At Xcite Digital we were very interested to come across the results of recent research called Project Footprint. A collaborative effort between News UK Commercial, comScore and the Keller Fay Group, Project Footprint provides a fascinating insight into the correlation between what people read and their subsequent online behaviour, conversations and purchases.

Project Footprint gathered its data over the course of a month by closely tracking the online and offline activities of 70 multiplatform subscribers to The Times. These subscribers proved to be digitally hungry though somewhat atypical in terms of their internet usage.

They were found to spend 63% more time online and visit 57% more pages than the average internet user – and their use of Google was a staggering 372% above average! However, they are not as digitally social as some, spending 56% less time with Facebook than the average internet user.


It is important to set the scene as, in our view, the findings of the study should be read in context of the experimental group. Is the sample size large enough and – given the above usage statistics – is it representative of the digital population as a whole?

With this in mind, let’s look at five key things that Project Footprint found to be the case after exposure of this group to digital advertising:

  1. Brand advocacy
  2. 95% of brand advocates for supermarkets had seen an ad for their preferred brand during the month. Similarly high figures for banking (86%), airlines (75%), cars (65%)

  3. Offline conversations
  4. The levels for a variety of advertised brands are much higher than those of a non-exposed control group, eg:
    Burberry +150%

    • Mr Turner (movie) +114%
    • Volkswagen +67%
    • Barclays +36%
    • Audi +28%
    • John Lewis +16%
  5. Online behaviour
  6. The levels of brand searching/website visitation are much higher than those of a non-exposed control group, eg:
    Cinemas +111%

    • Marks & Spencer +50%
    • Lloyds Bank +18%
  7. Offline action
  8. The levels of purchases/brand choice were again much higher than the non-exposed control group, eg:
    BMW +163% uplift

    • Volkswagen +80% uplift
    • Audi +33% uplift
    • HSBC +10% uplift
    • John Lewis +7% uplift
  9. Online conversation/action
  10. Project Footprint also revealed a significant proportion of Times subscribers having a conversation and taking online action for an exposed brand e.g. retail (40%), movies (14%), banking (13%), auto (7%)

So what does everyone think?

In the words of Abba Newbery, Director of Strategy for News UK Commercial: “Our proposition is that we deliver the most engaged audiences possible. This research proves that our audience is at their most engaged and attentive when they are consuming our content, more likely to use search and more likely to take an action.”

This was endorsed by Steve Thomson, Managing Director of the Keller Fay Group: “The ability of advertising in all forms to drive offline conversation and shopping is well known. Now thanks to the Footprint programme we can finally see the rich interactions between online and offline channels much more vividly – enabling advertisers to gain full benefits of reaching connected audiences.”

Mike Read, UK Senior Vice President and Managing Director of comScore, called the study ground-breaking in terms of the more complete view it provides of the effectiveness of digital advertising: “By combining observed behaviour from a single-source panel across PC, tablet and smartphone with word of mouth insight, we have learnt a great deal about how exposure to advertising provokes conversation, reinforces advocacy and drives actions.

The more evidence we can provide to advertisers and media buyers about the return on investment from brand advertising in engaging environments, the faster we can move away from simplistic, flawed models like final click attribution.”

The results are indeed exciting and fascinating! But at Xcite Digital we are still curious as to whether there are specific characteristics about someone who:

  • reads the Times
  • subscribes to a newspaper or magazine
  • subscribes specifically to the online version of The Times

We’d love to see if a similar study amongst, for example, Sun readers would produce the same results!

One client that we can see would align with this study’s results would be run2work. We found that sending out newsletters impacted the number of people engaging with run2work. There was a positive correlation between the number of engagement on run2work’s social media channels and the frequency of newsletters sent out.

Overall a highly encouraging glimpse into the value and effectiveness of digital marketing, and some very useful endorsement of multi-channel marketing – such as Xcite’s Accelerate CMP programme – is the best way forward.