NEW YORK: CNN and ESPN, the US broadcast networks, are both working with the Keller Fay Group, the marketing research and consulting firm, in order to track the online and offline "buzz" related to TV ads shown during their programmes.

In a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Advertising Research, Ed Keller and Brad Fay, the consultancy's founders, stated that "approximately 20 percent of WOM refers to paid advertising in media".

They also argued "these discussions are more likely to involve a recommendation to buy than other WOM about a brand", with knock-on benefits in terms of purchase intent and a desire to find out further information among consumers.

These figures were based on a weekly poll the company conducts among 700 Americans aged between 13 and 69 years old, and which asks contributors to provide details of their virtual and face-to-face conversations over a 24-hour period covering a variety of different product categories.

Having compiled this data, Keller Fay then contacts the relevant participants in order to identify which branded properties they may have discussed within this timeframe.

As a result of this process, it is able to identify 7,000 "mentions" of specific brands each week, as well as ascertaining the media channels on which any corresponding advertising material was viewed. 

A recent study it conducted on behalf of CNN reported that Lexus, the luxury auto marque owned by Toyota, was the advertiser generating the largest amount of word-of-mouth among viewers.

Consumers which accessed both its web portal and TV channel were also found to be four times more likely to mention the automaker than the average member of the US population.

According to Greg Liebman, CNN's senior vp, ad sales research, this information "gives us the ability to see which products and services our viewers are talking about more than the viewers of other networks and show that to our clients and prospects and demonstrate our value."

Similarly, insights delivered to ESPN revealed that goods featured in ads shown during NFL or college football games received a higher number of "mentions" than was typically the case.

"We're learning a lot about the nuances of scheduling and how certain aspects of the schedule can affect" brand-related word-of-mouth, said Artie Bulgrin, ESPN's senior vp, research and analytics.

This is becoming particularly important, as changing viewer behaviour, and the fact audiences are becoming more fragmented, means "getting to critical mass becomes much more difficult," he added.

Graeme Hutton, Universal McCann's director of consumer insights, argued "the usual view is that in marketing, to achieve a certain goal or aim, the more word-of-mouth you have.

However, in contrast with this assessment, "we found, in fact, that media advertising quite clearly helped generate word-of-mouth," he added.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff