Since at least 2006, established media advertising (TV commercials, train posters, newspaper ads, etc.) began incorporating mock-up search boxes with keywords into the creative. These search boxes feature keywords encouraging viewers to search for those terms online to learn more about the product/service in the advertisement. This call for ad viewers to search has steadily permeated throughout many traditional advertising channels. Indeed, you can walk into almost any train in Japan and find many (if not a majority) of the ads incorporating this feature, urging you to search for the associated keyword for more information. Similarly TV ads often inject an animation of the search term being entered into a search box.
The strategy of driving traditional ad viewers to search for more information makes a great deal of sense in Japan. The country has 80% of the population connected to the Internet, and a similarly high percentage of the population with mobile Web access. Upon seeing an advertisement featuring a product or service of interest, the logical next-step in most cases will be to seek more information - and the fastest, most convenient option would be to head to the information site/page immediately on your smartphone, mobile or, perhaps a little later, on your desktop at home or work.
Rather than relying on ad viewers remembering a specific URL, or guessing what search terms that an ad viewer may use to locate the online content, giving a clever, easy-to-remember keyword string for viewers to search in your above the line advertising campaigns allows marketers to focus on one search term (and perhaps near match alternatives) for SEO and PPC search marketing efforts. However, it can also be somewhat tricky as there is no way to guarantee for top position in organic search, and the ads featuring the keywords may attract heightened competition in organic and PPC search.
Ad Viewer Response to Search Boxes in Ads
A 2007 survey by japan.internet.com and Goo Research of 1,099 Internet users, revealed that over 60% had seen the mock-up search boxes in advertisement, and, of those, over 32% had searched for the keywords in the ads. Another survey in 2011 by japan.internet.com and Goo Research looked at mobile search on smartphones and feature phones. Of the 1,091 respondents, 92% (1,018 users) said they had noticed ads in search results/Web sites on their phones. Of those, 41.7% said they had performed a keyword search on their phone based on a call to search in TV, posters and other advertisements. The vast majority (96%) of those who used the keyword searches suggestions from advertisements say they were able to either locate or roughly locate the information they desired.
Example of Above the Line Ads Calling Viewers to Search
Just to give you an idea of how this works, let us take a look at recent train ad by Pfizer promoting its smoking cessation treatment:
As you can see, the ad includes a search box in the lower right-hand corner with the keyword すぐ禁煙 (stop smoking now). You will also notice that the ad does not provide alternative paths to gather more information on the treatment (URLs, phone numbers, etc.). If a commuter seeing the ad wants to find more information, the only clear step is to head online to their search engine of choice (Yahoo! and Google make up 90% of searches in Japan) and search for すぐ禁煙.
Upon searching for すぐ禁煙 on Yahoo! Japan, you can see that the Pfizer smoking cessation site (sugu-kinen.jp) appears in the top position for sponsored links, and has the top three positions for organic search.
Similarly a search for すぐ禁煙 on Google.co.jp has the Pfizer site at the top of both the organic results and the PPC results.
Finally, the graph below displays search trends for the search term (すぐ禁煙) in 2012. The graph shows that searches for the term were quite low for most of the year, but suddenly spiked in November-December, which would be the time the ad campaign was launched. This indicates that people are not only noticing the keyword search boxes in mainstream advertising, but also searching for those keywords online.