The impact of TV spend on search performance

Recent research by Nielsen has found that Apple’s new advertising platform, iAds, is more effective than TV advertising. According to the research, consumers in the experiment were five times more likely to recall the brand name, and five times more of them said that they were likely to buy the product than those who saw the TV ad. But does this really mean that iAds is the more effective platform, or is something else going on here? After all, Nielsen has argued that TV advertising is a key factor in building long-term brand loyalty.

It’s abundantly evident that brands are still drawn to TV advertising. In addition to the multitude of ad campaigns on our TV on any given day, there are the more infrequent special events (like the upcoming royal wedding) which brands can target with high-budget TV adverts designed to have maximum impact and reach. However, these spots don’t come cheap.

A 30-second ad spot during the 2011 Super Bowl – advertising gold in the US – would have set a brand back $3 million (and that’s before you factor in the huge amounts of money spent on creating the ad), and would have been seen by a record breaking 106.5 million people. Closer to home, the 2010 X-Factor final weekend gave ITV the opportunity to sell 30 seconds of air time for £200,000, with a peak audience of almost 19 million people tuning in to catch the result.

So, with Deloitte predicting that 140 billion more hours of television will be watched, and worldwide advertising spend will increase by $10 billion in 2011, should marketers be investing in TV ads, especially when a large amount of offline advertising seems intent on driving people online? Our director of business analytics, Dr Siddharth Shah, researched the connection between Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and TV advertising. The findings show that TV ad spend can increase online traffic in the short and medium term.

He found that brands will see a corresponding increase in traffic to their sites during a TV ad campaign, but this uplift is likely to be of greater significance for smaller brands that have lower household name value (and therefore gain the most from the added exposure). The research also revealed a correlation between the size of TV ad campaign and the size of the subsequent impression spike, with larger campaigns resulting in larger spikes.

Typically brands can see a 60 to 80 per cent jump in searches on brand terms during the entirety of the TV campaign, with a 40 to 60 per cent jump for generic searches. Of course, if a brand can afford to buy a spot during the X-Factor final or Super Bowl it will result in an impressive peak in brand awareness, but is that, or the awareness generated by less expensive campaigns, going to result in sustained online traffic? We found that a raised level of brand awareness existed for between four and six weeks after the end of the campaign.

Our research shows that TV ad campaigns do drive viewers to a brand’s website. Depending on the size and impact of the campaign, and the level of brand awareness that already exists, the results can be impressive and last for over a month after the campaign has ended.

Efficient Frontier recently commissioned a report by Forrester Consulting which could help explain why some marketers think that TV advertising is less effective than it once was. The report found that some of the worlds biggest brands are failing to integrate their online and offline campaigns and that in many cases they do not have the tools to measure the impact of cross-channel campaigns or know what return they are actually getting for their investment. In these circumstances, is it surprising that there is doubt about the true value of TV advertising campaigns? If the impact can’t be measured, the benefits to specific brands can’t be proved within their own marketing departments and the opportunity to divert the marketing budget to the most beneficial channels will be lost.

Jonathan Beeston is client service director EMEA at performance marketing company, Efficient Frontier.