Correlating TV ad exposure with store visits since COVID-19

Samba TV and Foursquare research shows shifts in alcohol and QSR behavior during shelter-in-place

2 People Watching TV

Since consumers started spending more time at home, TV advertising is more relevant than ever. Going beyond reach and frequency, data-driven marketers are leveraging location data to quantify the impact of TV advertising on store visits, proving return on their investment.

So how have consumers’ visitation patterns been influenced by TV ad exposure since the pandemic began? We partnered with Samba TV, the leading provider of global TV data and audience analytics, combining our datasets to study ad reach and consumer behavior during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

“Foursquare has extensive breadth and diversity in their location dataset. Samba takes pride in the rigor applied to our balanced US panel, so partnering with Foursquare provides a deep, comprehensive view on the association between media consumption and shopping trends since the COVID-19 pandemic began.”

  • Ken Mallon, Samba TV’s SVP and Head of Data Products

The study combined Samba TV’s ad exposure data with Foursquare location insights to determine how alcohol and quick-service restaurant (QSR) ads affected store visitation habits as consumers faced significant amounts of time confined at home. The analysis found that the onset of stay-at-home orders resulted in an immediate increase in alcohol brand advertisements and liquor store visits from consumers, and that there was an overall positive correlation between alcohol TV ad reach and liquor store visitation. The analysis also showed that QSR visitation declined, even as advertisement reach went up, pointing to a slow recovery for the sector.

Let’s take a closer look at the findings.

Analyzing Alcohol Ads

At the beginning of shelter-in-place in mid-March, alcohol TV ad reach and liquor store visitation both shot up to high levels, and were closely correlated. Liquor store visitation, in particular, saw its highest foot traffic on March 20, four days after shelter-in-place began in early cities. This ‘surge’ in shopping for essentials was evident across grocery stores, warehouse stores, and big box stores as well.

Both TV ad reach and liquor store visitation then declined at the end of March and beginning of April, perhaps a reflection of liquor companies showing sensitivity towards the uncertain times, or perhaps because individuals and already stocked up on plenty of alcohol at the onset of shelter-in-place. However, liquor store visits then gradually rose to above pre-pandemic levels, likely because people were drinking at home rather than in restaurants and bars.

During the last few weeks of May, both ad reach and liquor store traffic were particularly high, likely impacted by easing of shelter-in-place in some areas, as well as the weather improving and the beginning of summer.

Quantifying TV’s Impact On QSRs

Our analysis showed that QSRs did not immediately slow down their TV advertising after shelter-in-place went into effect, but rather remained relatively consistent, and only began slowing down weeks to months after its onset.

In the very early days of the pandemic, when marketers had not yet adapted their strategies to the pandemic and ad reach was fairly flat, QSR visits actually went up very slightly – perhaps people choosing to drive thru or takeout fast food rather than dining in restaurants.

Yet when shelter-in-place went into effect at the end of March, Americans did start visiting QSRs less, likely choosing to dine at home instead. This happened even as QSR ad reach actually went up, with brands adapting their messaging to the pandemic by highlighting takeout and contactless delivery.

QSR visits began recovering around mid-April, either due to the delayed effects of this advertising, or perhaps from people simply tiring of staying home. At the same time, TV ad reach went down, perhaps a delayed response to the decline in visits, or perhaps brands reacting to the pandemic overall.

Custom tag variable for campaign

While TV advertising can undoubtedly inspire consumers to visit locations, it’s clear that even the savviest marketers faced significant challenges adapting their strategies to the rapidly changing landscape in the early days of COVID-19.

Both amidst uncertainty and as things go back to ‘normal,’ advertisers can leverage the combined power of Samba TV and Foursquare to measure how TV advertising drives real-world outcomes, using Foursquare’s location data to monitor incremental store visits based on ad exposure.

Looking to maximize your TV ad spend with our attribution solution, Placed powered by Foursquare? Email us at today.

About Samba TV

Samba TV is a San Francisco-based data and analytics company focused on a next-generation television experience that helps viewers discover and engage with relevant content, and enables brands and agencies to address and measure that engagement effectively. Samba’s insights are built on the world’s most comprehensive source of real-time viewership data across broadcast, cable TV, OTT, and digital media. Through software embedded in smart TVs, amplified by set-top boxes and mapped to connected devices, Samba TV amplifies media investment and activates cross-screen campaigns. For more information, please visit and follow @samba_tv.

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