Assistant Professor Yi Zhu is the winner of the 2015 John D. C. Little Award, given annually to the best marketing paper published in Marketing Science or Management Science by INFORMS. This award is considered to be the most prestigious award in the field of marketing science. 

Yi Zhu

The paper, “Television Advertising and Online Search,” published in Management Science (January 2014), is coauthored by Mingyu Joo of the Fisher College of Business, Kenneth Wilbur of the Rady School of Management, and Bo Cowgill of the Haas School of Business. “I am extremely honored to win this award with my coauthors,” Zhu says. 

The researchers studied the connection between television advertising and online search. “If a person sees an ad about Fidelity, are they more likely to search Google using the generic keywords ‘financial service company’ or the branded keyword ‘Fidelity’? To answer that question, we linked two data sets,” Zhu says. 

The first data set was from Kantar Media that collects detailed information about TV ads. The researchers matched that data to another set where they collected adult online search activities from Google. So, if there was an ad shown on television, they could check to see whether people searched more as well as the keyword they used on Google.

“We developed a new data-mining query technique to identify a set of branded and generic keywords for the financial service industry,” Zhu says. The team devised a method to examine 35 million online searches and identify those that included generic financial service keywords as opposed to simply brand names. The researchers found that television advertising has two effects – it increases searches in general and has a significant impact on consumers’ keyword choice. “So, if there is a Fidelity ad on TV, there’s going to be more searches about Fidelity on Google,” Zhu says. “That provides a lot of implications for the advertiser and media companies.”

Zhu adds that marketers need to account for these effects when setting their television and search advertising budget. “The moment a TV ad starts, the company may want to buy more brand keywords on Google,” he says. “The generic keyword is more expensive than using a brand keyword.”

Research results also highlight the importance for companies to integrate their advertising campaigns across these two platforms. “Many companies have different agencies for TV and online advertising,” he says. “There’s a huge market need to synchronize these two types of advertising campaigns. In elasticity terms, this research found the effect of TV advertising on consumers’ choice of branded keywords is about as large as its effect on sales.”