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Stirring Up Buzz: How TV Ads Are Driving Earned Media for Brands

4 minute read | February 2016

Got something on your mind? Better post it to social media. This immediacy that consumers so value today—be it posting a vacation selfie or commenting on that new flavor of chips—has led marketers to change how they engage with them. Advertisers today often factor social media into the TV buying and planning process by evaluating affinities between programs and brands and considering the impact of TV campaigns on earned media.

So, can social media turn TV viewers into brand advocates who drive earned media?

On the heels of TV’s biggest event and in the middle of a jam-packed awards season, a Nielsen analysis looked at two very different campaigns to understand how consumers respond to television advertisements and how these ads can additionally drive earned media on Twitter for brands.

In the first campaign, a personal care brand ran 84 ads across 24 days of the 2014-2015 season of a professional sport league. These ads were placed in 38 games on one broadcast and two cable networks. On average, more than 76,000 authors posted Tweets about each game.

The social activity analysis found that viewers were commenting not only on the sports action of the game itself, but also this personal care brand. In fact, on average across placement dates, fans Tweeting about the games sent 165% more Tweets about this personal care brand than they did in the time period before the campaign started. In contrast, the group that did not Tweet about any of the games only sent 72% more brand Tweets on days of the campaign compared to the pre-campaign period. The result: Game authors drove an outsized amount of social buzz for this personal care brand.

The brand saw a particularly large lift from the group of fans Tweeting about the league’s all-star exhibition game. Brand activity from this group was 779% higher on the day of the exhibition game than it was during the pre-season. By comparison, for the group that didn’t Tweet about the exhibition game, activity for this personal care brand was only 84% higher on the same day. Nielsen also found that for those who Tweeted about the exhibition game, a large majority (77%) of their brand Tweets directly mentioned the commercial.

The second campaign focused on an automotive manufacturer and took place over a two-week period in April and May 2015, when a broadcast network aired the last three episodes of a drama series for the season. Placements occurred within the program when a main character drove a car from the manufacturer. The same car was also featured in ads during the program breaks, and the TV program’s Twitter account shared digital-only shorts featuring the actor talking about his experience making the commercials.

The social impact of the campaign was strong.

The authors who Tweeted about any of the final three episodes sent an average of 352% more Tweets about the auto brand on the days when the episodes aired than they did during the show’s mid-season break in January 2015. Authors who did not Tweet about these episodes had decidedly different brand Tweeting behaviors, with an average 13% decline in brand Tweets across those same days.

The effect on social brand buzz also varied for each of the three episodes. In other words, as the campaign strategy played out, patterns in brand buzz varied accordingly. For example, program authors’ brand Tweets spiked on the two days when a TV spot was paired with a digital short Tweeted by the program’s account. Comparatively, there was a less substantial lift on the day when a TV spot ran without a new digital short.

While Nielsen’s analysis focused on these two specific campaigns, the results demonstrate how advertisers, agencies and network ad sales teams can support brands in driving earned media on Twitter through varying paid TV strategies.

In an increasingly digital and cross-platform media landscape, understanding the underlying affinity between programs and brands and the social effect of advertising campaigns presents an opportunity to maximize the overall effectiveness of TV campaigns in building buzz among consumers.


The analysis used in this study to determine the social effect of TV campaigns measured the change over time in brand-related Tweets from two distinct groups. The first group comprised brand authors who sent Tweets about at least one episode of the specified program during the campaign window. The second group comprised brand authors who did not send Tweets about any episode of the specified program during the campaign window. Lift in social brand activity for each group was quantified as the change in average daily brand Tweets from the period before the campaign started to any day with a TV spot during the campaign window. Analysis of the social effect of a TV campaign is now available on-demand from Nielsen Social through its Effect application for programs across 250+ English- and Spanish-language networks and 2,000+ brands.

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