My friends call me a dinosaur. “Every­one”, I am told, surfs the Inter­net when they watch TV. Not me; I watch TV and surf at dif­fer­ent times. If the image of most con­sumers watch­ing TV with a lap­top in front of them is indeed true, the impli­ca­tions are sig­nif­i­cant for multi-channel advertisers.

To test the hypoth­e­sis, I looked at paid search traf­fic dur­ing Super­bowl. I looked to see if web­site traf­fic trends mir­rored events on TV. The ver­dict? Mixed. While there is some inter­ac­tion between the two chan­nels, it is not as obvi­ous as this. Traf­fic dipped slightly dur­ing the Super­bowl kick­off and then built up as time went on. It dropped again at the start of half time but increased at the end of it. Traf­fic in the sec­ond half remained sig­nif­i­cantly higher than in the first half. Did most peo­ple, real­ize by then that the game was already won? Traf­fic again dropped dur­ing a play call chal­lenge and then finally when the game was over.

This analy­sis gives us a few insights into how peo­ple surf.

(1)    On big TV days, peo­ple do surf the Inter­net while watch­ing TV. While the con­nec­tion is not very tightly cou­pled, it will vary sig­nif­i­cantly by geog­ra­phy. The site traf­fic from Green Bay on Sun­day would have strongly reflected the progress of the game. The same, one sur­mises would not be the case in Burling­ton, VT.

(2)    Online and offline activ­ity are often cou­pled in counter intu­itively. I expected online traf­fic to increase when the game winded down. The oppo­site hap­pened. Fur­ther, peo­ple surfed less when half time started and increased as half time went on. Were the Black Eyed Peas so bad?

Multi chan­nel adver­tis­ers should take note of these trends. A TV adver­tise­ment is no longer an island. As the data shows, it can affect online activ­ity. If the goal is brand build­ing and mind share then ads must invite users to engage with their sites online. When doing media buys on Super­bowl or other prime TV spots, adver­tis­ers will be well advised to look at online traf­fic for indi­ca­tions of effec­tive­ness.  Mar­keters ide­ally wants spots where there are short dips in online activ­ity fol­lowed by big upward spikes as this indi­cates a tem­po­rary atten­tion grab­bing event on TV and then an increase in surf­ing behavior.

What are your thoughts ? Do let us know.

Dinosaur. Sid­dharth Shah
Sr. Direc­tor, Busi­ness Analytics