The Digital Playbook: Can online ads move poll numbers?

Monday, April 19, 2010 | 10:53 PM

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Without a doubt, this is the number one question we get from political consultants and campaign operatives. We know, they tell us, that TV moves numbers. We are not sure that online ads can do the same.

Well, now we know. A recent study conducted by Russell Research on behalf of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, measured the effectiveness of an online campaign in the Washington, D.C. area to raise awareness of an important issue for them. RESOLVE is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the millions of Americans suffering from infertility find solutions to starting a family, and they focused their campaign on embryo donation. A baseline poll was taken before the digital campaign began and a follow up survey was conducted upon its conclusion. No traditional media was used - the only messaging was delivered via online advertising.

The client and its agencies, health public relations firm Spectrum and digital experts Chong + Koster, were amazed at the results. The survey showed a significant increase in awareness: prompted awareness of embryo donation increased from 42 percent to 50 percent following the digital campaign. In households with incomes over $100,000, awareness increased from 42 percent to 56 percent.

The study also indicated a strong recall of the ads themselves. Among younger women in the target audience (women ages 25-49 interested in starting a family), awareness of embryo donation as a result of advertising showed an increase in the post wave and is now the most mentioned source of awareness for this group. Complete details of the study and its methodology can be viewed and downloaded here.

These results were particularly impressive when compared to the first phase of the campaign which targeted the Seattle, Washington media market with a public service announcement (PSA). There were no measurable shifts in awareness or ad recall following the traditional media campaign.

How did they do it? With a flood of effective video and display ads (3 million impressions) on the Google Content Network and smaller buys on other networks targeted to five specific placement groups: YouTube categories, Women’s sites, Infertility Resources, Health sites with relevant content, and Personal Infertility blogs. All for a fraction of the cost of a television buy of similar scope.

Campaigns are catching on to this. We have seen political campaign budgets expand in recent years: from less than 1 percent of the Bush and Kerry campaign advertising spend in 2004, to a peak (thus far) of Scott Brown’s 10% spend in Massachusetts. Beyond the traditional strengths of online advertising in direct response, the question has been whether or not online ads can move public opinion. If RESOLVE’s experience is any indication, they indeed can.


Neil Crump said...

This is an interesting post John. As you point it the power of on line advertising is the level to which you can really target who have the opportunity to see it - you can test and tweak parameters and directly see the impact. Great job on delivering an important message.

Allan said...

Yes they do Peter! I strongly agree with that. Businesses should start investing in this manner of advertising. This is most especially to online firms. Positive and will planned advertisements will always make a good mark.

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SharpieTales said...

Was this study aware that individuals in the Washington D.C. area are (stereotyping here) more likely to use the internet as an information resource, as compared to other cities in America that might trust word-of-mouth and offline networks as information resources? What was the sample size? Were the ads directly targeted at couples wanting to have children, or at anyone interested in family planning? Did they use behavioral online advertising? Did they announce the study through social media to spark participation? How did they follow up with people who clicked on the ads? There are many variables at play. Guess readers will have to read the article to determine if it was indeed “successful.”

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