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