LONDON: Unilever, the consumer goods giant, plans to allocate more of its marketing budget to digital display advertising after a successful trial involving five of its brands delivered an average ROI of £1.47 for every £1 spent.

The impressive figure was calculated by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which was one of the partner organisations that took part in Unilever's ongoing research project.

As reported by Marketing Week, Unilever also worked with UK retailer Sainsbury's, research and measurement firm Nielsen, as well as Aimia, a loyalty analytics company, and i2c, which specialises in payment technology.

According to the report, digital ads were served on mainstream sites, such as the Guardian and Mail Online over a six-week period using i2c's customer insight data.

This allowed Unilever to target consumers who had shopped at Sainsbury's and had bought one of the five brands under review, which included Persil washing powder and Magnum ice cream.

These consumers were then compared with others who were not served targeted ads, while data from Sainsbury's Nectar loyalty card was used to track both online and offline purchases.

With the results showing ROI of £1.47 for every £1 spent, Unilever and its partners plan to expand the trial to involve up to 20 brands in later phases.

Stuart Jeffrey, Unilever's Shopper Marketing Manager Homecare, suggested to Marketing Week that the first set of results is already influencing the company's marketing strategy for this year.

"We got involved [in the project] because there is an acknowledgement within the business that consumers are shopping online more than ever before and so we wanted to adopt our shopper marketing plan to reflect this shift. Programmatic display seemed a good way to do this," he said.

"The extra benefit here was that we could see how we were changing purchase intent due to the Nectar card data. That was a big sell. We can now go back to the business to show how the investment is working. We haven't been able to do that to-date to my knowledge."

Jeffrey added that the results will provide a benchmark for online display that Unilever hasn't had before and that they would encourage the company to spend more on e-commerce sites.

"This has proved the theory that [online display] is not just impacting online sales but in-store as well … My plan for this year now versus last year will be to spend more money on e-commerce sites such as Tesco and Sainsbury's and to drive people to those sites, which is where programmatic comes in."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff