As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.
I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.
Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.
As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing. And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.
Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.
Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.
The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.
— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services