Study Says Online Ads Boost Offline Sales

A study released yesterday by DoubleClick is an industry first, because it tracks the impact of online advertising on offline sales and compares it with the three other marketing tactics the advertiser used.

The study, sponsored by DoubleClick and performed by Beyond Interactive, tracks the sales of a prescription allergy medicine, unnamed in the study. The study compares online advertising with TV, print and detailing (direct visits to doctors to promote the drug).

While the company spent the overwhelming majority of its budget on TV -- 85% of the impressions compared with 12% print and 3% online, it was found that online advertising drove 7% of the sales. "There was a disproportionate contribution in terms of prescription, online was more efficient in driving sales," says Michele Madansky, senior vice president of the intelligence group for Beyond Interactive.

The study also found that online CPMs cost more than TV or print because they were highly targeted. But it concludes that online was still more effective at driving sales.

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The study, which lasted for five quarters, involved the use of banners and larger units at WebMD.com, Weather.com and other sites Madansky wouldn't name.

The study involved econometric modeling, creating mathematical models that explain the relations between marketing variables and sales.

The pharmaceutical brand was chosen for the study because the online spend was substantial enough to get results, Madansky says.

The benefit of the study is it's the first one that measured the impact of online and offline advertising on offline sales. "Online is accountable through third party ad serving, but it's difficult to look at the relationship between online advertising and offline sales," Madansky says. "This quantifies that."

The goal of the study for DoubleClick is to encourage marketers to increase their online spend. "We're trying to get marketers to think about media mix and dollar allocations," says Susan Sachatello, DoubleClick’s chief marketing officer. If the TV budget was decreased by 3.1% and the online increased by 50% with the same dollar total, prescriptions would have increased by 0.1%, DoubleClick concludes from the study.

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