Online Dial Testing & Debunking Political Digital Ad Myths


November is right around the corner, and the political ad season is ramping up. Question is, is this the year that digital video ads become a dominant part of campaign media strategy? A recent Campaigns and Elections article noted that in the 2012 election, even the Obama campaign which attributed much of its success to its digital strategy, only spent 8 percent of its media budget on digital. As comparison, consumer brand advertisers typically spend an average of 25 percent of their budgets on digital ads. So, why are political campaigners so late to the party when it comes to digital advertising? The Campaign and Elections article points out three commonly held myths that may be to blame.

But there’s a fourth myth that the article fails to mention that’s also at play here and we’re familiar with it here at Dialsmith. Campaigners don’t believe there’s (or don’t know about) a viable method for testing digital ads. For years, dial testing with focus groups has been the go-to method for offline testing of traditional political messaging and ads. But campaign marketers can’t simply assume that messages and ads that were tested and developed for TV will work online. And the time and cost investment as well as the accuracy of conducting offline dial testing for online digital ads makes this method impractical.


But campaigners do have options for testing digital ads and word is starting to get out about it. Here at Dialsmith, we’ve developed online dial testing tools using what we’ve learned over the years developing and providing services around our Perception Analyzer dials. These online tools allow audiences to view and continuously rate recorded media (video and audio), following a similar method as the offline dials and delivering results in the form of overlay lines as you would see with the offline dial groups. They can be delivered as part of a larger survey or embedded as an element within an online panel or community. So now, campaigners can use these tools to conduct online dial testing with digital ads and can do so with quick turnarounds and at reduced cost. Additionally, the type of results generated from online dial testing is familiar to anyone who’s worked with offline dial groups and data from both offline and online testing can even be integrated if need be.

Since the start of 2014, Dialsmith has seen a healthy uptick in the use of our online tools—Perception Analyzer Online and Slidermetrix—for digital ad and online message testing for political campaigns. As campaigners begin to focus more resources and attention to the digital space, online research tools like these will become critical to ensuring that digital ads are on target and to debunking the myth that you can’t effectively test digital ads and messages in much the same manner as you can offline with traditional ads. If you want to get a closer look at these online dial testing tools or explore whether they might be a good fit for your next project, contact our online products team.