How TV Ads Drive Digital Impact

Google and Rentrak build a better way to find out

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Google is stepping up its efforts to help TV advertisers understand the precise impact their ads have online, announcing a new partnership with Rentrak to expediently show marketers how their ads impact minute-by-minute Google searches, down to the spot level.

The company is upgrading its TV Attribution product—which measures the digital impact of ads on television and radio —from Adometry, the marketing attribution firm it acquired last May. When it launched last October, TV Attribution was only able to provide insight about website visits prompted by exposure to TV and radio ads, but it has now integrated Google search query data to help advertisers understand exactly how consumers are interacting with its brands online.

"Ahead of the upcoming upfronts, we really want TV advertisers to understand how consumers are making decisions about their brands in the moments that matter, not only when they see their ads, but how they engage with their brands online," said Dave Barney, Google product manager. "Whether that drives a website visit, or engaging with the brand through search, or in some other way."

While a Nielsen study found that 87 percent of consumers engage with a second screen while watching TV, Barney noted that traditional TV measurement techniques "describe what aired, but don't describe how effective the ads are."

That's where TV Attribution comes in. "For the first time ever, advertisers have the ability to see how search queries on Google are being influenced by their TV ads, in real time," said Barney. (The data is aggregated Google search query data; advertisers don't have access to individual search information.) This can help a brand refine its SEO and paid search strategy, as the product's insights explain how consumers are searching online in response to a TV ad. The Google search data can also show how TV ads drive more generic category searches, which often drives consumers to a competitor instead.

"We can help them see that all the spots at this time of day, on these networks, are not driving interest for you, and so that enabled them to work with their agency in optimizing their buying," said Barney.

The Rentrak partnership, meanwhile, will take advantage of that company's access to 30 million televisions and 230 networks nationwide, and reduce the data latency for TV Attribution's analysis to between one and three weeks. "Traditionally, TV is evaluated on an annual, semiannual or quarterly basis, just because of the difficulty in getting the data, and so now we're talking about giving them a seven-day lag in effectiveness," said Barney.

While website data accounts for people who responded to a TV ad and eventually ended up on the product's website, it fails to include those consumers who search for the product, but never click through to the website. "You might think, 'Someone sees my ad, searches for my brand, probably 95-plus percent of them are going to click through to my website, right?'" said Barney.

But, as a recent TV Attribution case study revealed, one brand's TV ads were driving twice as many branded searches as search-referred website visits. "So people saw their TV ad, searched for the brand and based on what they saw in front of them, only half of them clicked through to the website," said Barney. "That was shocking information for the CMO." Further search analysis revealed a negative news story about the brand, as well as web ads from competitors.

"Given the insight about what's happening, that can inform their SEO strategy and online advertising," said Barney. It can also help marketers pinpoint which of the ads are more successful at driving consumers to the website versus just driving search activity.

TV Attribution is already planning further enhancements down the line to take advantage of its access to Rentrak data, said Barney, including estimating online engagement "up to real time" and incorporating audience reporting. 

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.