company Salt Rank, "while increasing clicks and conversions on the same budget.”

While A/B testing has its benefits, there are certain drawbacks to the methodology worth considering. For instance, there is a limit to how many ideas can be tested at the same time. If a firm wishes to test multiple ads, conducting multiple A/B tests may be time-consuming and expensive when research needs to be conducted on many variables.

Read: How to Write a Discussion Guide (eBook)

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing is a method in which multiple elements of an advertising campaign are tested simultaneously. In this case, several combinations of ads are tested together and in theory, using this testing method can help to determine the most effective combination among the variations.


A multivariate digital ad test could include several variables, such as color, placement of the ad, and use of images within the ad. It could also include other variables like aggregated traffic over a period of time. At the end of a testing period, the ad with the most compelling combination of variables is considered the winner.

You can review this method in action in a recording of one Remesh conversation.

Wrapping up Agile Ad Testing

Ultimately, as every ad testing method ranges wildly in terms of approach and cost, it is important to make sure that the strategies you adopt are aligned with the goals and resources of your company. We simply can’t wait to see you crush it with your next ad test!

Interested to find new ways to test your next ad? Learn how AI can be applied to concept testing of all kinds in our free eBook!The State of A.I. in Market Research (eBook) Download

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