The impact of online advertising

DoubleClick has reported the results of a study centered on determining how companies can focus marketing investments to impact the role “word of mouth” plays in purchase decisions. The study, titled “Influencing the Influencers: How Online Advertising and Media Impact Word of Mouth,” is part of a series of reports based on DoubleClick’s Touchpoints IV survey of online consumers.

The research identified among the survey respondents a segment deemed to be “influencers” and examined how this key segment reaches purchase decisions. To examine the activity of influencers, DoubleClick asked questions to identify more than 1,000 influencers among the 6,000-plus Touchpoints respondents: active networkers, subject matter experts, bloggers, and online community participants.

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey results revealed that influencers consider online advertising a key factor of their shopping process, second only to websites, as a source of further learning about purchase decisions. Nineteen percent of influencers cited web advertising as a source of information when they were researching a purchase, compared to 8 percent among the remainder of the sample. Both segments cited websites as their top source of research when they are shopping, but influencers clearly rely more on the web than non-influencers, with 40 percent of influencers citing websites for this purpose versus 31 percent of non-influencers.

Some other key findings of the study include the following:

—Influencers are active consumers of all media, especially the Internet. Asked about a range of different types of media, influencers spent more time reading newspapers and magazines, watching TV and especially using the Internet. Twenty-three percent of non-influencers said that they spent five or more hours a day online, compared to 39 percent of influencers.


—Influencers pay close attention to advertising, positively and negatively. Compared to non-influencers, influencers were more likely to take some actions to limit or control their exposure to advertising, such as the use of digital video recorders to fast-forward through TV ads or the use of a pop-up blocker to control their web experience. At the same time, they were more apt to agree with positive statements about advertising, such as 76 percent agreeing that they are likely to pay attention to advertising when they are shopping for relevant products, compared to 63 percent of non-influencers. Influencers were also much more likely do Internet research as a result of ads they saw in traditional media, to talk about ads of interest to their friends, and to acknowledge that ads often contain valuable product information, among other attitudes.

—Influencers embrace emerging media. Influencers are seeing the impact of emerging media such as video, blogs and messaging, among others:

—57 percent of influencers say they watch video online today, compared to 40 percent of non-influencers

—44 percent read blogs compared to 28 percent of non-influencers

—36 percent access the web on handheld devices compared to 21 percent of non-influencers

“There has been a lot of research to establish that a small segment of people have disproportionate influence on how the rest of us - their friends, family, and co-workers - make purchase decisions,” said Rick Bruner, DoubleClick’s director of research and industry relations. “So, if the question is how can companies spend their marketing dollars to impact word of mouth, the answer is to reach those influencers though advertising. Influencers are media gurus and they pay attention to advertising, especially online and in emerging media platforms.”

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey also examined how influencers arrived at purchase decisions for different product categories. The results show that the patterns in how influencers and non-influencers shop vary from one type of product to another. For example:

—Overall, car buyers consider websites the most valuable source of further learning during the shopping process, ahead even of the dealership. However, influencers were more likely to cite websites as a factor by eight percentage points compared to non-influencers.

—Among air travelers, considerably more influencers cited the importance of web ads (24 percent) than TV ads (13 percent). For non-influencers, it was the opposite, with more citing the importance to TV ads (21 percent) than web ads (19 percent).

Key factors marketers should keep in mind when developing their digital marketing campaigns to influence the influencers:

—Designing ads to be rich in product detail, targeted to the consideration phase of purchasing, can have an echo effect by appealing most to the small segment of customers who in turn have a greater influence on the rest of the public. In this way, marketers are not only advertising to prospects, but through these influencers to a wider audience.

—Consumers shop in different ways for different types of products, and the behavior of influencers also differs in those segments. Marketers that succeed in finding the influencers for their companies and niches should consider investing in original customer research to tailor marketing programs accordingly.

—When building a marketing campaign aiming to reach influencers to tap the potential of word of mouth, digital media should be a critical part of the plan. Emerging media platforms like online video, mobile web content and blogs are highly concentrated with influencers.

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey is available for free download at: .