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New study from iProspect highlights relationship between search and display

Search agency iProspect released a new study today, based on a survey commissioned by Forrester Consulting, which highlights the symbiotic relationship between search and display advertising. Almost as many people, the study says, perform a search around a company or product in a browser after seeing a display ad as click on the ad itself.

The study found that 31% respond to display ads by directly clicking on it, while 27% respond by searching for the product, brand, or company by launching a search on a search engine.

“It’s validation of what we’ve been saying about the relationship between search and display,” said Rob Murray, president of iProspect. “It’s proof positive that display drives search behavior, with a closer relationship than people thought.” For advertisers, he added, investing in a “search insurance” program is key. “It’s a risk if you are doing a lot of online and offline marketing initiatives and you are not investing [in search],” he pointed out.

But the idea that over half of people who see display ads respond in some way seems unlikely to analyst Andrew Frank, who covers marketing and advertising for Gartner Research. “It struck me as a highly unlikely finding,” he said.  “If that were true you wouldn’t see click-through rates that were in the tenths of a percent range.”

The trouble, he said, might lie in how the survey question was worded: “In the past six months when visiting an ad-supported Web site and viewing any ads that promoting offerings (e.g. product, content, services) from companies other than the Web site owner, which of the following describes your initial response to each of those ads (choose all that apply)?”

“It seemed very confusing,” said Frank. “Did they mean, how have I ever responded or how do I usually respond or how do I often respond?”

Murray pointed out that the finding speaks to Internet user behavior over the past six months. “It shows that 31% of Internet users initially responded to online display ads by clicking on an ad at some point during that time period,” he explained. “That doesn’t mean they did so every single time they saw an ad — instead, it indicates that during that time period, they recall responding to at least one online display ad by directly clicking on it.”

Frank agreed that the study confirms the relationship between search and display, which, Murray pointed out, is extremely important. “Display is not dead and the data is showing it,” he said. “It holds more value than just direct response – smart marketers are running display campaigns and using display as brand awareness and search as a capture mechanism.”

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