Myth Busters: measuring the effect of TV and radio commercials

Many advertisers struggle to gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their TV and radio commercials. Screenforce and RAB, two Dutch TV and radio marketing organizations, provide advertisers and media agencies with insights that help them drive maximised results and enable them to continuously improve their media plan.

Objective Partners collaborated with Screenforce and RAB and conducted research into the effectiveness of TV and radio commercials of 13 large advertisers. Five common myths about offline marketing were assessed, of which the findings can be found in this article. Both insights and solutions will be given that could help you get a better understanding of the best ways to optimise your media spend towards TV and radio campaigns. 

Myth #1: I cannot measure effectiveness of my TV and radio commercials

A common myth in the Marketing industry is that effectiveness of TV and radio commercials cannot be measured. However, you can measure the number of visits to your website and compare how your site traffic changes after airing your TV or radio commercial.

Our researchers investigated whether changes in site traffic after the TV and radio commercials could be used to determine the performance of a commercial. It was recognised that TV and radio commercials have a positive impact on site traffic and that a significant increase in site traffic was observed after a commercial was broadcasted. Almost 1 out of 20 website visits could be traced back as direct result of the TV or radio spot.

Myth #1: Busted – you can determine the impact of your TV and Radio commercials by measuring the number of visits to your site after your commercial has been broadcasted versus a similar period in which no commercials have been aired.

Myth #2: Radio works better than TV for boosting site traffic

It is often stated that radio has a greater effect on website visits than TV. This statement is based on the perceived core strengths of each of the different channels. A commercial on TV is more appropriate for branding messages, as TV commercials can be used to tell a story using visuals and to create an emotional connection with the viewer, whilst radio commercials are often used for direct response messages and benefit from the stronger focus on the call to action. Hence, it would be expected that the stronger focus on selling a product or service would result in a more significant increase in site visits.

Our conducted test contradicted the above assumption. TV commercials showed both a higher number of site visits and a lower average cost per visitor (CPV). By combining Marketing activities on both TV and radio, both the strongest uplift in site visits and lowest CPV was noted. The effect of this combined effort improved even further when TV and radio commercials were aired successively and not at the same time.

Myth #2: Busted – from our research, it could be recommended to combine TV and radio commercials to drive both the highest increase in site traffic and cost per visitor.

Myth #3: It is not possible to measure the effect of branding commercials

Some might suggest that the effect of branding commercials cannot be measured. The key focus of a branding commercial is to transfer a brand’s identity or brand values. Commercials with a branding message are not necessarily meant to drive KPIs, like site traffic or conversions. Hence, when measuring the impact of a branding campaign, different metrics than traffic, clicks or conversions, should be included when reporting on the performance of a campaign. This is where brand awareness and brand consideration rates come in.

However, when looking at the results from our research, it could be stated that the number of site visits could be an indicator of the overall branding effect. It was observed that there was an uplift in website traffic after broadcasting the commercial, even though the effect was relatively low.

Myth #3: busted – site visits could be an indicator of the impact of a branding commercial

Myth #4: Advertising during primetime is more effective

You might think that airing your commercial during primetime would be the best spend of your media budget, as there is the potential to reach a lot of people. However, when measuring the success of a campaign, we should also take the costs in consideration at different times throughout the day and report on the costs per site visit or conversion.

In our research, we included both performance metrics, number of visits and costs per visit. From our research could be concluded that broadcasting a commercial during non-prime time drives the highest increase in site traffic with a lower budget required. Especially for TV commercials a steep increase in site traffic was noticed during non-prime time slots. The difference in direct effect on site visits between TV and radio can be clarified by the circumstances in which people listen to either radio or TV. For example, radio listeners could be driving, working or shopping, whilst TV viewers often view your commercials from their couch and could more easily go online.

Myth #4: in our research, our commercials were most effective during non-prime time in terms of site visits and cost per site visit

Myth #5: The more people you could potentially reach with your TV commercials, the better your results

When planning your TV commercials, you may simply focus on the number of viewers of the TV commercial. More viewers could lead to more traffic after all. However, this may not be the case. Potentially reaching more viewers, doesn’t necessarily mean that you reach the right audience.

Based on our research, we would say that targeted commercials are more cost effective than non-targeted commercials, as a relatively high number of site visits was observed with lower costs. Hence, when planning your TV campaign, it is recommended to investigate the opportunity to target your commercials, as this may get you maximised results for your media budget.

Myth #5: Busted – based on our research, we would advise targeting your commercials to minimise your cost with maximised results

Conclusion based on our research

You can measure the effectiveness of your radio and TV campaigns. From our research with Screenforce and RAB, we can state that the measurement of radio and TV campaigns is possible and that it can provide you with insights that can help you optimize your offline media budget. Our research showed that radio and TV commercials have a positive impact on online traffic and it provided us with interesting insights into factors to consider when executing your offline media campaign.

From our research, we would say:

  1. You can measure the effect of TV and radio commercials on your site visits
  2. Combine TV and radio commercials is recommended to achieve the lowest CPV
  3. You can measure the effect of branding commercials by using site visits as an indicator
  4. Investigate the opportunity to broadcast your commercial during non-prime time to be cost effective
  5. Test targeting your commercials to potentially effectively save on your media budget

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and get further insights into the results of your media spend.

Find out more about the Marketing Optimization Offline module of our Marketing Optimization Solution here.

Participating advertisers in our research with Screenforce en RAB:


Olivier van Hees

Olivier van Hees

Lead Business Consultant