Super Bowl ads are a brand marketer’s dream. Last year’s Super Bowl set a new record for the most-watched pro­gram in tele­vi­sion his­tory, bring­ing in a whop­ping 106.5 mil­lion view­ers across the U.S. Major brands includ­ing Google, Coke, GoDaddy, and sev­eral auto­mo­tive and retail com­pa­nies bought mil­lions of dol­lars in adver­tis­ing spots dur­ing the game to cap­i­tal­ize on this mas­sive market.  

Yet the value of TV ads is a sub­ject of much debate among per­for­mance mar­keters. While many mar­keters believe that TV ads improve mar­ket­ing per­for­mance in the long run, oth­ers believe that they are an expen­sive way to build aware­ness. At Effi­cient Fron­tier, we have attempted to answer this ques­tion for many adver­tis­ers, and since the Super Bowl is only four days away, we thought it would be an oppor­tune time to present some of our research on the con­nec­tion between TV adver­tis­ing and Search Engine Mar­ket­ing (SEM).

First, does TV adver­tis­ing help build online traf­fic? The answer is, unde­ni­ably, yes.

Super bowl graph

The chart above shows the brand impres­sion vol­ume for eight weeks dur­ing a TV flight. One can clearly see that the impres­sion trend is very closely tied to the trend in TV spend. A closer inspec­tion reveals that the con­nec­tion between the two is more nuanced. A well estab­lished brand with a high degree of aware­ness will see a smaller jump in online traf­fic dur­ing a TV flight than a small brand. Fur­ther­more, a big TV ad cam­paign will lead to a big­ger impres­sion spike than a small one. As a rule of thumb, a TV flight causes between a 60 and 80% jump in searches for the brand terms and between 40 and 60% for generic terms.

Super Bowl ads pro­vide a huge spike in aware­ness. Does the spike trans­late to sus­tained online traf­fic? Some of our research attempts to answer this ques­tion. Using vector-auto-regressive mod­els, we were able to esti­mate that a big spike in TV spend increases SEM traf­fic for four to six weeks.

  Super bowl 2

For all Super Bowl adver­tis­ers, we advise the fol­low­ing to max­i­mize your ads’ effec­tive­ness online:

1. Antic­i­pate a spike in traf­fic vol­ume on your site both from paid and organic searches. Ensure that both your brand and non-branded terms are at high posi­tions to cap­ture all the traffic.

2. While you may be wor­ried about spend­ing beyond your allo­cated SEM bud­get on Sun­day and per­haps for the com­ing days, you will also see much bet­ter than aver­age con­ver­sion rates. This is good as it means lower acqui­si­tion costs.

3. Ensure that your Face­book cam­paigns are aligned with your TV efforts and link your Face­book pages to the video of your Super Bowl ads. Mea­sure the effec­tive­ness of your Face­book cam­paign using upper fun­nel met­rics such as aver­age time spent and engage­ment, and less to lower fun­nel met­rics such as conversions.

4. Mea­sure the effec­tive­ness of your Super Bowl ad on your online mar­ket­ing efforts right after the ad runs, then again after a week, a month and beyond. The results may pleas­antly sur­prise you!

While our analy­sis of TV and SEM data has pro­vided us with valu­able insights, it also opens the door to tan­ta­liz­ing media mix ques­tions. What is the right mix of online and offline bud­get to max­i­mize a mar­ket­ing campaign’s per­for­mance? How should the online bud­get be spent when TV flights are known in advance? What are the long-term brand­ing effects of a TV cam­paign and how can they be mea­sured online? What is the effect of TV adver­tis­ing on Face­book, which is an upper fun­nel mar­ket­ing vehi­cle? We do not have all the answers yet, but we are work­ing on find­ing them and we’re very excited about the possibilities.

Dr. Sid­dharth Shah
Direc­tor, Busi­ness Analytics


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