Responsive Advertising Blog

Can Radio Kill the Focus Group?

1 minute read


For most creative folks, pretesting your TV concepts in a focus group is about as enjoyable as sharpening a pencil in your ear drum. Their accuracy of gauging creative performance is akin to licking your finger and sticking it in the air. However, I’m not here to argue the validity of conclusions made while sitting behind one-way glass watching Joe Sixpacks drool over your storyboards. That debate is older than David Ogilvy’s pipe tobacco.

I will suggest, however, there may be a far better way to pretest your message. And, ironically, it doesn’t involve pretesting.

I’ve done several tours of duty in focus group purgatory where I had the privilege of eating my body weight in M&Ms while watching grown adults argue over the size of the logo at the end of the commercial. There had to be a better way!

Fast forward. When I moved into the business of direct response, I was really compelled by the possibilities I was seeing for message testing in the often underutilized and underappreciated medium of radio. Here’s a highly efficient channel that allows you to rapid test real messages with real consumers. With the integration of unique 800 numbers and URLs, we knew exactly what message resonates the most against a wide spectrum of ideas. AND the tests actually generated dollars for our customers. So we’re learning quickly and generating sales at the same time. Usually you have to pay people to be in your focus groups, not the other way around.

Now I know what you’re thinking…hey nimrod, what does radio have to do with TV?

A lot.

We began testing the same copy, almost verbatim, on TV, and it greatly increased our batting average when compared to ground-up new commercials. And in hindsight, it makes sense. Your copy has been battle-tested with a real audience who votes with their real money.

The trick is making sure you’ve got the technology to truly be able to accurately measure your response. Over the past several years Marketing Architects has invested heavily in radio spot detection and telephony technology to ensure every response gets tagged to the message that delivered it. This can be a tricky science when you’re testing hundreds of messages a year.

I’m sure the debate over the merits of focus group testing won’t end in our lifetime. The mere suggestion could send stock in M&Ms plummeting. However, if you’re up for a less conventional way to gain real insight on how your TV message will perform, and generate real sales in the process, try tuning into DR radio first.

Rob DeMars

By Rob DeMars

Chief Creative Officer

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