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Designing an Ad Testing Survey

6 min read
Advertising is one of the most expensive line items in your business plan. The planning, the production, and the media costs can add up to a staggering amount. Ad testing is how you make sure those costs are worth it.

Designing an Advertising Testing Survey

The perception of ads is so subjective, it can be difficult to measure exactly what makes them ‘click’ with the people who see them. A well-constructed survey is a powerful tool for collecting a range of highly personal responses in consistent, quantifiable ways.

A Framework for Ad Testing Surveys

A good survey should measure how well the ad is fulfilling your objectives. To determine this, you have to have a clear picture of your end-goal in mind. What will success look like?

Are you looking for more web traffic, a reinforcement of positive brand perception, increased awareness of your products, or something else entirely? This desired outcome is known as the ‘advertising effect’, and it’s a key ingredient to include in your survey questions.

To generate a complete view of your ad, there are 5 areas to cover, including ad effectiveness and other more universal variables.

Service or Product Attributes

These are the product features and qualities the ad conveys to the target audience. Your questions should gauge how well the message is being communicated. Can they pick up from the ad that your product is cheap, delicious, built to last, versatile or convenient to use?


These are the actual experiences a customer expects the product to deliver. It could be having more money in their pocket, comfort, a better night’s sleep, warm cozy toes or a more convenient way to feed the family.

Personal Values

These are the positive emotional associations that come with the product and brand. You may want to see if the customer feels cared about, in safe hands, that their needs are met, or that they’re going to be inspired.

Higher Order Values

How well does the product tap into the personal and identity-related values its target customers hold? Does it make them feel secure, wise, that they have great taste or maybe that they’re an astute bargain hunter?

Advertising Effect

Depending on your ad and product, these could include areas like being entertaining, realistic, attention-grabbing, good at prompting a purchase, or inspiring people to seek more information.

What Style of Question Should You Use?

A statement with a strongly agree – strongly disagree scale is a good way to address these types of questions, since it gives you comparable, specific results without too much respondent effort. The scale also avoids the agreement bias that can be introduced through yes/no questions.

Make sure the statements are written in a neutral tone of voice, without any more words than necessary, and avoid emotive or descriptive terms that might bias the response.

Capture Demographic Information

As well as collecting data about opinions and reaction, be sure to add a few fields that request age bracket, gender, profession and any other demographic metrics you’re interested in. This information could help you to target your ad towards the right people once it has been created.

Questions to Ask About Your Ad Testing Platform

Don’t miss these crucial measures when you’re designing your ad testing survey. Before you spend thousands and thousands on a media campaign, you should test your ads in a controlled environment to ensure they have the desired impact.

1. Is There Anything Confusing, Unclear or Difficult to Understand About The Ad?

Ask at least one question that explores shortcomings with your ad, letting the respondent know you’re actively interested in any criticism they might have. This breaks down any reluctance to be negative and sets the tone for a constructive and honest survey response.

Try offering these options (confused, unclear, didn’t understand) with radio buttons.

If the respondent answers ‘yes’ to any of them, follow up with an open-ended response field where they can elaborate on which part of the ad made them feel that way.

2. How Likely Are They to Recommend The Product To a Friend Based on This Ad?

Because social proof is so powerful, recommendations are a strong indicator of perceived product quality.

If someone would be willing to advocate your product to a friend, it’s likely they think it will create a positive result not just for the friend, but for the friendship itself. When a recommendation is made, values like trust and reciprocity are being staked on your product, albeit in a minor way.

Use a Very Likely – Very Unlikely scale to measure responses to this question.

3. Qualitative Data Via an Open Text Field

Including at least one open text field is a bit like adding a safety net so you can catch anything important that’s fallen through gaps in your survey design.

It’s also a way of giving respondents free rein to tell you anything you haven’t explicitly asked, and capturing questions or opinions that your survey has triggered while they’re fresh in the respondent’s mind. Collecting qualitative data like this is increasingly valuable, especially since natural language can be processed at scale and turned into sentiment analysis with tools like Qualtrics iQ

In the Qualtrics survey platform, you can choose between different open field text box sizes, from one-line fields that encourage a quick, succinct response, to larger essay-style boxes for when there is more to say.


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