Ad Tracking Research Guide

ad tracking guide

This blog explains what ad tracking research is, what you can measure with this kind of research approach, why it’s important, and how quantilope can help.


Table of Contents: 


What is ad tracking research?

Ad tracking research is the process of monitoring the performance of advertisements and campaigns over a period of time.

With the results, brands can optimize existing ad campaigns and build future campaigns around these metrics. To optimize existing campaigns, brands might want to re-target their advertisement audience, edit the design elements of the ad, or change up where they’re displaying the ad.

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What is measured by ad tracking?

Brands can ask survey respondents a variety of ad-related metrics in their tracking questionnaire, such as ad recall, ad likability, brand awareness and attribution, social media ad activity, and any other metrics that point to advertising effectiveness.

Below let’s look at what these key performance indicators mean for a brand running an ad tracking study:

Ad recall

Ad recall is a metric in an ad tracking study that points to how memorable your advertisement was. There are generally two ways to ask about ad recall: showing an ad within a study itself or asking about previously-seen ad experience.

When asking for ad recall about an ad shown in the study itself, respondents are shown an ad (be it an image or video) and later on in the survey are asked how much they remembered seeing the ad (if at all). Sometimes brands will break up the ads shown into A/B testing groups where one group of respondents sees one version of the ad and the other sees a different iteration. This kind of ad pre-test is helpful for brands who are finalizing the ad campaign materials and want to know which is most memorable.

Brands might also want to ask respondents about ad memorability for an advertisement already live (or previously live) to see how well the ad performed (and to advise future advertising strategies). In this case, the ad recall question might ask whether or not a respondent remembered seeing a certain type of ad in a certain location. For example, if a perfume brand ran an ad on a billboard, the ad recall question might ask respondents to list any perfume brands they recently saw when driving. Brands might also take a more direct approach and show the exact ad itself, asking respondents if they recall seeing it in the past (though this can sometimes lead to over-attribution). In some cases, market research agencies will even have the capability to compare brand metrics of those who have seen the ad vs. those who have not.

Whichever approach brands take for ad recall, it’s a great metric to monitor over time in a tracker to understand how successful your advertising efforts are in capturing your target audience’s attention (and keeping it).

Ad likeability

Aside from remembering the ad, brands will simply want to know whether or not respondents like the ad they’ve created before setting it live, which can help them set expectations for performance in the market. An ad likeability question could use a quantitative scale to ask something like ‘On a scale of 1-5, how much do you like this ad’ (and show a picture or video of the ad itself).

A brand using a qualitative methodology to understand ad likeability could look something like a focus group where a select audience discusses elements of the ad and what they liked or disliked. With a qualitative approach, moderators can ask follow-up questions to get more details on what it was someone disliked about the ad - be it the advertising message, the design, the tone, or something else, and use that information to finalize the advertisement.

While ad likeability is generally a metric brands will want to use in a pre-test study (i.e. before their ad goes live), some brands might also want to know how much consumers like their ad over time in a tracking study. This can be helpful to keep up with changing consumer preferences and trends, so you don’t keep an ad live that is no longer ‘liked’ among your target audience.


Brand awareness

A key outcome of any advertisement is really to be a strong reflection of the brand doing the advertising. That brand wants to capture consumer attention and help consumers know of their brand, keeping them top of mind (often called brand awareness). As a result, they’ll potentially become customers of their products or services.

An ad tracking study can measure brand awareness in a number of ways. In addition to purely asking for awareness of the brand, a team can measure how well its brand cues are recognized. One way to do this is to show respondents the full ad without displaying the brand logo or name, and ask them to select or type the name of which brand they believe it’s for. Another way to measure brand awareness through advertising is to show respondents an element of the branding - such as a font, brand colors, brand design, etc., and asking them to attribute those elements to a certain brand. For example, you could probably attribute a black/white/lime green advertisement of someone listening to music with Spotify, even without seeing the Spotify brand name or logo. If your overall advertising is effective, consumers will become more likely to recognize your brand when they see these advertised attributes. 

Measuring brand awareness over time will help make future advertising decisions, which in turn will help grow the brand by translating consideration to purchase. If brand awareness is going down despite increased advertising efforts, maybe content marketing needs to switch the advertising claims (to trial in an A/B test) or the design team has to rework their graphics to stand out more.

Social media activity

As much as some want to avoid it, ads are everywhere on social media. They’re in Instagram stories, Facebook feeds, Snapchat filters, YouTube banners, the list goes on...

