Using Online Message Testing to Evaluate TV Ads, Select Effective Messaging, and Improve Public Health Campaigns
Background: This article describes two examples of online ad testing used to assess effectiveness of tobacco control ads in Minnesota (United States). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends mass-media campaigns to change tobacco-related attitudes and encourage quitting. ClearWay MinnesotaSM uses online surveys to test ads with target audiences, select the most effective ads, and complement traditional evaluations of its campaigns. Two examples in this article demonstrate the method and how results have been used.
Methods: Example 1 used an online survey to test two ad campaigns with 600 tobacco users. Participants were randomly assigned to evaluate two CDC Tips From Former Smokers ads and two ClearWay Minnesota QUITPLAN® Services ads for motivational effectiveness. In Example 2, 805 adult Minnesotans evaluated three of ClearWay Minnesota’s Still a Problem educational ads to determine whether the campaign was having the intended effect on its target audience.
Results: Results for Example 1 revealed CDC’s ads were more effective than QUITPLAN Services ads in motivating tobacco users to seek help. Results for Example 2 demonstrated that the Still a Problem campaign was having the intended effect on the target audience.
Discussion: Example 1 results compelled ClearWay Minnesota to tag CDC’s ads with the QUITPLAN Services brand and buy more advertising time. Observed service volumes increased. Example 2 results suggested no need for adjustments to change the Still a Problem campaign because it was working as intended. Traditional evaluation requires longer time frames than online testing. Online message testing can inform social marketing and educational campaign development in real time, typically for less cost than traditional methods.
Conclusions: Online message testing is an efficient way to test ads, improve program effectiveness, and protect investments in public health marketing campaigns.