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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Does Digital Ad Exposure Influence Information-Seeking Behavior Online? Evidence From the 2012 Tips

Tuesday, April 19, 2016  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Annice Kim, Heather Hansen, Jennifer Duke, Kevin Davis, Robert Alexander, Amy Rowland, Jane Mitchko
Does Digital Ad Exposure Influence Information-Seeking Behavior Online? Evidence From the 2012 Tips From Former Smokers National Tobacco Prevention Campaign.
J Med Internet Res 2016;18(3):e64. doi:10.2196/jmir.4299
 
Measuring the impact of online health campaigns is challenging. Ad click-through rates are traditionally used to measure campaign reach, but few Internet users ever click on ads. Alternatively, self-reported exposure to digital ads would be prone to recall bias. Furthermore, there may be latency effects whereby people do not click on ads when exposed but visit the promoted website or conduct campaign-related searches later. Online panels that unobtrusively collect panelists’ Web behavior data and link ad exposure to website visits and searches can more reliably assess the impact of digital ad exposure. From March to June 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aired the national Tips From Former Smokers (Tips 2012) media campaign designed to encourage current smokers to quit. Advertisements ran across media channels, and the digital ads directed users to the Tips 2012 campaign website. Our aim was to examine whether exposure to Tips 2012 digital ads influenced information-seeking behaviors online.
 
ComScore mined its panelists’ Web behavior data for unique codes that would indicate exposure to Tips 2012 ads, regardless of whether panelists clicked the ad or not. A total of 15,319 US adults were identified as having been exposed to a Tips 2012 campaign ad. An equal number of unexposed adults (N=15,319) were identified and matched on demographics and Internet use behavior to the exposed group. Panelists’ Web behavior data were mined for up to 4 weeks after initial Tips 2012 ad exposure to determine whether they visited the Tips 2012 campaign website or other cessation-related websites (eg, nicotine replacement therapy site) or conducted searches for campaign-related topics (eg, quit smoking). The proportion of exposed adults visiting the Tips 2012 sites increased from 0.4% in Week 1 to 0.9% 4 weeks after ad exposure, and these rates were significantly higher than in the unexposed group (0.1% in Week 1 to 0.4% in Week 4, P<.001) across all weeks examined. The proportion of exposed panelists visiting other cessation websites increased from 0.2% in Week 1 to 0.3% 4 weeks after initial ad exposure, and these rates were significantly higher than in the unexposed group (0.0% in Week 1 to 0.2% in Week 4, P=.001 to P=.019) across all weeks examined. There were no significant differences in searches for campaign-related topics between the exposed and unexposed group during most of the weeks examined. These results suggest that online ad exposure is associated with confirmed visits to the Tips 2012 campaign sites and visits to other cessation websites and that these information-seeking behaviors occur up to several weeks after ad exposure. Web behavior data from online panels are useful for examining exposure and behavioral responses to digital campaign ads.

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