The good news about social media ads (for brands at least) is that it’s an easy form of data collection. Brands can look at their social media engagement and activity to see how many have viewed their ad, clicked on the ad, shared the ad, or exited out of the ad. All these social media kpis inform a brand of user experience when engaging with their content. If users are clicking on and sharing an ad - that means something captured and piqued their interest enough to break up their scrolling and think about the brand.

Social media data can sometimes also inform brands of the key demographics viewing and engaging with their content. Knowing who these consumers are will help optimize future advertising campaigns for the best return on investment of ad spending.

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Examples of advertising tracking questions 

Above we looked at some of the metrics brands can capture in an advertising tracking study, so now let’s explore a few more examples from the perspective of different companies in various industries.

Fitness brand running an Instagram ad campaign:

A fitness brand creates a series of Instagram ads to show as sponsored posts on Instagram's feed and in Instagram stories. The ads include black and white images with bright, neon colors and crisp lines/edges. In some ads, there’s music playing in the background of the videos while other ads in the campaign are static images.

The brand wants to know its ad recall over time, so it includes the following questions in its ad tracking study each wave:

  • “Do you recall seeing this ad?” [Image of static ad or video shown; Yes/No]

  • [If yes above] “Where did you see this ad?”[TV, Social Media, Billboard, Website, Other]

  • [If social media above] “Which social media platform did you see this ad on?” [Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok]

Over the course of a few months (from when the ad first launched to being live for a while) the brand sees ad recall rise in their tracker - indicating a successful ad campaign

Tech company running a digital ad campaign on news sites

A tech company has released a new smartphone and has been leveraging display ads on news sites such as Yahoo and CNN. They want to know if their website ad strategy has led to higher brand awareness over the past few months, so after asking basic funnel questions like brand awareness, consideration, etc., the brand asks respondents questions like...

  • “Looking at this ad [display ad shown on screen] which brand do you think the product belongs to?”

  • “What kind of smartphones does [brand] currently offer?”

  • “To your knowledge, what tech companies have recently released a new smartphone product?”

The tech company sends this survey to respondents (with a screener for those who access news on the advertised sites) and monitors how much brand awareness increases while the display ads are live.

Snack brand running a print ad campaign in a local paper
As a final example, a snack brand has released a new flavor of pretzels and has launched a print ad campaign in the local papers - showing a variety of ads over the course of a few weeks. One ad focuses on flavor, another on crunch, and another on packaging. They launch an online survey, screen for local zipcode respondents, and ask for feedback on how much respondents liked the ads they saw (if they saw them).

  • “Do you recall seeing an ad for [brand] pretzels in your local paper last week?” [Yes/No]

  • [If yes above] “How much did you like the pretzel ad you saw on a scale of 1-5?”

  • [If 1-2 above] “What elements did you not like about the ad you saw?’ [Colors/Font Choice/Images used/Product claims/Product itself]

  • [If 4-5 above] “What elements did you like about the ad you saw?’ [Colors/Font Choice/Images used/Product claims/Product itself]

The snack company tracks these metrics over however many weeks the print ads are live and observe the feedback/trends in aggregate.

For more on ad tracking research, read our guide on the best ad tracking software for your ad tracking research.

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Importance of conducting advertising tracking research   

For any brand dedicating budget to advertising campaigns, it’s essential to monitor that campaign’s success through advertising tracking research.

By forgoing ad tracking research, future advertising strategies or initiatives are at risk - not knowing what has worked or flopped in the past. Continuous tracking of campaign metrics is the best way to keep a pulse on your consumer market, their preferences, what catches their attention, what they remember, and so on.

Ad tracking data comes together to paint a full picture of your campaign from start to finish, letting you know when things like brand awareness or ad recall rose or declined (and why).

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How to conduct ad tracking research using quantilope’s automated platform

Most market research firms or market research companies will offer a form of ad tracking research. These traditional firms often come with a high price tag, long turnaround times, and unactionable final report decks.

With quantilope, we know the importance of ad tracking in real-time and ensure you have access to affordable market research with advanced methodologies for advertising like A/B testing (for ad iterations), market segmentation (to break up your audience into actionable groups), and MaxDiff (to finalize ad claims).

Whether you’re looking for a full-service partner, a DIY platform, or a ‘Do It Together’ consultancy approach, quantilope provides service options that fit your unique ad tracking needs. Start with a template or build your ad tracking survey from scratch with drag & drop modules. Connect your sample, monitor results in real-time, and watch as your tracking charts update automatically with each new wave of data collection. Use the results to refine your advertising message strategy, tweak advertising designs, or keep doing what you’re doing (if the results are all positive!).

To learn more about ad tracking research with quantilope, get in touch below!

Get in touch to learn more about ad tracking research with quantilope!



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