How do television campaigns change online search behaviors?
In today’s increasingly multi-channel advertising environment, marketers want to understand how advertising in one medium affects patterns in another. For example, does television advertising change consumers’ online search behavior? If so, how and to what extent? Such cross-media effects can be elusive, but they are potentially very meaningful for brands and the companies that own them.
A review of top advertising agencies revealed surprisingly few with expertise in both television and online advertising, despite a 20-year trend toward integrated marketing communications. To help address this apparent gap between old and new marketing techniques, a study co-authored by Professor Yi Zhu set out to measure what effect television advertising might have on online search behavior.
The authors analyzed data from 58,226 televised advertisements for 15 financial services brands, and more than one billion Google searches for financial services keywords. They reasoned that the high-involvement category of financial services had characteristics that made it possible to detect cross-media effects.
With airtime and brand from the advertisement data, the researchers plotted online searches and looked for patterns that would indicate change. In particular they measured the number of searches for category (e.g., fund, investment, retirement) and brand-specific (e.g., Ameritrade, Edward Jones, Schwab) keywords. Empirical analysis of the data revealed changes in search behavior attributed to the advertising:
Television ads had a small positive effect on search activity for the financial services category. The authors called this effect subtle, but sustained (observable for about three days following the advertisement).
Television ads also increased searches for branded keywords. This effect was stronger: a 10% increase in ad expenditure increased searches for branded keywords by 1.7% within 96 hours.
This change in search behavior is especially interesting in light of two additional factors: a.) customers who search for a branded keyword uncover less information about competitor brands, and b.) branded keywords typically cost less than generic category keywords sought by multiple companies. According to the authors, “the primary effect of a brand’s advertising expenditure is to ‘steal’ query share from competitors …” Evidence useful for marketers who want to create more effective campaigns.
Mingyu Joo, Kenneth C. Wilbur, Bo Cowgill, Yi Zhu (2014) Television Advertising and Online Search. Management Science 60(1):56-73.