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ESPN, CNN Lure Advertisers With Word-of-Mouth Data

Today, marketers want to know not only how many saw their ads, but also what subset of that audience had a positive conversation about the ads with other people. "Media advertising clearly helps generate word-of-mouth. And the more word-of-mouth you have, the less advertising you need," says Graeme Hutton, Universal McCann director-consumer insights.

CNN and ESPN are working with social-media firm Keller Fay to gauge such word of mouth. Keller Fay has been able to track 7,000 brand mentions per week and can identify the media outlets via which the commercial was viewed. For instance, CNN found that its viewers had the most daily conversations about Toyota's Lexus, compared to other cable outlets. Also, people who make use of CNN on both TV and the Web -- are four times more likely to speak about Lexus than the total population.

ESPN sees a new science developing around such social buzz, says Artie Bulgrin, senior VP. "We're learning a lot about the nuances of scheduling [advertisements] and how certain aspects of the schedule can affect" the ability to generate chatter by viewers about ads and brands, he says.

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