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the best concept, or a rough-cut (near-finished) ad is pretested as a “disaster check.” Partici- pants are invited to a central location to watch a pilot for a new TV program. During the program, they’re exposed to several ads, including the pretest ad. After the sho , part-

icipants complete a questionnaire. They first respond to questions about the show and then answer questions about the pretest materials, to determine how effectively the message was communicated and what their overall reactions were. For theater-style pretests to be effective, you must obtain results from at least 100 respondents of each type (NCI 2002).


  • You can obtain responses from a large number of respondents at the same time.

  • Running the ad as part of TV program- ming allows you to more closely replicate participants’ experiences of watching TV at home.


  • Your results aren’t representative and

can’t be generalized.

During theater-style pretests, participants are

invited to a conveniently located meeting room or auditorium that is set up for screening a TV program. Participants should be told only that their reactions to a TV program are being sought, not the real purpose of the gathering.

The program can be any entertaining, non- health-related video presentation that is 15 to 30 minutes long. About halfway through the program, some commercials are shown, and your message is among them.

Chapter 3: Gaining and Using Target Audience Insights

Table 3.4: Estimated Costs of a Theater-Style Pretest Conducted With 100 Participants From the General Population

Develop questionnaire


Produce questionnaire


Recruit participants


Rent facility


Rent audiovisual equipment


Conduct theater-style pretest


Provide respondent incentives


Code, enter data, and tabulate


Analyze research findings and write report






*The cost of large facilities (e.g., hotel ballrooms) varies widely by geographic region. Check with local facilities for approximate costs.

After the program, participants receive a ques- tionnaire designed to gauge their reactions to the program. Then they complete a section of questions focusing on the ad.

In some cases, one-half of the audience is sent home and the rest are asked to stay. The remaining group watches your ad again and answers several additional questions. The participants who were sent home are called back two to three days later and asked questions about the ad, to determine how well they recalled the ad and its main message.

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