Television advertising may be some of the most expensive marketing a brand can engage in, but consumer goods brands could do just as well pouring their ad dollars into the Web. A comScore study has found that online advertising is at least as effective as television advertising when it comes to selling consumer package goods. In fact, it’s slightly better.
ComScore compared the online behavior of its panelists with their purchases at the checkout lines of supermarkets. Compared with a control set that wasn’t exposed to the online campaigns, the 200,000-consumer study found that online ads for consumer package goods lifted retail sales by 9% on average, while television campaigns only boosted retail by 8%.
In a press release, comScore’s executive chairman chalked online marketing’s success at elevating consumer goods to its increased targeting ability, particularly in hitting the right demographic segment. That seems reasonable enough; the study showed that 80% of the online campaigns catalyzed significant statistical boosts in their brands’ sales figures, so the right ads must have been finding the right consumers most of the time.
But the significant questions is this: Why are media buyers paying so much for television ad space? More importantly, why are the gatekeepers of online media selling a superior advertising tool for peanuts? Television advertising still has the ability to reach out and touch vast audiences in a short period of time, but with the advent of DVR and the rise of Internet TV, the tube isn’t the advertising behemoth it used to be. The Web, on the other hand, is gaining an increased share of consumers’ time every day.
Meanwhile, television upfronts–negotiations in which networks try to sell the majority of their ad space for the year–were dismal for 2009; the five largest networks reported a 22% decline in year-over-year revenue. Part of that can be attributed to the economic downturn, but nothing makes businesses take note of where they are wasting money quite like a stalling economy. These numbers are clearly heartening for those that have been saying all along that Web advertising, with its niche targeting, the piles of data it generates, and its potential for interactivity, is undervalued. For television, the research certainly doesn’t spell the beginning of the end, but it does dish a harsh dose of reality: At least in some segments, television is losing ground, and the chances of regaining it are slim.