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The findings of the IAB's fifth large-scale Cross Media Optimization Study were released at the organization's Leadership Forum conference in New York last week.
And perhaps more significant, according to Ford's marketing communications manager, Rich Stoddart, is the how the return on investment for each dollar spent online during the campaign was more than double the ROI of any offline media. He said that on MSN.com, for instance, consumers who visited Web pages with Ford-150 ads were roughly twice as likely to buy the truck as those who did not visit those pages.
The IAB Cross Media Optimization Studies (XMOS) program, which began in 2001, is designed to measure the impact of the online components of broad, integrated advertising campaigns for consumer products. The program has been conducted collaboratively by the IAB, Dynamic Logic, InsightExpress, Forrester Research, Marketing Evolution, the Advertising Research Foundation and the specific study's product marketer. Previous major XMOS studies have analyzed the marketing campaigns of Unilever, McDonald's Corp., Kleenex and Colgate-Palmolive. InsightExpress did the analysis for this current study of the Ford-150.
Ford's overall Internet results for purchasing decisions and ROI mattered more in this campaign because the relaunch of the F-150 was "the most important launch in the history of Ford," Mr. Stoddart said.
The Big 3 automakers still hold 96% of market share in large pickups, and the F-150 has been Ford's No. 1 selling truck for the past 21 years, but Toyota Motor Sales USA's Tundra and Nissan North America's Titan imports are now making significant inroads in this area. Together, the Japanese-made trucks are expected to capture 8% to 10% of the big-pickup category within five years, according to J.D. Power & Associates.
The success of the F-150 effort, and in no small part the Web piece of it, has fueled Ford's resolve, but the "challenge is to keep the pressure on," Mr. Stoddart said.
The truck was relaunched in late 2003 with English- and Spanish-language advertising on TV and radio, in print, outdoor and with direct mail. Online, standard advertising units ran across car-related sites, where consumers were likely to be researching new trucks. Online "roadblock" or page-takeover ads, which seize control of the computer screen for 20 seconds, were also used on high-traffic areas of major portals.
Rick the video man
While the offline ads described the quietness of the truck's cab and the toughness of the truck's construction, the Internet placements brought those qualities alive interactively. When the viewer clicked on certain ads, they were offered a "walk around the truck," hosted by walking, talking "Rick," the video showroom spokesman.
Interactivity carried clout with consumers. Ad recall for the online roadblock ad was up 32%, "the highest ad awareness in the history of the truck segment," MR. Stoddart said.
The ads on auto-buying sites attracted the most buyers -- some 10% of them visited MSN.com's auto section, according to Ford. "The most effective place we can be is the in-market sites," Mr. Stoddart said.
The search-engine aspect of the campaign was effective, too. The reach of search-engine ads "is nothing compared to a roadblock," Mr. Stoddart said, "but it's the ultimate opt-in. People who have done searches on Ford's keywords are four times as likely to buy a truck."
Overall the Internet placements reached 40% of the people online, according to the study. Ford's conclusion? "The online population is just as likely to be in the market for new vehicles [as offline consumers.] For this campaign, online consumers have reached the status of offline consumers."
Founded in 1996, IAB is a trade group of the online advertising and marketing industry. Since 1997 it has functioned as a central standardizing force, issuing structural and functional guidelines designed to make the Internet a more efficient venue for marketers and their advertising agencies and studying the fundamentals of the U.S. online market.