Lifting the veil on advertising effectiveness

Measuring advertising effectiveness with real-time responses

Moving images play a central role in advertising and corporate communications. No matter who the target audience is – co-workers, clients or members of the general public – images should be liked, and key content and selling points must be convincing. The message should be lodged front of mind, match the brand and ultimately stimulate the desired response. To check that communication instruments are having the desired effect among the target group – before they go live – the Ravensburg-based Steinbeis Research Center for Advertising and Communication has developed an ad-response test method based on the real-time measurement of responses.

Real-time response measurements (RTR measurements, or continuous response analysis) involves capturing continuous subjective reactions to aural and visual stimuli at the actual moment of perception. Respondents are given a handset to signal their agreement, attitude or opinion by turning a dial. All dial devices are linked up wirelessly to a moderator’s laptop. The dial device used by the Ravensburg Steinbeis experts is called a “perception analyzer” and was developed by the American company Dialsmith.

Most RTR testing used to be carried out in the United States to evaluate radio and TV programs, movies and TV ads. In Germany, the perception analyzer was mostly used in debate research, especially for studies during televised debates before general elections. Taking RTR readings is recognized as a valid and reliable way to gauge the reaction of audiences at the actual moment of perception.

Working with UN.MEDIA, a TV and film production company also based in Ravensburg, the Steinbeis Research Center carried out an ad-response test on several short image films and TV ads. By taking RTR plots and evaluating responses to a variety of questions, graphs could be used to answer a number of questions: Does the ad generate enough interest at the beginning? At what point does agreement to certain statements dip, and why? Is there any content in the ad that polarizes? Is the music right, the images, the voice-over?

Before conducting the RTR ad response test, the respondents’ demographic profiles are taken. The participants are then shown a continuous reel of the ads being tested. They are then quizzed on the originality of the ads, whether they are understandable and credible, and what they think of the quality of the ad. This is followed by group discussions to show respondents their earlier reactions, question them on their reactions, and give them an opportunity to recommend improvements.

Ad-response testing is a successful instrument for measuring the effectiveness of a variety of executions among given target groups. UN.MEDIA also plans to carry out regular critical assessments of its own work in the future to gain an edge as a small and innovative business in what is a highly competitive market.


Prof. Dr. Simon Ottler
Steinbeis Research Center Advertising and Communication Ravensburg

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