LONDON: WPP Group, the marketing services conglomerate, and Google, the online search giant, are joining forces to provide $4.6 million (€3.5m; £3.3m) in funding for three years of research into how online advertising can influence consumer decisions.

As reported from the DeSilva + Phillips Dealmakers Summit 09, WPP is looking to increase its own research capacity and revenues, a strategy most clearly demonstrated by its takeover of TNS.

The areas set to come under investigation as part of its new tie-up with Google include finding the optimum balance between digital and traditional media adspend, and the impact of online advertising on sales levels and brand image.

Further studies will employ neuroscience to assess how consumers establish whether web ads are of relevance to them, and also if different online ad formats prove more influential in China.

Harvard Business School and Stanford University will be among the institutions that produce the new studies, and will receive information from the two companies, as well some of WPP's clients, which could include Unilever and Ford.

Research at the University of Southern Carolina will also explore the impact of emotion on consumer choices, and seek to gain an insight into how advertising can influence these trends.

John Quelch, a nonexecutive director of WPP and senior associate dean of Harvard Business School, said the overall aim is to establish "the big picture and develop useful generalizations."

Google has also appointed Dennis Woodside as its new vp for Americas Operations, filling the vacancy left by Tim Armstrong, who recently left the company to become chairman/ceo of AOL.

Woodside has previously held a variety of posts, including that of vp for the UK, Ireland and Benelux, and will head up the sales of search, video and display ads on Google's stable of websites.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff