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We know well that online search has considerable effect on local offline purchasing behavior. Likewise, it’s clear that the majority of retail purchases happen offline, while a growing percentage of research is occuring online.

Now, iProspect has released interesting figures that show conversely how offline factors affect online search activity. More specifically, the data show how advertising in various offline media affect search engine use.

Briefly, it reports that about two-thirds of search activity is driven by offline media — the breakdown being 37 percent from television ads; 36 percent, word of mouth; 30 percent, print ads; 20 percent, physical stores; 19 percent, outdoor advertising; and 17 percent, radio ads (overlaps account for not adding up to 100).

Television ads are interesting as the leading category, given that the search engine market share leader, Google, doesn’t advertise on television. Yahoo! on the other hand has produced television ads since its inception, but they aren’t as prevalent as the TV ad campaigns run in many other industries. MSN meanwhile has dabbled in some TV advertising, but not necessarily focused on search.

I wonder if Ask’s quirky television ads — as part of an overall differentiation campaign — have driven meaningful search activity?

The iProspect study also has lots of interesting drill downs including search as a prevailing online activity among different age groups. Check it out here.

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