Connecting the Dots, Online Style

ACNielsen and Yahoo! today launch a service targeting packaged-goods marketers that tries to answer a longstanding question of many advertisers: Do online ads spur offline sales?

Called Yahoo! Consumer Direct Powered by ACNielsen, the service analyzes the shopping behavior of about 15,000 consumers from ACNielsen’s 61,000-plus Homescan panelists who use Yahoo!. (Homescan panelists agree to scan their purchases and share the data with ACNielsen. Consumer Direct matches the findings with participants’ Internet usage to track how much online ads affect offline buying.)

Kraft Foods, Purina, Pepsi and Unilever took part in the service’s beta program, which divided participants into two groups: one that was shown online ads on Yahoo! and a control group that was not. Neither ACNielsen nor Yahoo! would reveal client-specific results, but according to ACNielsen, one company saw an increase of more than 20 percent in sales volume over the control group.

“Conventional wisdom has been that the Internet is not an effective marketing tool for consumer packaged-goods companies,” said Purina Interactive director Michael Moore in a statement. “Consumer Direct turns that … on its head.”

“The issue is that practically none of [packaged goods] sales occur over the Internet,” said Robert Tomei, svp and chief marketing officer of VNU’s Marketing Innovation Center. (VNU is also Adweek’s parent.) “We’ve made it relevant to them.”

“[Clients] can see what’s working and not working, but [also] which parts of their target audience responded better in terms of actually purchasing products based on the ads,” said David Riemer, vp of marketing solutions for Yahoo!.