As Written by Mike Battisto and Published on Response Magazine

The media marketplace has undergone significant change in the past decade. The number of media choices has increased and media consumption patterns have changed, making it more difficult to target consumers. The paradigm shift taking place in the broadcast marketplace is impacting not only how people consume media but also how they respond.

With prospects having many more paths to purchase these days, measuring the impact of mass media advertising efforts from broadcast channels like radio is no longer as simple as including a toll-free number and counting the number of calls generated. As a result, the decrease in response rates on a measured per-call basis does not necessarily mean decreasing effectiveness of mass media. This is especially true in radio, where consumers listen in their cars.

For an agency that specializes in performance-based placement, its necessary to research and determine how much response is being driven but not measured. To determine the impact broadcast has on untrackable response channels like the Internet, we conducted a study of nine campaigns in various DR categories comparing advertiser call volume to searches on their company name.

In every case, where the target audience was between 25 years old and 55 years old, there was a high correlation between measured calls and searches indicating broadcast media does impact search. The only exception was a campaign that targeted consumers older than 55 — likely because those consumers still have a high propensity to respond via the phone.

Companies cannot build their businesses using Internet advertising alone — mass media broadcast channels must be part of the mix at some point in the lifecycle in order to create the awareness necessary to grow. Therefore, in order to keep broadcast viable, companies must attribute a portion of their Web leads back to the broadcast channel that drove it or risk losing that lead flow entirely.

In many categories the leakage in response to the Web is so high that if the advertiser measured results on calls alone, it appears that the media doesn’t pay out. But not including response generated via all channels shortchanges broadcast media and leads marketers to cut media that may — in actuality — be driving growth.

So how do you determine the impact media channels like radio have on online response channels? I wish I had a “guaranteed to work” answer to that question, but there is no tracking source of which I am aware than can track offline media response online with 100-percent accuracy.

However, you can get a ballpark estimate of the impact without having to spend a lot on complicated tracking software. Conduct isolated tests in select markets where a client is using one media channel (like radio), isolate search results from those markets, and then measure the change in searches on the company name. That provides the information needed to base media buying decisions on numbers that take into consideration all response — not just measurable response.