Cadbury has generated £2-3 in sales for every £1 spent on digital advertising, found the first comprehensive trial to track the impact of online advertising on offline sales.

The ability of brands to track directly the impact of online advertising on physical sales is set to rocket this year, driving investment in online advertising, particularly from the FMCG sector.

Media owners Google and Yahoo have actively been courting brands through partly or fully funded programmes that track the impact on sales of digital activity across their networks. Offline data providers Acxiom, Experian and IPA Touchpoints are holding talks with ad networks, such as Specific Media, to track sales by combining purchase data with display, search and behavioural, and research companies ComScore and GfK are ramping up analytics to measure sales uplift as a result of digital activity.

The ability to glean concrete, empirical evidence that online ads translate into sales offline has long been the holy grail of the digital advertising sector.

Sought after by big-brand advertisers and promised by the online advertising industry for years, this goal has proved elusive. But Cadbury’s study, indicates that such tracking of the impact of online marketing is finally within grasp — something advertisers, especially FMCG brands, will be keen to leverage.

More studies and investment are needed, but 2011 could certainly be a turning point.

Anna Richardson

Cadbury and Listerine are boosting online spend due to a growing confidence that ROI can be directly attributed to digital activity, according to Bruce Daisley, Google leader of YouTube and display.

“Conversations with brands, especially in the FMCG sector, are five times higher than last year,” said Daisley. “We also saw automotive brands move strongly towards using digital for branding in the run-up to Christmas, while L’Oréal bought five home-page takeovers.”

Cadbury, which has used the Google-backed programme GfK Media Efficiency Panel for its Dairy Milk brand, as well as Yahoo and Nectar’s joint initiative Consumer Connect for Creme Egg, to evaluate the impact of digital activity on sales, is extending the use of such tracking initiatives across the wider Kraft portfolio, according to Julie Reynolds, head of marketing for Cadbury Dairy Milk.

“Cadbury is one of the pioneers of such research, connecting digital media investment with real-world purchases,” she said. “It gives us further reason to continue investment in digital as a way to reach consumers.”

According to Juliet Du Vivier, digital strategist at Cadbury’s media agency PHD Media, who worked with Consumer Connect to track sales of Creme Egg, it has been historically difficult to attribute any sales uplift to digital activity. The studies now mean its branding online will grow.

“There have been previous studies but these were all relatively subjective,” she said. “GfK MEP and Consumer Connect show real sales, helping the market move and increase investment.”

According to PHD Media group manager and Cadbury account manager Katrin Schlenzka, this is the first time that a brand has been able to attribute uplift in sales to specific channels, as well as indicating the relationship between channels.

“While Cadbury has had its own econometric model for a while, it hasn’t been consistent and hasn’t looked at the role between each media,” she said. “What the Google study did was drill down by media to see the relationship between TV and digital, as well as breaking down the channels themselves.”

Online activity for the Cadbury Dairy Milk campaign, evaluated through GfK NOP’s 7,800-strong Media Efficiency Panel, used TV, Facebook, YouTube Promoted Videos, YouTube home-page takeovers and display banner advertising. Such activity delivered more than £2 of short-term sales for every £1 spent.

GfK NOP divisional director Babita Earle said, “Cadbury got it right because of the complementary fashion it planned it. There was less reach through TV, so the online ads could make more of an impact.”

Cadbury was also the launch partner and one of seven FMCG brands that used Consumer Connect, generating £3 of sales for every £1 spent on digital activity, according to an aggregated figure shared by Yahoo. Two of the brands have rebooked, according to Piers North, Yahoo UK head of strategy.

Consumer Connect is a derivative of Yahoo’s US product, Consumer Direct, which is running 500-plus campaigns. Brands buy exclusive audience segments off the back of the ongoing data programme.

“We knew that it worked in the US and, as we’re a global company, we can look to that as a pathfinder for products in the UK. Most brands are now multinational, which makes it easier to show what their US counterparts are doing. With Consumer Connect, nearly every campaign has come back with solid findings,” said North.

The industry still has a way to go, however, before such studies have a wider impact, according to North.

“The money will often come from other traditional media so it’s seen as a risk,” he said. “There’s always the concern that the investment won’t pay off. The nature of online is instant – we’re so used to implementing a search campaign or doing DR in real time – but a sense of longer-term vision and co-operation between media agencies and clients that allows you to plan across platforms is needed if this is to really take off.”

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Published 13 January, 2011 by NMA Staff

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