I recently found myself in conversation with colleagues about the recent article by Tom Denari in which he describes copy-testing as a “usually blunt instrument that beats out the sometimes unexplainable magic of an ad or campaign.”


Sticking with the “Dilly Dilly” theme, Denari tells a story about the King and Queen of Marketing to illustrate his point – When the Duke of Advertising presents the King and Queen of Marketing with a thoroughly copy-tested campaign that eliminates all downsides of risk, the Queen bans the Duke to the Pit of Misery, lest he (or the royal spectators) forget that there’s an upside to risk.

Risk taking can lead to unforeseen opportunities and is an essential part of growth. A haphazard risk may even be sporadically successful, as seen in “Dilly Dilly.” However, what might the Queen of Marketing have said to the Duke of advertising, if, when he had rolled out his scrolls, he’d proclaimed, “Your highness, fear not the Dove soap attempt to portray diversity, nor Lady Jenner’s representation of Pepsi’s global unification efforts. I can even spare the kingdom from lady Doritos!”

I must say I agree with Tom. Anyone who advises the use of a blunt tool to deliver copy testing results deserves to be dragged away, as the subjects cheer, “Dilly Dilly.”

Be it a surgical, mechanical, or creative tool, a blunt instrument typically damages the tissue, functionality and intrinsic value of a thing. However, finely crafted tools have the ability to advance products and services.

The real question is, “What tool are you using? How and why was the tool designed?”

In a previous career, as a former school teacher, I taught in an alternative Waldorf educational system, which opposes the mainstream emphasis on constant assessment and testing, because testing can beat the joy and magic out of learning. However, had I sat in front of parents during parent-teacher conferences and said, “Your child’s happy at school, but I can’t tell you how s/he’s performing academically” I wouldn’t have survived my decade-long teaching career.

Assessment, just like risk, is necessary for growth, and it doesn’t have to beat out the magic. There’s good and bad research, crude and sophisticated assessment tools. Well researched copy testing, grounded in a proven methodology, is simply a dress rehearsal that provides clients with optimization feedback. Well researched copy testing champions the creative, collaborates with clients and forms a partnership with the brand.

Creatives and Brand Managers should be encouraged to take risks and to create something noteworthy, like “Dilly Dilly.” Risk taking also has a better chance of succeeding when guided by a research-based methodology that mitigates failure. At the end of the day, creatives and Brand Managers are free to “take it or leave it,” in terms of heeding copy testing results. However, if using a well-crafted tool, designed with the intention of optimizing brand communication, it seems that mitigating the downside to risk, while pursing the upside, might better leverage the gold coins in royal coffers.

Sarah Akerson is a Research Analyst at Ameritest.

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