Television Advertising And Search Performance

Big events like the Academy Awards or Super Bowl may get the most media attention for their impact on digital activity, but marketers would be wise to pay closer attention to this connection throughout the year.  In many organizations, digital direct marketers of large brands rarely interact with those responsible for television advertising and often use different advertising agencies.  Yet in this age of marketing attribution, it is clear that these forms of advertising are becoming more closely linked.  And now we have some specific ways to prove and monitor this. 

A recent study of financial services brands by researchers from Duke, USC and Syracuse found a “significant association between television advertising… and consumers’ tendency to search branded keywords.”  This confirms numerous previous experimental studies and just might explain why we see so many advertisements for trucks, auto insurance and financial services when we watch the NFL on Sundays.



Historically, it has been extremely challenging to measure the link between offline and online media, particularly as it relates to sales.  Even if a funny commercial prompts you to tweet about it, has that impacted your (or anyone’s) likelihood to purchase that product?  Or perhaps the commercial has actually offended you!  Essentially, standard ways to measure cross-channel advertising can’t cope with the diversity and complexity of a large-scale brand advertising campaign.

If marketers are to look to one place to begin to bridging the online-offline gap, I recommend focusing on how one’s “brand message” in a television ad is coordinated with the “direct-response message” in a search campaign or display advertisement, as follows:

1. Start measuring branded search advertisements and modeling the effect of television ads over time.  While this is often done in response to a big bang commercial like a Super Bowl ad, it is done less frequently throughout the year.  Regional television campaigns can help measure advertising impact more easily. 

2. Include the brand tagline in your search or display ad in addition to a specific call to action.  In other words, reinforce to the consumer the value you communicated offline in a venue like television and link it to the next step in the online purchase funnel.  You’ve paid your creative agency a lot of money for that tagline. Use it consistently!  It’s surprising how often this is missed.

3. In developing your digital marketing campaign assets, plan to use the persona from your television commercials that links most closely to the audience of that digital campaign.  Brands will often have a range of personas who buy their products. So if you have a younger target audience for a mobile campaign, for example, avoid using a stock image of retirees!

4. If your call to action is literally a phone call, use call-tracking numbers in your digital execution to measure response, in addition to Web site queries.  Phone calls are more predictive of a sale than Web site visits, and can be associated directly with specific marketing campaigns.  In some cases, your call center or call analytics technology can provide data that links back to specific product messages or promotions in your television campaigns.

There’s been a lot of talk about online and offline attribution for some time.  It's exciting that now in areas like search and television, marketers can take steps to really address those connections.

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