How do TV Ads Influence Searches?

Television advertisements lead to spikes in internet searches for the brand advertised as well as competitors, according to a study by Rady School Associate Professor Kenneth Wilbur and colleagues, Linli Xiu from the University of Minnesota and Rex Du from the University of Houston.

“Marketers are slowly figuring out that what you say in TV affects what people do on Facebook, Google, Twitter and other digital platforms,” said Wilbur. “Historically, communication efforts have lived within separate silos. Today, some organizations are figuring out that these things need to be managed holistically.”

Researchers studied the relationship between television advertisements and internet search spikes in fantasy sports brands and pickup truck brands. In the fantasy sports brands study, researchers found that advertisement content and media factors explained an incremental 54 percent of the variation in post-ad search spikes.

In the pickup truck brands study, which analyzed brand search data from 500,000 minutes and audience data for 40,000 national television advertisements, 75 percent of the incremental search occurs in the two minutes following an advertisement.

Both studies showed that brand-focused ads produced larger search spikes than price-focused ads, and that less informative ads produced larger spikes than more informative ads. Spikes also varied based on the network on which the ad aired and the genre of programming.

Overall, the studies suggest that television advertisements with small audiences produce significant search spokes in the two minutes after the ad airs. As such, post-ad search spikes are important for marketers to consider in conjunction with other metrics.  

“The field has shown great interest in the paper. I recently presented results at the Advertising Research Foundation annual conference, a Marketing Science Institute conference, Cornell and Berkeley. Next week I will give the talk at Emory and Google, and then at Kaiser Permanente in May. Google and Kaiser both are discussing the possibility of follow-up research,” said Wilbur.

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