Cross-Platform Ads: What's Working?

ABC, ESPN, MTV Share Research on Web vs. TV Viewers

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK ( -- It's become a universal truth that the more screens ads are shown on, the better the chances that consumers will remember seeing them. How to measure that multiplatform recall, however, has largely been left up to the individual TV networks. At the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience Measurement 3.0 Conference in New York this week, research executives from ABC, ESPN and MTV shared recent case-studies on their efforts to quantify ad recall and audience reach across their linear and digital channels for advertisers, and the results varied widely.
An ABC case study was able to demonstrate how ads that ran on multiple ABC platforms ultimately boosted sales.
An ABC case study was able to demonstrate how ads that ran on multiple ABC platforms ultimately boosted sales.

ESPN's Fusion
ESPN, for example, recently partnered with Nielsen to utilize the company's new Fusion product, which measures how viewership migrates from TV to online and, later this summer, mobile. Pete Doe, joint managing director of the Nielsen Co., said the Fusion product was created to make single-source data for internet and TV usage stronger -- and oftentimes richer. Nielsen Online measured monthly traffic to recently at 19.9 million, but a convergence panel comprised of TV-only and TV-and-internet ESPN viewers yielded a total audience of 23.9 million after the overlap between the two screens was factored in. Glenn Enoch, ESPN's VP-audience research, added that 45% of panelists who watch ESPN content on TV and online watch at work.

Similar overlap seems to prevail at ESPN's Disney sibling network ABC, which presented two different case studies on the effectiveness of ads on The first panel showed how viewers who watch their favorite ABC shows like "Desperate Housewives" or "Grey's Anatomy" online are distinct from broadcast viewers in several significant ways: They're 10 years younger, skew more female and tend to be more educated. But they each share one common characteristic when it comes to advertising -- they'd rather be entertained than forced to interact with ads.

ABC: Fans just want to have fun
Mark Loughney, ABC's VP-sales and strategy research, and Martin Eichholz, VP-research at Frank N. Magid Associates, shared findings from a recent study of ABC TV and viewers that aimed to identify the best ways to goose brand recall from ads on both screens. Despite the inherent benefits of being able to run more interactive ads on, Mr. Eichholz found that at the end of the day, fans just want to have fun. "Being rated as entertaining is more likely related to recall than interactivity," he said.

Although 95% of ABC's TV ad clients have or are currently advertising on, only 15% of those advertisers have run interactive campaigns, ABC's exec VP-ad sales Mike Shaw said in a separate panel on cross-media metrics. "For the ones that have done it, we've seen great results, but it hasn't been the main investment yet," he said. During the study, which was conducted from October through December 2007, marketers such as Allstate and Florida Orange Juice ran ads with interactive components, including a Halloween-inspired game from Allstate.

Yet another ABC case study, however, was able to demonstrate how ads that ran on multiple ABC platforms ultimately boosted sales. Justin Fromm, ABC's director-sales and strategy research, conducted a series of case studies with marketing research firm Brand Keys for marketers such as Target and Listerine aiming to track viewers' purchase intent across platforms. In the case of Listerine, the mouthwash saw a 33% annual sales lift among viewers who watched their ads on both ABC and versus those who just saw the ads on one platform.

Right on Target
Target saw even more robust results from its dual campaign. ABC-only viewers reported an average spend of $82.81 in Target stores in the last six months, while viewers only spent $69.46 at their nearest Target. Yet consumers of both screens dropped an average total of $104.60 in the same period. Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, said the study's highest-performing ads exhibited strong brand equity, a metric his firm and ABC are turning to more to help drive sales for clients. With high brand-equity ads, he said, "There's higher attention paid to the ad, the brand is thought of as 'better' and the propensity to buy is bigger."

MTV reached similar conclusions among its audience when it tested Pepsi's exposure across three different forms of its popular teen soap "The Hills." The network partnered with Harris Interactive to see how ads that ran during "The Hills" on air, on and within the "Hills" virtual world contributed to TV ad recognition, or viewers' likelihood to respond favorably to brands that advertiser on all three platforms. Not surprisingly, the results showed that being everywhere is best.

Context is king
While average TV recognition for ads that ran on both and the virtual world was about the same, Pepsi saw a 5% lift in recognition among viewers who caught their ads on all three screens.

While MTV and its sister networks are nowhere close to a one-stop multiplatform solution for advertisers, studies such as "The Hills" have taught them that context is king. "We definitely find whatever brand is being advertised has to make sense in the environment it's in. The broader context of the media brand can lift the product," said Colleen Fahey-Rush, MTV Networks' exec VP-research and planning.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed MTV's metric for ads to brand recall, as opposed to "TV ad recognition," which aims to show how ads that run on digital platforms reinforce the influence of the TV.
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