Why the Internet Enhances TV Advertising

MediaWorks Viewpoint: CBS Vision's David F. Poltrack

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David F. Poltrack
David F. Poltrack
Over the past few years, we've gotten accustomed to hearing how the internet was going to reduce TV viewing and how it's going to supplant TV as the primary advertising medium. Much to the surprise of the pundits, these expected outcomes have yet to take place. TV usage is actually up compared to the year 2000 and continues to increase despite the fact that people are spending more and more time online. And the TV market remains very healthy. Not even the impact of a crippling strike and a recessionary economy could keep the upfront broadcast TV market from registering year-to-year gains.

From where I sit, the internet as a marketing medium has enhanced, not diminished, the value of TV advertising for marketers.

Steps to making a purchase
To understand how this could be, let's step back to Marketing 101 and the Consumer Adoption Process -- a progression of stages that bring the consumer to purchase a product or service. The four basic stages describe the consumer as first becoming aware of the product, then interested in it, then desirous, and finally a purchaser.

Traditionally, TV advertising has been viewed as having its greatest influence in the early stages of the model, making the consumer aware of the product, creating interest in the product and, to a lesser extent, creating a desire. As the consumer moves through this process, the role of TV is diminished and supplemented by other marketing forces.

The role of the internet is more pronounced in the latter stages of the process. The interested consumer goes to the web to learn more about the product. When the consumer finds more information about it, his or her desire for it increases, and the information leads to an actual purchase.

The internet has significantly increased the efficiency of this process. The consumer's interest can be more quickly addressed, and the conversion of that consumer from an interested party to a purchaser can be expedited.

TV's signals still strong
This brings us back to the role of TV advertising.

If the internet has increased the efficiency of the process by which "aware" and "interested" consumers are converted to purchasers, then the value of each aware or interested consumer is that much greater. No other medium can rival TV in developing awareness of a product, service or product feature.

So, if the internet has increased the rate of conversion of aware and interested consumers into purchasers, then TV's ability to produce aware and interested consumers has an even greater value to the marketer.

Here's some real data from a study we just conducted involving new cars.

We began by asking our respondents which of 11 new car models they recognize. On average 35% were aware of each new car, with recognition ranging from 18% to 68%. Approximately 11% of our respondents said they were considering purchasing a new car in the next year. The average awareness of the 11 new cars by these potential purchasers was 43%, ranging from 18% to 69%.
David F. Poltrack is president of CBS Vision, a new research unit designed to explore and offer insight on emerging technologies, media consumption patterns and advertising value in the media marketplace, and exec VP-chief research officer for CBS Corp.

When asked about the source of their awareness of these cars, over half of both the total sample (57%) selected TV advertising. The second most mentioned source, magazines in every case, was only noted by less than one-fifth of the total respondents (17%). The choices encompassed all of the major media, including magazines and the internet, as well as "friends and/or family."

We next asked our respondents if they had sought out information about any of these cars. Among those aware of each car, an average of 10% sought out information about that car. As you would expect, the percentage was significantly higher for those in the market for a car, 24%, more than double.

Going online for info
Just as TV dominated the awareness measure, the internet dominated as a source of sought-after information. Just under half of the total sample (43%) cited the internet as a place where they went for this information, more than double the second source, the dealer (21%).

We see that the internet in the space of about a decade has become the primary source of information in this key category. There is no question that having this new resource available for consumers has increased the efficiency of converting an aware consumer into a purchaser, which places a higher value on each aware consumer. That, in turn, places a higher value on TV advertising as the leading producer of aware consumers.

Many commentators on the subject of the rise of the internet as an advertising medium have reported that marketers have been shifting money from TV advertising into internet advertising. No doubt, on a short-term basis, this has happened. Based on the research I just presented, it is the last thing they should be doing. If an effective internet marketing program increases the rate of conversion of aware consumers into purchasers, then you want to increase, not decrease, the number of aware consumers. Reducing the investment in TV advertising, the primary generator of awareness, undermines the value of the internet effort.

The awareness levels recorded by the various new cars in our survey demonstrate that even the biggest advertisers do not achieve universal awareness with their campaigns. Even brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's, which have universal brand recognition, do not reach this level of awareness for individual campaigns covering specific features, promotional programs or product line extensions.

The transfer of advertising dollars from TV budgets to the internet to develop a viable internet marketing presence was a short-term solution driven more by expediency than sound marketing strategy. As the measured results from these early programs have come in, more and more marketers are realizing the complementary relationship of a strong TV campaign and a strong internet program. These marketers are holding steady or building up their TV campaigns in conjunction with the expansion of their internet marketing programs. They are funding these efforts either through the transfer of funds from less productive areas or from incremental sales.

Coordinate your messages
For the CMO, this means coordinating the messaging, content and timing of TV and internet components of the marketing plan. Marketers should take advantage of the high level of engagement that people have with their favorite television programs by combining sponsorship of these programs on TV with sponsorship of them online. More and more viewers of popular series are going online to follow these series. Sponsorship of the online site featuring these programs allows the advertiser to repeat their message to the viewer in an environment where people can be directed to the marketer's website. All of the networks are now offering these cross-platform opportunities.

Of course, marketers should also integrate an invitation to visit their websites directly into their TV commercials.

Smart marketers recognize this nexus between TV and the internet and are increasing their efforts in both media -- not trading off one against the other.
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