In a multichannel environment, brands and marketers need to think carefully about how customers will respond to offline advertising.
If people see a product or service they like, will they open up their laptops and type the URL used on the ad into a search engine? Will they search for the brand online instead? Or will they use the smartphone in their pocket?
For example, if I see an advert for a car and type the make and model into Google, I want to see a landing page that matches my expectations; providing details of the car, some nice photos and videos, and a link to find my local dealer, or book a test drive.
Whether this was the aim of the ad or not, TV campaigns will drive spikes in search activity online.
According to a recent study by Efficient Frontier, TV ads can drive an 80% rise in branded search.
In the study, searches during an eight-week TV ad campaign will typically jump between 60 to 80% on the brand name, and between 40 and 60% on generic terms related to the brand.
Why get people to search online?
Online offers an immediate response mechanism for viewers of TV ads. It allows brands an opportunity to capitalise instantly of the effect of the ad.
If a customer has seen a pair of shoes they like on an M&S ad for instance, they can head online and purchase it within minutes.
If it’s a car insurance advert, customers can open their laptops and start the quotation process straight away.
Even when the product or service cannot be purchased online, then the internet offers a way to capture customer details, for people to book an appointment or a test drive within minutes of the ad.
People are increasingly using different kinds of media while they are watching TV. With laptops, smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad, many viewers are likely to have the internet at their fingertips while watching TV.
For example, a recent IAB study found that 49% of mobile internet users will often watch TV while browsing on their phones.
This offers an excellent opportunity for marketers to get viewers to respond to TV ads by going online.
What kinds of tactics can brands use to get viewers of TV ads to search online?
Place a URL in the ad
An obvious way to do it - the URL both indicates that a brand is online, and directs the viewer exactly where they need to go, though how many users type the exact web address into their browsers is questionable.
This is becoming common practice in the majority of TV and print advertising. A recent survey by Nominet found that 65% of all UK print and television advertising now includes a web address.
There is a disparity between print and TV though; 83% of print ads now feature a URL compared with just 61% of TV ads, a missed opportunity, especially when you consider the higher costs of TV advertising.
A URL in an ad gives customers a response mechanism and, if they type in the correct web address, they’ll go to a dedicated landing page.
Unique URLs also provide a mechanism for marketers to track response to offline advertising.
However, URLs need to be memorable, and not too long, otherwise people will make mistakes.
Search calls to action
Another option is to direct people to search for a particular word or phrase online.
Users often prefer to search for navigation purposes online, rather than using the browser bar to type in the web address and go directly to a website.
The fact that major online destinations like Facebook, eBay and Amazon regularly feature in lists of top searched keywords is evidence of this behaviour.
Given that people responding to ads online, it makes sense to take account of this behaviour, and direct users to search for a particular term.
This approach has the added advantage of making the offline campaign more trackable, as brands and advertisers can monitor any spikes in searches for keywords and phrases used in offline advertising.
There are some potential drawbacks to this approach though. Firstly, the use of a unique search keyword or phrase tells competitors about your search strategy, and gives them the opportunity to bid on these terms and hijack traffic driven by the ads.
Make it easy for users to search for the brand or product
Whether you include a URL or a search call to action on the ad or not, it’s likely that many people will respond to ads by searching for the brand or product name online.
This is often the easiest way for users to respond to ads, so brands need to have done their homework so that they are highly visible in the search results pages for these terms.
Facebook landing pages
Another recent trend has been for brands to direct viewers and readers on TV and print ads to a Facebook page.
This is something Ford has been doing in its recent campaign for the new Focus, and visitors arrive at a landing page with videos and information about the car.
This approach can help brands to build a following on the site, as hopefully users will arrive at the Facebook page while logged into their own account.
Then, if they hit the ‘like’ button, the page will also be promoted to that user’s Facebook friends.
Create a unique phrase or character
By using Aleksandr the meerkat, and inviting viewers to search for Compare the Meerkat, the insurance firm managed to create a clear call to action which, given the unique nature of the search phrase, made It easier for them to ensure that the landing page was highly visible in search results.
It was also an excellent way of saving money on paid search. When the campaign was launched in 2009, the cost per click for the word ‘meerkat’ was 5p, compared to £5 for the keyword ‘market’.
This allowed Compare the Market to achieve search visibility in a highly competitive market at a fraction of the normal cost.
The use of QR codes isn’t yet widespread, and mobile users do have to download a code reader application before they can scan them, but this does offer a potentially valuable direct response mechanism.
By showing QR codes in offline ads, brands could send mobile users straight to a dedicated landing page, a video showing the product, or a voucher to be redeemed at their local store.
