Looking back as few as 15 to 20 years ago, the majority of people answering a direct-response ad simply called the phone number provided. The next phase brought call tracking phone numbers. It is essential in direct-response advertising to be able to measure your return on investment. Advertisers could identify what source generated the bulk of their customers by what phone number they called. Improvements could be made to fine-tune the advertising schedule based on what performed the best.
Advertisers included their Web address in the ads, but then relied on respondents identifying where they heard about the company on their Website to track performance of different media sources. This evolved to some advertisers using unique URLs in their advertising. A combination of call tracking phone numbers and a unique URL in your advertisement gives you the best opportunity to track the effectiveness of your media sources. However, as consumers' usage of the Internet has increased, their quest for knowledge and comparison shopping also has increased.
The way audiences consume media likewise has changed over this period of time. While media activities used to be consumed one at a time, today's consumers are utilizing multiple media sources all at the same time. A study by Harris Interactive found that while online, 68 percent of people also were listening to CDs/MP3s; 57 percent also were watching TV; and 45 percent were listening to the radio. People have been raised and trained to multitask. It certainly makes an advertiser's job more difficult to track investments down to the penny. We always have known that a multimedia mix raised overall reach, and that certain media, especially television, had an impact on other advertising sources. The more awareness a consumer had of a company, through exposure to multiple media sources, the more likely that consumer would be to respond.
Even with tracking in place, we know there is an impact that traditional media has in driving online response, as well as non-media and overall lead flow. There is a growing number of people who will not call the phone number in the advertisement or use the unique URL listed; instead, they will search online for the product or service by name. Once upon a time, these people would look in the Yellow Pages, but now they go online. If they have not remembered the company by name, they may do a search for the product or service they are interested in. This typically will generate results for Pay Per Lead, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and company Websites. A study by Jupiter Research indicates the following statistics for offline media driving online search:
Television: 60 percent
Print: 43 percent
Radio: 21 percent
Direct Mail: 20 percent
Following this same train of thought, Gragg Advertising, which specializes in the career school industry, examined 50 different clients' data over an 18-month period. It found that television spending had the largest impact on overall lead flow, Website leads, and non-media leads. Print spending had the largest impact on pay-per-lead in the school search portal category and also had impact on overall lead flow.
Overall offline media spend directly impacted online lead flow, non-media leads, and overall lead flow. These findings were corroborated by the statistical findings in the Jupiter Research study. That study showed that 66 percent of those who responded to an offline advertisement visited the Website or a search engine to learn more, while only 14 percent called a phone number from the advertisement. Of those responding online, 70 percent did so in response to television advertising. Younger consumers—who have grown up with computers—are less likely to respond to offline ads: Some 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds visited a company's Website when the URL was featured in an offline ad, whereas with consumers age 25-plus, 39 percent visited a company's Website.
Because of the often lower costs of online ads, many advertisers are shifting their budgets to the Web. But it is important to have an appropriate balance between offline and online spending. Without the offline stimulus driving the online response, there may be a lack of demand in search and online leads. It's important to measure results at different levels of spending and see how your overall customer acquisition costs and conversion rates change at each level. This type of smart budget planning will position your company to gain where others don't. It is also important to understand that every different audience segment has different response behavior. It is crucial to an advertiser's success to offer many options for response and track the results.
Stephanie Oehlert is media director at Gragg Advertising, where she oversees the media teams and their development and implementation of strategic media plans for all Gragg clients. She is also responsible for conducting market research, coordinating direct-mail campaigns, and managing weekly client analysis.