PPCHow can marketers use TV ads to drive searches?

How can marketers use TV ads to drive searches?

In this post I'll look at some examples, stats and suggested best practices.

How can marketers use offline ads to drive brand and product searches? In this post I’ll look at some examples, stats and suggested best practices. 

Using TV and other offline ads to drive search behaviour

Driving search isn’t necessarily the prime purpose of offline ads, but marketers should be aware that many are likely to respond to ads using the web.

They may be watching TV with their smartphones, tablets or laptops to hand. Or they may see an ad on the train and respond by opening a mobile browser.

In these scenarios, marketers need to do as much as they can to make sure customers get to the correct website or landing page.

Displaying a URL is one way to do this, another is to display a call to action to search for a particular term.

Here’s an example from Sonos which I used in a previous post on customer reviews.

It’s beautifully simple and the call to action couldn’t be clearer:


People who search for the term are greeted by a search results page full of five star ratings, which gets the point across very nicely.


Of course, you need a product that’s good enough to generate such great reviews first, but if you do have that, why not make the most of it?

Why use a search call to action?

I’m going to call them search calls to action for now because that’s how I’ve referred to them before, and I don’t know of an alternative term.

Anyway, here are some convincing reasons to use them:

  1. It’s quicker for users. It’s easier to search then enter a URL.
  2. It’s more memorable. You have a matter of seconds to convey the message and it’s also easier for viewers of the TV ad or billboard to remember a three or four word phrase.
  3. People are multi-screening. Your target audience is likely to be watching TV with a smartphone or other internet device to hand.
  4. Attribution. If you have aligned the TV or offline ad with a PPC campaign around a particular phrase, it’s possible to track (at least partially) the success of the ad.

Why display a URL instead? 

Of course, it’s possible to do both…

  1. A URL, if used, takes people straight to the correct landing page. 
  2. Securing the top position in organic search isn’t always easy, so brands need to be careful that any online searches go to the right landing page if using a call to action.
  3. Unlike URLs, using search CTAs in offline ads means that brands need to spend money on PPC ads. 
  4. Competitors can muscle in on these searches. If they see competitors using search calls in ads, they can quickly bid on related terms to ‘steal’ some of the traffic.


  • According to the IAB, 78% of US adults who watch TV use another device while doing so.
  • The smartphone is the predominant second screen: Two in three smartphone owners multiscreen while watching TV; over half of all computer or tablet owners multiscreen.
  • A study by Marketing Science found that TV ads did prompt users to browse online, and that ‘action-focused ads’ increase the likelihood that users will go online and make a purchase.

Examples and best practices

What constitutes best practice here is yet to be determined clearly as there seem to have been relatively few studies into this topic.

However, that won’t stop me suggesting a few…

Keep the URL or CTA on screen for long enough

It may seem obvious, but many TV ads feature a URL or search term for just a fraction of the ad’s length. Give them time to see it.

In the BT ad below, the URL is shown for just two seconds of a 50 second ad.


Yes. it’s a simple URL to remember, but just a few more seconds increases the chance that people will see and recall the URL.

Make sure you rank for likely search responses

This Barclay’s ad calls for people to search for ‘Barclay’s Blue Rewards’.


Sure enough, the brand occupies the top slots in the SERPs, while no competitor brands rank on page one.


Back it up with PPC ads

PPC ads ensure that, as people search for the term they’ve been asked to, or other terms related to the product, you’re guaranteed to be top of the page. As in the Barclay’s example above.

Ensure that landing pages back up the ad

If people search for a specific URL or term after viewing an ad, the landing page should reinforce the ad.

Here, the Barclay’s page uses the same imagery as the ad, and begins to describe the features of the product.


This reassures searchers that they’ve reached the right page and ensures that the transition between TV ad and website is as smooth as possible.

Landing pages should mobile-friendly

As the previous stats show, people are more likely to have a smartphone to hand than any other device, so landing pages have to be mobile-friendly.

Again, Barclay’s gets it right:


In summary

I think this is an area where marketers have plenty of room for improvement.

For TV ads to be successful in driving online searches (and ultimately sales) then the whole campaign needs to be joined up.

Barclay’s here provides a good example, but others are guilty of failing to ensure search positions before ads are broadcast, not displaying URLs or CTAs clearly enough, or not reinforcing the ad message on the landing page.


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