Make storyboard testing your secret advertising weapon

Kim Malcolm

Advertising is ubiquitous and more affordable than ever. To stand out in a cluttered environment, true creative excellence is a brand’s trump card to successfully connect with their audience, get noticed and stay memorable.

But winning ads don’t grow on trees, right? If anything, excellence is harder to achieve than ever before.

To increase the possibilities of producing a brilliant ad that cuts through the clutter, brands typically go through an arduous collaborative process with ad agencies and consumers.

Usually, consumer feedback is used to understand how an ad performs in the late-stage or even final execution stage. This feedback acts as the ultimate validation to prove that an ad is effective and safe for media investment.

However, testing earlier and iteratively is an essential part of strengthening your story. Especially if you choose to start testing as early as the storyboard stage.

In this article, we’ll discuss the purpose of storyboard testing as well as four tips that you should consider to maximize the power of your storyboards in your creative strategy.

🎙️ Putting the consumer at the heart of creative development

For more on creating advertising that cuts through, check out our podcast interview with Fernando Kahane, Senior Marketing Director at PepsiCo's Walkers & Tim McEntaggart, Director of Brand and Innovation Insights at PepsiCo.

Why should you run storyboard testing?

Storyboards are a great way to get your early ad ideas into the hands and minds of consumers and capture essential feedback to start your creative journey, well before you invest in animatics or final production.

The magic of storyboard testing is that you can use quick sketches to learn where your customers see creative opportunities and how they connect (or don’t connect) with your messaging at a very early stage — so you don’t head in the wrong direction.

If you start making tweaks based on consumer input at this stage, you’ll be well-positioned as the ad moves forward in the testing process — ultimately helping you to create a jaw-dropping ad that your audience connects with (without breaking the bank).

Here are four tips to help you on this part of the process:

1. The more ideas you test, the quicker you’ll find your winner

The beginning of the creative journey is the perfect time to think divergently and explore new ideas. For that reason, at this stage, quantity can be more important than quality.

Don’t be afraid to draft out multiple ad stories to frame your key message.

Compared to other early-stage design tools, storyboards involve low effort and low investment in planning and execution. And while a storyboard is a simple prototype, it is a highly visual tool that can easily narrate and bring an ad idea to life.

💡 Pro-tip: Evaluating many early narratives will let you corroborate your initial assumptions in a low-risk environment. In this way, you can invalidate the losers and prioritize the stories that are the most compelling and relevant to your audience.

2. Customize your storyboards to fit your team’s needs, but be consistent!

At this stage, some teams prefer to use very detailed drawings while others prefer to use stock images as a reference to the script — and each of these approaches is right! Feel free to do what fits best for you and your creative team when laying out your storyboard.

In your draft, you can include anything from key lines from the script, brand assets, core characters or celebrities and notations about sound effects.

Just remember to keep it as visual and engaging as possible — this way, consumers will be able to understand your story and feel invited to give their best feedback.

💡 Pro-tip: In storyboard testing, consumers respond to many elements of stimuli, including its style and format. While you can customize to fit your team’s needs, just remember to keep your format consistent to allow for a fair comparison across assets.

3. Short and simple always triumphs

Sometimes, storyboards can become very long if they include all the scenes, queues and notations that are needed for final production.

It’s important to be mindful that a longer format can be too overwhelming to consumers, and may hinder the quality of the feedback you receive.

💡 Pro-tip: Leave out the behind the scenes information and notes that might not add up to the general idea. Imagine your storyboard as a teaser that needs to articulate only key moments, dialogues and actions to frame your story as clearly as possible.

Why researching ads early and often makes all the difference

Check out our article on the costs of doing research late, why researching earlier will result in better outcomes as well as what to focus on when you get there.

4. Take that feedback to heart

In the past, storyboard testing has been reserved for qualitative assessments such as focus groups. However, storyboards can be a great source of both qualitative and quantitative feedback.

In fact, mixed data can help you achieve three things:

  1. Use robust data to determine which one of your ad ideas is the most appealing, persuasive and generates positive associations with your brand

  2. Identify the scenes that resonate the most (and the least) with your audience

  3. Understand how you can shape some of the scenes to make your ad more noticeable and attention-grabbing

Ultimately if you’re testing at this early stage, get the most that you can out of the data! Dig deep into each data point you receive and truly listen to how your audience is responding.

💡 Pro-tip: Testing at this stage can help you identify new ways to make your narratives more impactful. Also, it’s much easier (and less costly) to make major tweaks now so you can perfect your ad as it moves closer to production.

Final thoughts

Storyboard testing can be the beginning of a human-centric path to great advertising. It offers a great way to gauge whether your advertising ideas will connect with your consumer well before you take the ideas to production — which could end up saving you a LOT of time and money.

We hope these four tips help you get a better head start in your advertising testing journey, so you can begin standing out in the sea of advertisements.

🔍 Report: State of Creative Effectiveness

Want more content on how to create better ads? Download our State of Creative effectiveness report.

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