Search and Offline Ads: The Super Dynamo

Much has been talked about the impact of offline media and word of mouth on search. Marketers have started taking notice and are now considering how to integrate a search box in offline advertising materials. My previous column outlines a few key points to consider before including a search box in your offline campaign materials.

One beauty of running a search engine marketing campaign is your ability to set a different daily budget throughout the campaign period. Unlike many offline and online media channels, search marketing runs on an auction-based pay-per-click model. Its flexibility allows you to act and react to any changes in search demands almost instantaneously.

After you have made the decision to integrate search in your media plan, you will need to think strategically about assigning an appropriate daily budget to capture the demand generated by your offline media placements. Remember search engine marketing is only a demand capture channel. Therefore, you will need to gauge how much ‘demand’ will be generated by your offline media throughout the campaign period.

1. Effect of different offline media on search

Different offline media actually have varying levels of effectiveness in driving online search. According to a study done by our company, television ads (37 percent), and word of mouth (36 percent) are the most effective channels in driving search online, followed by magazine ads (30 percent). Radio ads (17 percent), billboards (9 percent), and ads on public transport vehicles (3 percent) have lesser impact on driving search online. This research questions the need to include a search box in the creative placed in those media channels, given that the media space is highly limited and the placement is always on the go.

2. Response time between exposure to offline ads and search

The time from being exposed to offline advertising to search varies differently, depending on the offline channels. Therefore, when you plan the duration of your search campaign, you will need to have the visibility of the full media plan to determine how much longer you need to run your search campaign after the conclusion of your offline activities.

TV commercials: Studies have shown that exposure to TV ads will result in an immediate increase in search traffic, with little lag time in between. This effect has proven to be true during the annual Super Bowl game in the U.S., in which brands that advertise during commercial breaks saw an increase in search traffic almost instantaneously. Some advertisers fail to assign enough budget to their search marketing campaign and it went offline prematurely. The surge in search traffic ended up being captured by their competitors, who bought keywords related to their TV ads. In turn, the advertisers were literally buying TV ads to help drive sales of their competitors!

Outdoor ads: A study done by Posterscope UK found that there was an average of two to three day delay between the exposure to subway, underground, and billboard ads to when search happened. Only 29 percent of people will perform a search on the same day they see an outdoor ad. Thirty-four percent of people will perform a search more than a week after they saw the ad.

Newspaper and magazine ads: Because of the nature of newspapers, it is usually assumed there will be little delay in search traffic driven by newspaper ads. However, for magazine ads, our experience found that search volume peaks during the first few days of a new issue launch for weekly titles, and the first two weeks for monthly magazines.

Figure 1. Sample Media Plan with Proper Search Integration

3. Media reach, frequency, and search

Just like the famous tipping point phenomenon coined by Malcolm Gladwell, the impact of offline media on search also shares an exponential graph. When the share of voice in a media channel is low, its effect on driving search tends to be minimal. However, once it reaches a tipping point, its impact on search is exponential. Markets should keep this in mind when deciding how much weighing they need for the search daily budget, when evaluating the reach and frequency of offline media channels.


Similar to a traditional media plan, various media channels have to work in conjunction with one another to get the most out of it. Search is no exception. I have seen too frequently that an advertiser integrates a search campaign into a media plan and sets the same daily budget throughout the campaign period.

Instead, they should be aware that search volumes fluctuate whenever there are offline advertising activities. By taking into account the delay between offline media exposure and search, the type of offline channels, as well as the reach and frequency of offline ads, advertisers should set a different daily budget based on the combination of these two factors to capture all search demand. Otherwise, your competitors may take advantage of your budget limitations and create a search campaign riding on the increasing demand driven by your offline activities.

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