Checking Your Brand’s Vitals: Lift Studies and Why You Need to be Running Them

The Tool

If you’ve run any kind of digital advertising, you may be familiar with Lift Studies – various platforms’ – such as Google or Facebook – way of segmenting out platform users into cells in order to properly measure how much more likely users are to take a specific action if they’ve been exposed to your ads vs not.

While some Lift Studies, such as Brand Lift, focus on awareness-based outcomes  such as how much more likely a user is to recognize your brand if they’ve seen your ad, other studies, such as Search or Conversion Lift, focus on action-based outcomes such as how much more likely a user is to look up your brand, or even make a purchase

Checking in on the organic impact of your advertising is an absolutely essential part of brand strategy – it serves as a kind of ‘vitals’ check when assessing the overall health of your brand’s image.. The best part? Most platforms offering Lift Studies either offer the service completely free if you’re currently working with a rep, or offer self-serve options with a campaign minimum, making the tools widely accessible.

In this article, we’ll explore a recent Google Search Lift Study we ran for OVO Energy, what we found, and how we’re carrying the learnings back into our campaigns.


The Objective

OVO Energy, the UK’s largest independent energy supplier leading its members on the journey to zero-carbon living, came to us in 2020 with a goal of better optimizing performance across their marketing funnel (read: OVO Energy: Finding Full Funnel Impact)

In this particular test, OVO and Realtime set out to understand our advertising efforts’ impact on Google and Youtube Search Lift; how many people who saw an OVO ad on Youtube would then search for OVO-related terms on Google or Youtube vs those who hadn’t seen an ad?


The Approach

OVO utilized creative from their Great British Weather TV campaign to run as bumper, non-skippable, and skippable ads on Youtube, which were targeted broadly to anyone 18+ in the UK. Then, Realtime developed two keyword ‘bundles’ that we would measure the lift on. The first bundle contained more general OVO search keywords, while the second was specific to contact or login searches.


The Measurement

Google’s Search Lift analyzes organic searches on both and for YouTube campaigns to understand how they are influencing user search behavior. In order to do this, Search Lifts utilize A/B testing to understand whether or not the brand’s campaigns influenced a user’s propensity to search for a predetermined list of keywords. The search activity of those exposed to the brand’s campaign is then compared to the search activity of those who were not to calculate the Relative Lift.


Relative Lift  = absolute increase in searches / baseline number of searches


The Results

After the 12 week study, the results showed a positive Search Lift detected at 77%, meaning our Youtube ads did in fact appear to influence organic OVO term searches.

Bumper and non-skippable ads saw the greatest lift, which was to be expected as viewers will engage with the video content for longer. And, Google saw a significantly higher lift than Youtube (75% and 55%, respectively).

However, we encountered a surprising finding in looking at TV vs desktop vs mobile; while desktop saw an 82% lift, mobile and TV only saw 74% and 66%, respectively. Though video views tend to be less expensive on mobile, the elevated search lift on desktop implies that a higher quality view is taking place here – potentially as users are at home and not multitasking as they often do on mobile or while watching television.


The “High Quality Viewer”

Typically, a ‘high quality view’ is one that we define as coming from a viewer that has a high propensity to take a mid or lower-funnel action, which will look expensive in your reporting, but are pricier in an upper funnel campaign out of necessity. While ad platforms are great at reaching your KPIs, they’re not great at optimizing for multiple KPIs across the funnel at once. The reason for this: each consumer, yourself included, has a specific ‘type’ of online behavior. While some people regularly purchase goods through Instagram ads, others only click to browse and then are more likely to buy in store. Some people rarely shop via online platforms, and only enjoy consuming media – such as watching video.

Because different types of consumers take different actions online, ad platforms can only fully maximize efficiencies for one consumer type at a time. As we optimize for one type, we need to sacrifice efficiency in the other.

With this said, those who like to consume – not engage with – online media typically produce very inexpensive views, but sometimes we’ll see  ‘breakthrough’ viewers who achieve higher video completion rates. If a viewer watches the entire video, they’re more likely to click – and if they click, they’re more likely to purchase.

However, these actions won’t be cheap because the campaign isn’t optimized for them to be cheap, it’s optimized to reach those who will produce cost-effective views. And that’s okay! These breakthrough viewers with higher completion rates are an indicator that the viewer is of higher quality and may convert down the line – a piece of information that is incredibly valuable as we plan for future strategy.

We can observe this higher view quality when looking at CTRs, CPCs, and completion rates across the placements of this Lift Study, where a higher completion rate is associated with higher cost clicks and lower CTR.



CPC CTR Interpretation Completion Rate Search Lift




High cost for higher quality viewer

80% 82%




Low cost for lower quality viewer



TV £2,183 0% Essentially no clicks and lowest search lift 76% 66%


The Conclusion

While Lift Studies on any platform can serve a variety of purposes across, we’d argue that running Search Lift Studies periodically as a way to take your ad strategy ‘vitals’ are imperative to the health of your brand.

These studies give insight into the more organic impact of your advertising: how well is your messaging resonating with your audience? Are your ads actually effective at influencing the consumer. Are they even memorable and making your audience want to learn more?

Beyond that, Lift Studies can be used for deeper insight and optimization strategy. While, in OVO’s case, we were of course curious about all of the above questions, the study resulted in greater insight as to where we could optimize further; most obviously, there was a significant lift in OVO searches as a result of our ads, which supports the need for higher lower funnel budgets or follow-up educational ads once someone has viewed an upper-funnel asset. But secondly, the difference in lift between desktop and mobile has prompted us to investigate the difference in quality of users across those placements – while mobile has cheaper clicks, it’s possible that there are a fraction of desktop users we could convert even more efficiently if we determine when and where it’s appropriate to boldly bite the bullet on some of the higher click costs.


Knowledge is power – so make sure your knowledge is up-to-date on what your audience is doing once they’re done looking at your ad. Then, watch your ad performance soar.


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