Unlock the Secret to Ad Testing with Surveys

Austin Olea
min. read

Ad testing is a crucial aspect of modern marketing. Upfront research can maximize marketing ROI by confirming that your ad creative resonates with your target audience. It can also ensure your messaging is well received and on brand.


In the ever-evolving landscape of advertising, it's no longer enough to rely solely on creativity and intuition. Instead, marketers need to harness the power of data-driven insights to optimize their ad campaigns and stay ahead of the competition. Survey ad testing offers an invaluable tool to achieve just that by gathering feedback from target audiences to refine ad content to resonate more effectively.

Throughout this article, we will explore the many advantages of survey ad testing and demonstrate how it can lead to more impactful marketing campaigns. By the end, you will be armed with the knowledge and tools needed to optimize your advertising content before launching ad campaigns, leading to improved ROI on ad spend.

What types of ad content can be tested?

All forms of advertising: print, video, and digital content, can be survey tested before they go live. For this reason, it's important to use a well-equipped survey platform, such as the Centiment Survey Tool, that is not only compatible with multiple media formats but also offers the programming logic necessary to guide respondents down the most applicable paths in your questionnaire. Let's dive into each format of advertising.

Print content testing

Despite the digital revolution, print advertising continues to play an important role in many marketing strategies. A reliable survey platform enables you to test and refine print ad concepts, designs, headlines, and copy before investing in large-scale print campaigns. By gathering feedback from a representative sample of your audience, you can fine-tune your print ads to maximize impact and drive better results.

Video content testing

The effectiveness of video content largely depends on its ability to captivate and engage viewers. We suggest keeping your videos under two minutes when placing them in a survey. While many survey platforms are video compatible, we recommend using a tool with a timing feature, such as Centiment, that can force the respondent to stay on a video for at least 50% of the playtime.

Digital content testing

Given the prominence of digital marketing, testing your online ads, social media posts, and website content is crucial for success. A comprehensive survey platform allows you to test various elements of your digital content, from ad placements and design to messaging and calls to action.

By leveraging the capabilities of a robust survey platform, you can test and refine your print, video, and digital content to ensure they effectively communicate your brand message, engage your target audience, and drive tangible results.

Exploring an example with SwiftPay credit cards

SwiftPay, a fictional credit card company, has built a loyal customer base and is now looking to expand its reach and attract new customers. To achieve this, SwiftPay increased its advertising budget and launched campaigns across various social media platforms.

To ensure the effectiveness of their ads before committing to significant ad spend, SwiftPay turned to survey ad testing.

The scope of the ad testing project involved:

  • Pricing responses for their target audience.
  • Developing ad imagery and text for testing.
  • Programming the content into a Survey Tool to facilitate respondent distribution and analysis.

The quote request was for 1,000 responses to a 30-question / 6-minute survey. The target audience was individuals in the US 18+ with a HHI of $30,000+ who currently have or are interested in obtaining a credit card. The request also included directional census balancing on age and gender.

After receiving a quote and confirming the project was within budget, SwiftPay began to design its ad creative for survey testing. They crafted three ad variations, each containing one of four unique assets: an image, image text, CTA text, and caption text.

Image of various credit card ad formats to be tested in a survey
Ad variations for survey testing

Ad evaluation categories with example questions

Now that SwiftPay has some ad assets in place, there are several ways to construct their ad testing survey. Below we'll cover some of the most widely used methods in the studies we run at Centiment.

Ad creative appeal: A pertinent question would be, "Assuming you are in the market for a new credit card, which of the following ads most resonates with you? In other words, please pick your favorite."

Component evaluation: Each ad will have a series of components that can be tested. These are often unique to the ad format of the display network or social media platform you advertise on. In the SwiftPay example, each of the three ad variants is comprised of four ad components: image, image text, CTA text, and caption text. These can be independently tested in a variety of ways. The most common of which would be to ask the respondent to rank them from most favorite to least favorite. In doing so, you can deconstruct and assess the granular components of the ad. Enabling you to piece together the most appealing pieces into a single ad. Example question below.

