As marketers question the effectiveness of display ads and their ROI value, General Mills is telling a different story. The packaged goods giant Dec. 18 revealed the results of a partnership with Google's Content Network and YouTube, where consumers were exposed to display ads for a Nature Valley contest that ran Dec. 24, 2007 to May 25, 2008. The ads resulted in a 52 percent sales lift and delivered more than 830 million impressions for the Nature Valley brand, per the company.
The results were announced at a webinar led by Google and General Mills, which launched the contest—called "Where's Yours?"—to generate awareness of Nature Valley and to increase brand affinity. The contest, which offered a $60,000 trip giveaway, invited consumers to submit a short video on YouTube, explaining where their "nature valley" was in life. It targeted nature enthusiasts, ages 18 to 34.
"We've done a lot of things online as a company, but this was one of the bigger efforts that we've had in quite some time," said General Mills' John Williams III, who headed up marketing for the brand at the time. It was the largest in scale for General Mills as far as online efforts go.
General Mills didn't disclose the cost of the effort. It spent $2.8 million in Internet display advertising during the period when the contest ran, per TNS Media Intelligence. The company used Google's ad technology, including display, YouTube in-video, text and search ads, to reach out to consumers. As a result, the brand saw a 1050 percent lift in related search behavior and a 1000 percent increase in website visitation among consumers who were exposed to the ads.
Additionally, the sweepstakes promotion delivered 830,792,906 impressions, 234,000 channel views and 300,000 views of user generated content overall.
"The key takeaway is, when we gave folks who care about Nature Valley an easy and fun way to talk about and share their experiences about the brand, they jumped into it with both feet," said Kevin Kells, Google's national industry director for packaged goods.
Blake Cahill, marketing svp at Visible Technologies, Seattle, Wash., a firm specializing in online brand management solutions, said the campaign's success lies in its ability to tap into "the affinities and passions of consumers," who, in this case, were avid nature enthusiasts. "Obviously, they didn't just build a granola bar web site. Instead, they leveraged the passions and interests that most aligned with consumers likely to interact with their brand," he said.
General Mills said more digital campaigns are in the works following the result of this effort's success. Nature Valley granola bars accounted for $136 million in food, drug and mass merchandise sales for 52 weeks ending Nov. 30, per IRI. Overall granola bar sales reached $890 million during the same period.