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Examples of Communication & Advertising Research Projects

The following are links to some of the research we have done at different stages of the communication development process:

Another of our specialties is research on websites -- for some examples, click here

Strategy & Message Development

  • An Ontario university wanted to increase the number of college graduates choosing them when transferring to a university. We conducted focus groups with college students who had transferred to a university to explore their experiences in applying for university and to generate ideas for increasing the awareness and appeal of the client university as a transfer destination.

  • An industry organization interested in promoting consumption of turkey wanted to identify which positioning of turkey is most likely to get consumers to integrate turkey into regular meal planning. Focus groups were conducted with people who occasionally eat turkey as well as with people from two ethnic communities who had not eaten turkey - people who eat halal, and the Asian community. The focus groups explored meal planning, perceptions of turkey, and reactions to a variety of alternative positioning strategies.
  • A large software company concerned about software piracy by resellers commissioned Sage Research to do qualitative research to explore software resellers' perceptions and attitudes related to piracy. The report included a recommended communication strategy based on the findings.
  • For a major manufacturer we conducted an online survey to generate statistics about food preparation trends, preferences and habits that could be used in the company's advertising and public relations campaigns.

  • A large telecommunications company was interested in developing a communication campaign with the objective of boosting the motivation and morale of its employees. Focus groups with employees were done to assist in developing the communication strategy and messages.

  • The Canadian Window and Door Manufacturers Association and the Government of Canada planned to develop a marketing and communications plan to develop awareness of the Association's Voluntary Certification and Labelling Program. To assist in communication strategy development, we conducted focus groups with consumers and the trade to better understand consumer buying behaviour for windows and the role of energy efficiency in the purchase decision, and to explore reactions to the certification program and the energy rating system and labelling for windows.


Concept Testing

  • For a manufacturer of major appliances we conducted focus groups to determine which of 4 alternative print ad concepts would be most effective, and to identify potential improvements in the selected ad concept.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada developed three alternative TV ad concepts to support Remembrance Day awareness and activities. Focus groups were conducted with the general public to identify the strongest concept and refinements to this concept to further improve its communication effectiveness.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) developed three alternative concepts for a marketing campaign to support its recruiting program. We undertook focus groups with young adults to assess the communication effectiveness of each concept and determine the strongest overall concept.
  • The Government of Canada, provinces and territories participating in the Canada Student Loans Program had agreed to launch a social marketing campaign to encourage parents to start saving for their children’s post-secondary education. We conducted focus groups with lower to middle-income parents to assess several alternative print and radio ad concepts.
  • A manufacturer was planning a major consumer promotion campaign. We conducted an online survey to measure consumer preference for nine alternative promotion concepts.
  • A manufacturer had developed alternate logos for an existing product and commissioned focus groups to explore consumer reactions to the logos, and to identify which logo concept best worked for the brand’s target group.
  • Citizenship & Immigration Canada, in partnership with Service Canada, was developing an advertising campaign to help increase awareness and uptake of immigrant settlement services. Focus groups were conducted with newcomers to Canada to assess alternative campaign concepts (rendered in print and animatic TV).


Creative/Communications Pre-testing

  • Sage Research prepared a report commissioned by the Government of Canada on best practices for pre-testing Government of Canada advertising. The report's recommendations spanned research design and planning, fieldwork and reporting.
  • An organization sponsoring a program to support cancer research created TV and radio spots to publicize the program. We held a number of focus groups to identify refinements to the ads to maximize impact in terms of encouraging public involvement with the program.
  • The Office of Boating Safety acquired a large number of TV Public Service Announcements (PSAs) originally developed in the U.S. and then adapted for use in Canada. We conducted focus groups with boaters to assist in (a) further adaptation of the PSAs, and (b) selection of which PSAs to focus on in distribution to TV stations.
  • The Government of Canada developed TV and print ads to help inform the public of certain elements of the Government Economic Action Plan. Sage conducted focus groups with the public to identify any revisions that might improve the communication effectiveness of the ads.
  • The Department of Canadian Heritage developed communications and advertising for a campaign to increase awareness of the broad range of services and programs the Department provides to Canadians. We conducted focus groups with the public and Department employees to identify possible changes and improvements to the communication materials and to select a tagline.
  • Prior to entering repayment, Canada Student Loan (CSL) borrowers are mailed a loan Consolidation Package providing information about loan repayment and a loan consolidation agreement for the borrower's signature. A revised draft Consolidation Package was developed, and Sage conducted focus groups with CSL borrowers still in school to aid in fine-tuning the draft materials.



  • For a producer of retail poultry products, we conducted online tracking studies to measure the impacts of an advertising program in support of a new product launch.
  • For a manufacturer of major appliances, we conducted telephone tracking studies to measure the impacts of its advertising program.
  • The Industrial Accident Prevention Association publishes a magazine promoting occupational health and safety, targeted to manufacturers across Canada. We conducted focus groups with representatives of manufacturing companies to obtain feedback on the magazine and to provide input on revisions to the magazine.
  • The launch of the Ontario College of Trades, the regulatory body for trades in Ontario, was preceded by print advertising and direct mail. Online and telephone survey research was conducted both with the general public and tradespeople to track the awareness and impact of the campaigns.


Website Design & Usability

  • For a high-end retail brand, we conducted focus groups with potential consumers to determine which of several alternative website designs for the brand was most appropriate for this target group, and to identify possible improvements to the selected website design concept.
  • As part of updating its website, the Canada Revenue Agency wanted to ensure the site is accessible to people with disabilities. We conducted online individual interviews with people with visual disabilities who used a screen reader or screen magnification and with people with a physical disability impacting their computer use. Accessibilty was assessed by giving participants a variety of usage scenarios.
  • The Government of Canada was considering changing the online application process used by people interested in immigrating to Canada. Individual online interviews were conducted with participants from China, India, Mexico and the Philippines to assess ease of completion of the revised online application tool.
  • Human Resources & Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) operates the Working in Canada website, which provides job seekers, workers and those new to the Canadian labour market with information about where to live and work. The research focused on the Working in Canada Tool, which provides access to a wide variety of information for occupations specified by the user. The research assessed aspects of the navigation, design and content of the Working in Canada Tool, particularly the foreign qualification recognition information. In-person focus groups were conducted with skilled immigrants, and online individual interviews were conducted with Immigrant Serving Organizations.
  • A federal-provincial working group developed a website aimed at students and workers in the skilled trades which provides access to a wide variety of information on entering and working in the skilled trades. Qualitative research was conducted with college students in apprenticeship programs and with their instructors to assess their reactions to the website and identify possible improvements.
  • The Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO) provides internationally trained and educated individuals with the information, path-finding and referral services they need, both overseas and in Canada, to help them better utilize their skills and credentials in the Canadian labour force. Focus group research was conducted with newcomers to Canada to evaluate a prototype of a new FCRO website in terms of content, ease of navigation, and features, and to identify possible improvements.
  • The Canada Public Service Agency (CPSA) was preparing to redesign its website to make it the "go-to" web resource for policy, information and services about HR management in the federal Public Service. We conducted focus groups with users of the existing website to provide input to the possible design and content of the updated website.
  • The Government of Canada provides an Employment Insurance (EI) website that allows EI claimants to access and provide information online. We conducted focus groups with EI claimants to assess ease of use of the website with respect to claimants’ ability to get information about their claim and to provide change of address, phone number or direct deposit information.