Dec 2019 (Vol. 59, Issue 4): SOCIAL-MEDIA MARKETING
How Measuring Consumer Conversations Can Reveal Advertising Performance
Marketers should use conversation metrics, in addition to effectiveness measures, to determine whether their advertising campaigns will drive purchases—and not just around unique events like the Super Bowl.
In their latest research, word-of-mouth experts Brad Fay, Ed Keller and Rick Larkin (all at Engagement Labs) found that “buzz”—or upticks in both online and offline conversations about brands—contributes about equally to sales and other business outcomes.
In fact, there is “strong WOM response to more routine advertising occasions, particularly when it was possible to compare uplifts in conversation for those exposed versus those not exposed to the advertisements.”
Among the takeaways:
- Conversation metrics potentially are more powerful than other indicators of advertising success, such as USA Today’s annual Super Bowl Ad Meter, which relies on consumers’ evaluation of advertisements, or viewing and sharing levels on YouTube.
- On average, 19 percent of consumer purchases can be attributed to conversations about brands occurring offline (10 percent) and online (9 percent).
- About 25 percent of advertising’s impact involves the stimulation of conversations.
The online social data used in the study were based on “social listening” for brand mentions on Twitter, consumer review sites, blogs and forums. The offline conversation data were drawn from a continuous online survey that measures unaided day-after recall for brands in 15 diverse categories.
Marketers who don’t measure both types of buzz mistakenly may believe that “advertising and marketing activities are working when the impact is limited to a rise in Twitter activity only, or they may not recognize a successful campaign that is working offline but not resonating in social media.”
The study assessed uplift in both online and offline conversation volume for 23 Super Bowl advertisers. It compared data for the week of the Super Bowl to the prior month, and the online and offline conversation metrics to three publicly available metrics for the same advertisers:
- Uplift in views on the advertiser’s YouTube channel;
- Uplift in Google searches (e.g., Google Trends) for advertiser brands;
- Ratings of each brand’s commercials on USA Today’s annual Super Bowl Ad Meter.
At the individual advertiser level, there was a surprising lack of agreement among the various metrics. “No advertiser scored in the top six on all five metrics, and only one—Bud Light—scored well on four out of five, making it the strongest contender for ‘most effective’ Super Bowl advertiser of 2019, despite being ranked in the bottom half on USA Today’s Ad Meter. Doritos, Kia and Pepsi scored in the top six on three metrics,” the authors observed.
What’s more, Ad Meter results did not correlate with any of the other metrics—in fact, they usually were negatively correlated. “This pattern strongly suggests that popularity of creative content unlikely will be relevant to effectiveness, validating earlier research in this area (Smit, van Meurs and Neijens, 2006).”
Ad Meter data seemed to produce some “false positives—high scores for Google, Hulu and Microsoft that otherwise performed poorly—and false negatives for Bud Light, Doritos, Pepsi and TurboTax that all performed poorly in Ad Meter yet seemed to do well on other metrics.”
Although the Super Bowl as a unique event tends to generate buzz, other periods during the year have shown potential for increased buzz (as reported in 2018 by Turner Sports). “Hence, advertisers have reason to expect effective advertising will drive conversations year-round,” the authors concluded.