News UK closer to breaking last-click habit after test ads have ‘real world’ impact

News UK is exploring alternative ways to link what people read to their purchases after test ads on The Times tablet edition showed how readers who saw them were more likely to become brand advocates.

While the industry is still a long way from pulling digital attribution into the entire conversion path, the publisher believes it is edging closer to finding models that are more fair to its own content. 'Clicks don’t matter sales do' is what News UK’s commercial arm wants to be able to tell advertisers and its Project Footprint study has set it on its way to grabbing more direct response budgets.

Developed in partnership with Comscore and the Keller Fay Group, the month-long study closely tracked the online and offline activities of 70 multiplatform subscribers to The Times last November. This data was all combined at an individual respondent level and analysed for patterns in behaviour.

Much of the key learnings stem from the revelation that Times readers spend 63 per cent time online and visit 57 per cent more pages than the average internet user. Consequently, ads in the tablet addition spurred higher searches for advertisers and site visits from viewers, compared to those readers who didn’t see them with cinemas (111 per cent), Marks & Spencer (50 per cent) and Lloyds Bank (18 per cent) among the biggest lifts.

Abba Newbery, director of strategy for News UK Commercial, said the research proves that its audience is at their “most engaged and attentive” when they are “consuming our content”, more likely to use search and more likely to take an action.

Tablet readers who saw the ads were also more likely to make purchases or pick the brand offline versus those that hadn’t, the report found. This was particularly true in the automotive sector where BMW (163 per cent), Volkswagen (80 per cent), Audi (33 per cent) saw uplifts in November, while HSC and John Lewis reported 10 per cent and 7 per cent uplifts respectively.

The study reinforces the industry’s views about the effectiveness of online ads but distils them through a publisher lens, especially when it comes to word of mouth as a metric. News UK is increasingly using word of mouth as a key measure and combining it with other metrics, albeit not at an individual respondent level.

People who saw ads on The Times were more likely to discuss the brand offline compared to those who hadn’t with those for Burberry (150 per cent) and Mr Turner (114 per cent) the highest - possibly due to their seasonality - while ads for Barclays, Audi and John Lewis were 36 per cent, 28 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

Advertising exposure demonstrated a strong correlation to brand advocacy in various categories. For example, 95 per cent of brand advocates for supermarkets also saw an ad for their preferred brand during the month, closely followed by banking (86 per cent), airlines (75 pr cent) and cars (65 per cent).

The study is currently being taken out to agencies nationwide in an attempt to open up a debate around the range of different metrics the advertising can potentially influence. It has already split the opinion of those media experts that have already seen it, with some acknowledging how it encourages advertisers to talk to existing customers through publishers rather than using the internet as a way of cheap prospecting.

Sean Adams, head of insight at News UK Commercial, said the study should help identify more clear objectives and success criteria for future campaigns.

“Some of the individual brand and category learnings from this study will help in setting some expectations as well as clarifying which measures should be captured,” he continued. “At this stage, we are not planning to sell our audiences differently as a result,” unlike the previous Neuroscience project which led to News UK’s 'Access One' trading approach across print and tablet.

However, a similar project is being mulled for The Sun, again linking what people read to subsequent actions.

In an advertising world dominated by last click attribution, News UK’s roadshow and upcoming tests will look to prove how what you read has a major influence on the actions of readers.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs

Seb Joseph

Hi, I'm the news editor at The Drum. Give me a shout if you have any questions about our news coverage or would like to pitch in a story.

All by Seb