Who, or what, deserves credit for cleaning up the copy? The consumer. eLoan Chief Marketing Officer Catherine Muriel decided to modify the TV ads after observing consumer behavior online -- and gleaning that the simpler the Web site and its messaging, the higher its traffic and conversion rates.
"People were telling us something online that they couldn't tell us offline: Keep it simple," Ms. Muriel said. "Their behavior gave us permission to rethink our TV spend." ELoan spent nearly $40 million last year on TV time, an eLoan spokeswoman said.
Still rarely exploited, consumer behavior online and its potential to inform offline media is very real, believe industry heavyweights like Carat Americas chief David Verklin, who sees search and surfing behavior as a way to get at key campaign evaluation data that will increasingly shape offline media. Google, for one, has already recognized how online behavior can inform offline advertising, making a key selling point for its new video-ad offering the ability for advertisers to pre-test TV creative.
"It's natural for a marketer to use search data to optimize search campaigns, and then we're seeing them take it and use it to inform an online campaign," said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise. "The next step is to take this data and make inroads into brand-marketing channels."
Studying online data can lead marketers to highlight different products or go after an entirely new demographic in offline media channels.
Eric Best, CEO of Mercent, which works with brands such as Guess and Lucky Brand Jeans to improve their retail Web sites and search campaigns across shopping portals, said search data can be used to influence an entire brand strategy. "Take a maker of women's handbags who thinks their target market is women over 40," he said. "Then they see that a large number, maybe a majority, of women coming to their site are under 25. Now they know to go after this new demographic directly through other channels."
Integral part of marketing mix
"Search is now an integral part of the overall marketing mix," said Jeremy Cornfeldt, VP-search and affiliate marketing at Carat Fusion, who estimates there has been a double-digit increase in the number of clients making campaign decisions based on search data over the last year.
"Right now if you're a studio, you could spend $5 million to $10 million on Thursday night TV," said Gokul Rajaram, product-management director for Google's AdSense. "What if you could quickly run a test of [video] creative to different audiences, or different DMAs? Within a few days you could run millions of impressions and find which solicit the best response."
Already, marketers are using search to inform online and rich-media campaigns -- recently Scripps Networks improved an online ad campaign for its do-it-yourself Web sites, asking search marketing firm 360i to analyze which keywords consumers used to reach DIY products and including the most popular terms, such as "painting," "knitting" and "furniture products," prominently in its rich-media ads. And Agency.com used search and online data to evaluate client British Airways' out-of-home ads during the airline's "Brit speak" campaign.
Getting divisions to talk
But when it comes to taking those online lessons a step further and using them to inform offline campaigns, it's a great theory but still uncommon in practice -- perhaps illustrating the difficulty many marketers have getting their online and offline divisions to talk in real time.
Ron Belanger, senior director-channel strategy and development at Yahoo, and a former Carat VP, gives credit to those agencies that have already recognized the value of search. "A lot of time and money is being saved by using search to determine the perfect message -- the best way to position is product -- before executing that million-dollar campaign."