WPP and Google set to award first round of research grants

LONDON - WPP and Google will today reveal the first grants made by their $4.6m, three-year programme funding research into how online media influences consumer behaviour, attitudes and decision making.

The marketing services group and the internet giant began reviewing grant applications in October last year when they launched the programme. They reportedly received more than 120 applications but said at the programme's launch that they would aim to award up to a dozen grants in the first year.

Several of the studies will try to determine the best ways to allocate ad spending between traditional and digital media, as well as how online ads effect a company's sales and brand image.

Some of the studies will involve complex statistical and business analysis while others take more of a psychologist's perspective.

Glen Urban, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, submitted a grant application to analyze internet users' surfing habits to determine their thinking styles, such as whether they are most influenced by verbal or visual messages or if they are more holistic or analytical, and how to tailor ads accordingly.

A separate grant application was lodged for analysis into how online ads effect blood flow to different areas of the brain. This research would seek to show the role that emotions play in decision making.

The grant programme is being overseen by Professor John Quelch, senior associate dean of Harvard Business School and a non-executive director of WPP, Dr Hal Varian, Google's chief economist; and professor Glen Urban, former dean of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.