OPINION11 July 2011

Gatorade ditches pre-testing for buzz-fuelled trial and error

The clash between advertising creatives and pre-testing agencies is one of the great flashpoints of research.

Traditional advertising research, we are told, may help to prevent disasters, but it can also stifle creativity and make it harder to produce something really exceptional.

In an interview with Advertising Age, Massimo d’Amore, the head of PepsiCo’s beverages business in the Americas, speaks of how his company is introducing a trial and error approach to testing and refining ads.

In the case of Gatorade, d’Amore said: “We don’t consumer research ads anymore.” Instead the firm uses technology to track word-of-mouth buzz and responds to it by making any necessary tweaks or changes to campaigns. “The best consumer research is the social network,” he said. “So we develop new ads using the best judgement of our team and the agency. We put them on the air and for the first 24 hours we track what’s being said… If needed, we go back in the editing room, and fix it.”

D’Amore also said of recent product redesigns: “I believe it’s better to go to market faster, because of the pace of innovation, with stuff that’s 80% or 90% finished, than to go for absolute perfection and be much slower… There’s nothing wrong with correcting while you’re doing things.”

It’s great to see companies embracing social media monitoring and making efforts to be more fleet of foot, but this new approach clearly comes with its own set of risks. “Fixing” an ad that has gone down badly with viewers might prove easier said than done. And surely no amount of editing is going to turn a poor ad into a great one.