The Message Tuning Concept (MTC)
10.11.2005

Nowadays, a pre-test does not only involve evaluating the effectiveness of advertising in terms of its impact, assertiveness, or rational persuasiveness. Advertising must capture viewers’ attention, be entertaining and have a persuasive structure as secondary virtues. The primary virtues lie in the advertising’ s actual communicative performance –and this takes place in large part on an unconscious level: How does the storyboard work on the psyche of the consumer? What behaviour-controlling motives does it address? Does the storyboard address the moods associated with the product in an appealing way? Does it effectively allay fears and reservations that have so far been subliminally associated with the product? Does it stabilise the brand core, and add new facets to it? And finally: What are the strengths and weaknesses of its composition and plot – are there clues of how to make it more effective?

These are the essential questions to which the MTC (Message Tuning Concept) developed by rheingold gives clear, tangible answers. The MTC goes much further than conventional pre-test procedures. It penetrates the inner impact mechanics of adverstising and shows how and whether each point in the creative work is successful. The MTC makes transparent how a storyboard/commercial – going beyond all rational considerations remarks about its appeal – is actually understood by consumers and what implicit brand message it conveys.
The MTC is an instrument of analysis that works in a differentiated, individual fashion. It analyses the specific impact mechanisms of a storyboard/commercial and shows the psychological effects of these mechanisms on consumer behaviour. There are no patent recipes or universally valid impact parameters or success factors in advertising. Every storyboard/commercial works differently. New communicative styles and techniques are constantly being developed to appeal to the psyches of consumers and charge a given brand image.

A knowledge of the specific and unique impact mechanisms of a storyboard/commercial provides the most sound basis for decision making, and it provides valuable creative impulses for further communicative development.

The depth-psychological acceptance and impact analysis MTC clarifies 10 basic impact factors or questions:

1.Basic acceptance of the storyboards

  • How is the composition of the storyboard experienced, understood, and evaluated?
  • How is the emotional world depicted, experienced and evaluated?
  • Are the storyboards or the realms of experience evoked by them considered in line with the product or brand?
  • Are the storyboards thought to be credible?

    2. Activation performance and degree of holding attention

  • Activation performance: Does it succeed in rousing the viewer and capturing his or her attention?
  • Degree of holding attention: Does it manage to hold the viewer’s attention from beginning to end?

    3.Disruptive spots and places where attention lapses

  • In what places is the process of reception disrupted (disinterest, fatigue, etc.)?
  • In what places does the viewer’s attention move away from the storyboard?

    4.Communicative performance and understanding of the storyboard

  • How are the storyboards experienced, understood, and processed?
  • What understanding and processing differences exist within the target group(s)?
  • What subject matter, information, or images do the storyboards convey?

    5.Message of the storyboard

  • What is the real message of the storyboards from the viewer’s point of view? How does the viewer understand the intended core messages?

    6.Motivational relevance of the storyboards

  • Do the storyboards succeed in addressing the central motivation and forces of impact?
  • Do the storyboards succeed in making the state of mind associated with the product attractive?

    7.Problem - solving relevance of the storyboard

  • Do the storyboards manage to effectively do away with existing (rational and emotional) reservations?
  • Do the storyboards effectively legitimise a preference for the product?

    8.Ability of the storyboard to differentiate the product from the competition

  • To what extent does the storyboard succeed in showing the product to be singular in the market or add to its singularity (uniqueness of image worlds)?
  • What are the product’s central and unique benefits perceived to be, above all compared with the main competitors?

    9.Profiling of the brand image

  • What expectations does the viewer have after contact with the advertising?
  • What image do the storyboards convey?
  • Do the storyboards manage to further develop the image of the respective brand in keeping with brand’s current image?
  • To what extent is the image accentuated or modified?

    10.Conclusions and optimisation possibilities

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the storyboards’ concepts and designs?
  • What optimisation possibilities can be recommended?
  • What conclusions can be drawn from the storyboards for future product communication?

    Analysing and evaluating the concepts (storyboards) aims at a reconstruction of the internal reception processes that shape the consumer’s understanding and opinions.
    Accurate reconstruction of the reception process sheds light on the specific influence patterns of the concepts and their ramifications with different types of users.

    The intention of the interview is to stretch and stress the moments of reception so that insights into the internal structure of the process of perceiving and understanding can be gained. Thus, whatever comes to the respondent’s mind and whatever he or she experiences in the evaluation of the concepts should be noted: sensual qualities, feelings of acceptance or rejection, likes and dislikes as well as the overall impression of the concepts/the campaign.

    For each concept, the interview is divided
    into three phases:


    Phase 1: Short presentation and deep exploration

    The interviewer shows the concept to the respondents (same for second concept).
    During the presentation of the storyboard the consumer’s behaviour is observed in detail (gestures and expressions, level of attention, remarks, etc.). Right after the storyboard is presented the consumer is asked to give his or her spontaneous perceptions and impressions (“Tell me what your first impression was.”).
    Then, the order of perceptions is explored from the respondent’s memory (“What came first/did you notice anything else after that?”), at the same time taking into account the interviewer’s impressions of the respondent’s behaviour.
    Personal meanings and impressions that arise in connection with the pictures and the text are also elicited to deepen the insights.
    Further insights are gained by provoking free associations, memories of other advertisements, personal experiences with the brand and general opinions concerning the topic of the concept.
    Phase 1 is finished when a complete picture of the process of perception has been gained.

    Phase 2: Short presentation and deep exploration

    In phase 2, the concept is shown again.
    The respondent is asked beforehand to pay particular attention this time to the development of his or her impressions during the presentation and to note deviations from the first viewing. The respondent is also asked to try and recall impressions he or she had during the first presentation but hasn’t mentioned so far. Again, questions geared to the course of the respondent’s perceptions are asked. All remarks are again carefully noted down.
    As in phase 1, the sequence of perceptions and the relationship of concept motives and subjective impressions are explored. Special emphasis is laid on additional and different impressions as well as on possible changes in the general ’tone’. For this purpose, interviewers try to relieve the client of the pressure of congruence (“Never mind if you contradict what you’ve said before!”). On the other hand, what was said before can now be said again in different words.
    Phase 2 is finished when a complete picture of the process of perception has been gained.

    Phase 3: Repeated presentation and deep exploration

    In phase 3 the concept is presented for the third time. Now the respondent is encouraged to describe his or her current impressions aloud while looking at the concept. Again, the emphasis is on new impressions and opinions.
    Repeated presentation is also intended to help the respondent remember particular details as well as the order of his or her impressions (“Now that you’ve seen the pictures again, do you remember thoughts or feelings that you had when you first saw them?”)
    On the basis of the statements made in the first two phases, the completeness of the course of the respondent’s impressions can be checked. Possible ‘gaps’ in the course of perception are now actively addressed: “It’s still not clear to me how you experienced this sequence.”
    To finish the exploration, the respondents are encouraged to give a final statement and explain in their own words their understanding of the concept and the message – the personal conclusions they have drawn.
  • © 2015 rheingold