Team traditional with digital

You often hear some digital salespeople challenging clients/agencies/marketers to pull money out of TV and invest it into digital channels. The rationale is generally around an assumption that digital is the only “accountable” media… which in all honesty is a half truth, as many get confused when talking about accountability and measurability.

Personally I think TV is still a very powerful and relevant medium, and I question whether it is going to become less so in the short term. The challenge is to make it work harder.

TV and digital channels, when working in tandem, are incredibly powerful. In fact, I often wonder whether TV as a medium is perhaps the greatest web traffic generator there is for advertisers.

When positioning search engine marketing, I refer to it as the “net that connects all media”. Search enhances almost every “above the line” execution.

By the way, when I use the term search engine marketing I don’t mean paid search only. Paid search is, erm, “paid” search; SEO is search engine optimisation; and search engine marketing (SEM) is both.

I ran a campaign recently for an iconic Australian fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brand, which was their first foray into digital media. When looking at the site traffic, we noticed three very obvious traffic spikes on what was otherwise a pretty linear traffic line.

After some investigation, what we identified was that when the brand was on TV we experienced an 800% uplift in site traffic and a 1000% uplift in search volume around the brand. The week after the TV burst stopped, the traffic and search volume levels returned back to normal levels and remained that way until the next TV burst… and as expected, we saw similar rises.

For this campaign we ran three TV bursts across five months and saw massive rises in web and search traffic.

I have noticed the same thing across numerous other categories – from automotive to communications to entertainment. TV builds online momentum and often does it a lot faster and a lot more efficiently than online display media. A web extension provides incredible value to your 15 or 30 second spot.

However it requires two things.

  1. The TV execution to give users a compelling reason to continue the exchange.
  2. A strategy to ensure that if they do, they can find your brand.

Look, there will be some products that this approach isn’t applicable to, but there are loads that it is. If I’m trying to sell Toilet Duck and running TV commercials solely to remind and reinforce one product benefit and the package image, do I really need to push users on to the web to find out more? Probably not… but if I am selling a new range of healthy kid snacks, then the web could be an incredibly powerful channel to communicate the deeper benefits to parents.

Now, you’re probably thinking “this is obvious, please tell me something I don’t know”. Yes, it is… but you’d be amazed at how many people overlook connecting tactical SEM to their other more dominant above the line channels. So how does it happen?

Well… often search engine marketing is removed from the wider marketing mix and exists in a silo. Most often it’s a silo measured on direct response so CPA (cost per acquisition), CPC (cost per click), yield etc are the measurements that really matter and affect optimisation. Generally this world is far removed from the world of media in general.

This is an easy problem to solve. Here’s some questions to ask yourself when planning your next campaign to make sure there isn’t a disconnect between the different communications mediums you are using.

  1. If outsourcing search, make sure the individual or agency is across the wider marketing mix. Channels, flights, weights, tactics, strapline etc. This way you can devise an SEM plan that is in tune with the wider plan.
  2. Consider using a search term as a next step rather than a URL. One mistake some people make is overestimating the memory of humans and their ability to recall phone numbers and web addresses. Maybe as a next step consider prompting consumers to Google your brand name or a product name… and capture these people through paid search. Pontiac started doing this three years ago, but it hasn’t really caught on here.
  3. Make sure your creative is relevant to the TV commercial. One common mistake is you can’t communicate brand personality through SEM, as SEM is more clinical and direct response focused. This is nothing more than a myth… if your other communications show personality and character, your SEM should too.
  4. Make sure you monitor your daily caps closely. The last thing you want is to be missing potential leads/interested customers because you have hit your daily budget cap. Try and predict traffic around offline media weights and adjust daily caps in accordance with these. Again an obvious premise, but very frequently overlooked.

See, TV (and other offline channels) can be measurable… and accountable if you can tie these results back to real business objectives. It’s just a matter of setting these early in the piece.


Ben Shepherd is national director – digital at Maxus, and can be reached via
He also co-authors the blog Talking Digital with Liam Walsh


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