According to a recent MMA/Lightspeed survey, 31% of UK consumers would be more likely to respond to an ad if there was a mobile response mechanism on offer.
The same survey found that sending a keyword by SMS to a shortcode was the most widely recognised mobile response mechanism.
Directing searchers to the correct landing page
Getting people to search online after viewing an ad is just the first part of the challenge. Next, they need to be directed to the correct website or landing page, and this is all about having the right search strategy in place.
This is something that should be planned well in advance so that brand and non-brand search terms are in high enough positions to capture the extra search traffic that TV ads will generate.
How hard this is to achieve will depend on the brand and product name. If you have a more generic brand or product name, then creating a unique search phrase or URL may be an alternative strategy.
Ford has managed to get the SEO right, and people searching for the Ford Fiesta currently being advertised on TV shouldn't have any trouble finding the right page:
The one guaranteed way to top the search engines around the time of TV ad campaigns is buy the related paid search keywords and phrases.
While brands may be worried about spending on paid search straight after a TV advertising campaign, they will often see higher than average conversion rates, which should justify the extra expenditure.
Tips for landing pages
Getting users to respond to ads by searching online is just the first step. To make the most of these leads, an effective landing page is the next step.
Create mobile-friendly landing pages
People are increasing watching TV or reading newspapers while using their mobiles to access the internet, and are increasingly likely to use their phones to respond to ads.
If they do this, only to find a slow-loading page that has not been optimised for mobiles, containing Flash elements and videos that won’t work, then the effort made by the advertiser to get a response has been wasted.
Brands don’t need to ‘dumb down’ landing pages just to cater fro mobile users, they can simply detect the device accessing the page and divert mobile and tablet users to the most suitable version.
Clear link from main homepage to landing page
Brands may have included a URL or a clear search call to action in the ad which leads to a dedicated micro site, but many people will just end up at the brand’s main homepage anyway.
These visitors should be able to see a link to the micro site and images or copy that matches what they have just seen in the offline advertising.
For example, though Ford’s ad campaign for the new Focus invites users to its Facebook page, visitors to its website will immediately see links and information related to the new car and the ad campaign.
Include clear calls to action on landing pages
Whatever the purpose of the landing page is, inviting people to make a purchase, sign up for newsletters, or book a test drive, it should be unmistakably clear to visitors.
Your landing page should include clear calls to action that make the next step you want visitors to take as clear as possible.
Continue the ad experience onto the landing page
If customers have taken the trouble to head to your landing page after seeing the TV or print ad, then it must have been effective.
Continue this effect through to the landing page by using images, language and even video which matches the offline ad and reinforces the message you were aiming for.
In Ford's landing page for the current Fiesta campaign, visitors can see an annotated version of the TV ad, as well as a wealth of information on the new car:
Add sharing options
If you have created a great TV ad and attracted visitors to your landing page, make it easy for them to share it with others, and extend the reach of your campaign for free.
Add links to allow users to easily share the content with friends via email or social media sites.
Don’t ask too much
If you are asking people to submit their details or sign up for a quote, then make the process as smooth as possible.
Asking for too much information at this stage risks frightening them off and wasting the investment you made getting them there.
Don’t drive people away by asking for anything you don’t actually need.
Provide a range of contact options for visitors
You may have created the perfect landing page, but some people will still not respond, so give them options.
Provide different contact options, including email addresses, contact forms, phone numbers, so they can choose how they would like to contact you.
Measuring the success of TV campaigns
Here are a few ways you can measure how effective TV ads have been in driving traffic online.
If customers have arrived at your site, you can simply ask which media channel influenced their decision to visit.
However, if you make this a compulsory field during the checkout or registration process, then the answers given may be less reliable.
Monitor brand traffic
A simple measure of the impact of an offline campaign is the traffic driven by your brand keywords.
If a TV advert has encouraged people to think about your brand then you should see more people searching for your brand.
Hybrid traffic combines a brand term with either generic or specific terms.
This could be a combination of brand name and product in the term, or some other feature from the ad. This would show that this search traffic is directly related to the ad.
Some of the best adverts create memorable slogans or catch phrases. If you have optimised for this phrase, and people are responding to the ad, you may well see more traffic based on this.
Many analytic packages allow you to view where in the country traffic has come from. This is ideal if you are running a geographic specific campaign, on regional TV for example.
Paid search clicks
As with brand search terms, you should see a higher click through rate from paid search ads related to the TV campaign.
Conversions / sign ups
The conversions from traffic related to the TV ads, or for the products advertised, should give an idea of the ad’s success.
If you have a URL that is unique to a TV ad campaign, then traffic to this address will be directly attributable to the ad in question.