Researchers: TV Is Like 'Price Promotion,' But It Still Beats Other Media

Both the efficacy and efficiency of TV as an ad medium took some pretty big hits Monday during the opening session of an important industry conference, being pejoratively compared at one point to the relatively shortsighted practice of consumer "price promotion." But at the end of the day, television took away more points than it lost during the so-called "President's Choice" sessions of the Advertising Research Foundation's 50th Annual Convention in New York.

That last point was underscored when Ford Motor Co. unveiled the long-awaited results of a cross media effectiveness study based on the launch of its F150 truck line last year. The study, which was backed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and conducted by Marketing Evolution, a company that has managed several other of the IAB's so-called XMOS studies, ostensibly was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of other media in the mix - particularly online - but ultimately showed that TV was the biggest contributor to the campaign's success by a wide margin.



"Television will remain 85% or more of the mix in our recommendations," acknowledged Rex Briggs, managing partner of Marketing Evolution. While he said the findings indicated that marketers like Ford would be "challenged to cut back too aggressively on TV," he said the results did indicate some shift to online media and magazines, the other two media measured in the study.

The XMOS studies measure two dynamics of a cross-media campaign's success: contribution to sales and impact on important brand measures. While the study showed online media buys, especially an unusual online "roadblock" that generated exceptional audience reach, to be much more efficient than TV advertising buys, Briggs conceded that was likely due to the fact that online "publishers priced inventory so low."

Regardless of their inventory economics, online media buys were found to be five times more cost efficient than TV, though somewhat less efficient than magazines (see table below). Ford's unusual "roadblock," which included simultaneous coverage on all the major online portals during their NFL kick-off coverage, was by far the most cost efficient buy and was the bases for the cost index used by Marketing Evolution to value the rest of the mix. That stunt was so effective, that in one day it reached 40% of the F150's adult male target audience and generated more impressions than the campaign's entire magazine schedule.

The online advertising was also found to be surprisingly effective at generating offline sales of the F150, contributing to six percent of the orders attributed to the entire marketing effort. These were not online or e-commerce orders, but sales generated directly by online ad exposures.

"For the first time, it gives me a common yard stick," said Tom Green, truck marketing communications manager at Ford. "That makes me smarter."

If the Ford campaign indirectly reaffirmed the value of television in the media mix, another important piece of research, the findings gleaned from Young & Rubicam's massive, ongoing consumer branding research, suggested television advertising often is used wrongly and can actually hurt a brand, not help it.

"As great brands decline, we find that television is acting more and more like price promotion," revealed Ed Lebar, managing director of Y&R's BAV Group, which manages the agency's prized Brand Asset Valuator studies, an ongoing research project that has invested $100 million to date.

The BAV research shows that "differentiation" is the most valuable attribute of a brand, and the one that ultimately determines its growth and long-term health, but that when brands begin to lose their difference, Lebar said TV advertising actually helps accelerate that process, helping to commoditize perceptions of the brand in eyes of consumers. He said TV is most effective when brands are growing sales and building differentiation: "TV appears to be much more effective at creating differentiation when you are in the customer acquisition phase." He did not say how other media impacted the branding process.

The ARF conference, an important annual event where leading ad industry researchers reveal new insights and unveil new projects, resumes today when ad industry leaders are expected to announce a new effort to measure the impact of emotions on advertising and media buys.

The conference also marks the official release of a new guide designed to simplify online advertising metrics: Online Marketing Key Effectiveness Metrics, which was developed by the ARF's Online Media Council.

Results Of The Ford F150 Cross-Media Study

Purchase Impact
Consideration Efficiency
Impact Index

Television 3.2% $21.14
Magazines 7.0% $3.95
Roadblock 3.8% $1.00
Online 1.9% $4.34

Source: Ford Motor Co. cross media effectiveness study for the F150 launch campaign. The Impact Efficiency Index is based on a cost index of $1.00 for the relative cost effectiveness of the online roadblock.
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