How can marketers use TV ads to drive searches?


How can marketers use offline ads to drive brand and product searches? In this post I’ll look at some examples, stats and suggested best practices. 

Using TV and other offline ads to drive search behaviour

Driving search isn’t necessarily the prime purpose of offline ads, but marketers should be aware that many are likely to respond to ads using the web. 

They may be watching TV with their smartphones, tablets or laptops to hand. Or they may see an ad on the train and respond by opening a mobile browser. 

In these scenarios, marketers need to do as much as they can to make sure customers get to the correct website or landing page. 

Displaying a URL is one way to do this, another is to display a call to action to search for a particular term. 

Here’s an example from Sonos which I used in a previous post on customer reviews. 

It’s beautifully simple and the call to action couldn’t be clearer:


People who search for the term are greeted by a search results page full of five star ratings, which gets the point across very nicely.  


Of course, you need a product that’s good enough to generate such great reviews first, but if you do have that, why not make the most of it? 

Why use a search call to action? 

I’m going to call them search calls to action for now because that’s how I’ve referred to them before, and I don’t know of an alternative term. 

Anyway, here are some convincing reasons to use them: 

  1. It’s quicker for users. It’s easier to search then enter a URL.
  2. It’s more memorable. You have a matter of seconds to convey the message and it’s also easier for viewers of the TV ad or billboard to remember a three or four word phrase. 
  3. People are multi-screening. Your target audience is likely to be watching TV with a smartphone or other internet device to hand. 
  4. Attribution. If you have aligned the TV or offline ad with a PPC campaign around a particular phrase, it’s possible to track (at least partially) the success of the ad. 

Why display a URL instead? 

Of course, it’s possible to do both…

  1. A URL, if used, takes people straight to the correct landing page. 
  2. Securing the top position in organic search isn’t always easy, so brands need to be careful that any online searches go to the right landing page if using a call to action. 
  3. Unlike URLs, using search CTAs in offline ads means that brands need to spend money on PPC ads. 
  4. Competitors can muscle in on these searches. If they see competitors using search calls in ads, they can quickly bid on related terms to ‘steal’ some of the traffic. 


  • According to the IAB, 78% of US adults who watch TV use another device while doing so.  
  • The smartphone is the predominant second screen: Two in three smartphone owners multiscreen while watching TV; over half of all computer or tablet owners multiscreen. 
  • A study by Marketing Science found that TV ads did prompt users to browse online, and that ‘action-focused ads’ increase the likelihood that users will go online and make a purchase.