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July 17, 2009

Fast and smart

Nielsen Company launched a new service “Overnight Express”, which allows researchers to test up to 10 ad concepts within 24 hours via online polls. Is it possible to gain any meaningful results in such a swift way?
A standard research design implies 200 online interviews with residents of 100+ Russian cities / towns, aged 20-60 and consuming products of the concerned category. An interview can include any kind of ad products – verbal (text, slogans), audio (soundtracks, music) as well as video and graphic materials (reels, prints, etc). A questionnaire contains 10 questions besides the demographics, which allows the researchers to test up to 10 concepts or models. According to the authors of this project, this service can evaluate the key claim of an ad, score respondents’ perception of the ad and its appeal, and identify the most / least promising model.
Nielsen does not consider “Overnight Express” an anti-crisis offering. “In fact, it turned out to be very topical for customers because of its short period and lower – vs. offline studies – costs”, Natalia Ignatieva, PR Director of Nielsen, explains. Short delivery is realistic. “Our IT professionals residing in Bulgaria work round the clock”, Alexander Shahkin, CEO of OMI Company responsible for the technical part of the project (questionnaire programming, running the poll and getting data output to a customer panel), says. Of course, the time needed to coordinate the requirements specification with a customer is not included in the promised 24 hours.
Ad professionals are a bit skeptical about the new service. “This method is both convenient and inconvenient”, Vadim Petrov, Creative Director of РА NFQ, says. “After all, it’s very difficult to develop a survey concept, carry this survey out and prepare an analytical report in just 24 hours”. At the same time, the superficiality of “Overnight Express” is its strength, the ad professional believes. “Whereas in focus groups respondents have an opportunity to examine a commercial or a model in detail, think over their reactions and formulate their thoughts, in real life the contact between consumers and advertising takes just a few seconds: you saw it, it grabbed you. Or didn’t grab you. “Impartially, “Overnight Express” simulates a regular contact between consumers and ad products”, Petrov says.
Professional market researchers believe this idea is promising but point out a number of critical limitations. 
“A non-alternative (monadic) quantitative copy testing (one respondent tests one ad) is the industry’s standard. Two hundred respondents are absolutely not enough for a method, which apparently based on a comparison of ads”, Veronika Volchek, head of research group of A/R/M/I-Marketing Company, says. “A still bigger challenge is that this way is hardly capable of assessing emotional ads – but this kind of ads is the most effective one and, in fact, the most ‘troublesome’ at the creation stage; therefore it requires special testing”. There are two major pitfalls here, the expert points out. “The sample is too small for testing several variations of ready-made ads. If the sample is increased I’m afraid either the project won’t comply with its ‘24 hours’ slogan or its costs will grow too much. If claims of ad concepts are tested, in case of emotional advertising it will be too difficult to adequately visualize them and still more difficult to test them without resorting to qualitative methods”.
Ultimately, it’s not quite clear if the effect of swift testing is worthy of the sacrifice it is associated with. As usual, it’s up to customers to decide.

Dmitriy Frolov, Anna Rybnikova
Sostav.ru, 07.07.09

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