In the context of credit card ads, we'd like to know which call to action (CTA) text snippets are most appealing. Please rank the following text snippets, with 1 being your most favorite and 4 being your least favorite.

  • Sign Up, Learn More, Get Offer, Apply Now

Recall and comprehension: Recalling the specifics of an ad, also known as attributes recall, can take many forms. For instance, you can list the three image text snippets from the illustration above, amongst others, to see if respondents can recall the image text associated with their favorite ad. A higher level of recall indicates a more memorable ad.

Emotional response: Below are some example questions. They can be tailored to best align with your advertising subject and creative. These questions can help you gauge your target audience's emotional response to your ad and make any necessary adjustments to optimize your ads' emotional impact and effectiveness.

Which emotion best describes how you feel after viewing this ad?

  • Excited, Inspired, Amused, Confused, Annoyed, Indifferent, Other (please specify)

On a scale of 1 to 5, how strongly does this ad evoke a sense of trust in the brand?

  • 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Extremely)

How would you describe the tone of this ad?

  • Humorous, Serious, Informative, Emotional, Light-Hearted, Other (please specify)

After viewing this ad, how likely are you to feel a connection with the brand?

  • Very likely, Likely, Neutral, Unlikely, Very Unlikely

On a scale of 1 to 5, how much does this ad make you feel excited about the product or service?

  • 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Extremely)

Brand perception: These questions help evaluate how an ad influences respondents' views and opinions about a brand. Below are some examples that be used in the context of ad testing.

How would you describe your overall impression of the brand after viewing this ad?

  • Very positive, Positive, Neutral, Negative, Very negative

Based on this ad, which of the following words would you use to describe the brand? (Select all that apply)

  • Trustworthy, Innovative, High-quality, Affordable, Reliable, Exclusive, Sustainable, Other (please specify)

After viewing this ad, on a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this brand to a friend or colleague?

  • 0 (Very unlikely) to 10 (Very likely)

On a scale of 1 to 5, how well does this ad align with your perception of the brand's values?

  • 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Perfectly)

Compared to competitors, how does this ad make you feel about the brand's position in the market?

  • Much more favorable, More favorable, About the same, Less favorable, Much less favorable

Allocating ad exposure to your sample

Now that you know the basics of how to get started drafting your ad testing survey, let's dive into how to allocate respondents amongst the content of your survey.

There are two methods of allocating respondents to your ad test, single group ad testing and multi group ad testing. The multi group method can be applied to any longer survey that needs to be broken up.

Image showing the different formats for testing ads. Single group vs multi group ad testing.
Respondent allocation methods for ad testing

Single group ad testing: This is the expected behavior where every respondent is presented with every survey question. Exceptions are common where you suppress non-applicable questions using skip or display logic.

Muti group ad testing: Respondents are only exposed to a portion of the survey. The multi group format is used when 1) you want to focus respondents on only one variant of ad creative and its associated question battery or 2) you have too many pieces of creative to reasonably put a single respondent through.

Use our margin of error (MOE) calculator to understand the statical significance in your sample groups. For example, let's assume you're surveying 900 respondents. Your population size input for a single group ad test would be 900 in the MOE calculator. If utilizing a multi group test across three groups, your population size would be 300.

Keep in mind that if you're segmenting your groups into smaller cohorts during analysis, that can also play a factor in your MOE calculations. In other words, if you apply several filters to look at a group of 10 responses, chances are the findings are not statically significant.


A well-executed survey ad test can save companies time and money by optimizing advertising ad creative before investing in ad spend. As with any endeavor, a little upfront planning goes a long way. Make sure to state your objectives ahead of diving into constructing your survey. With a bit of persistence, you'll find yourself going through far fewer campaign iterations before finding a campaign that drives the ROI you're looking for.

Eager to get started but don't have access to the respondent you need? Centiment Audience Panel can reach respondents in 100+ countries.

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