Always Be Selling: TV, Social And Measurable ROI

tim-gough“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tim Gough, vice president of media solutions at dunnhumby.

Ah, February — the season for major television events that aren’t dominated by the trucks-and-beer crowd of the regular football season. Seen through helmet cams and mani cams, the Winter Olympics and awards season provide plenty of advertising opportunities either side of the pricy Super Bowl.

Due to the change in behavior toward time-shifted viewing on laptops, tablets, streaming services and other tech, the importance of events people still want to watch in real time is growing. Even against the backdrop of declining traditional TV viewership (and a near-blowout game), Super Bowl XLVIII ended up being the most-watched TV event ever.

As the cost of advertising in these events continues to increase accordingly, many pundits and marketers question the return on such an outlay. The main challenge: The spots are very expensive and, at a high level, don’t generate ROI in terms of sales spikes.

It seems the real opportunity here, in addition to a huge, engaged audience, is that large-scale TV events like this give brands a rare opportunity to extend content across the social sphere in real time, earning significant volumes of additional impressions from the same initial TV spending. Bud, Axe and Coke successfully extended their Super Bowl ads across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, not just during the game but for the entire following week. Esurance also did well, dangling a hashtag-anchored $1.5 million call to action in front of viewers.

For large-scale live events, paying a premium makes sense. But the creative execution must be designed to take advantage of all available methods to augment the message. Entertainment and the ability to grab attention is important, but advertisers must ensure their content and message breaks through in a narrow and competitive window of opportunity, while keeping the creative relevant to their brand positioning and target audience.

An Apples-To-Oranges Comparison

All advertising needs to prove it can drive sales effectively both in the short term (direct response) and long term (equity building), and new methods to connect exposure data to sales data provide the metrics to do that for TV. Outside of these big events, TV is held to a higher level of ROI measurement and compared directly to return from other, more outwardly cost-effective channels.

In the CPG space, demographics are no longer enough when it comes to targeting. Purchaser data can show exactly which networks, dayparts and shows over-index with the most relevant target households, such as existing brand buyers or category switchers. Going one step farther, addressable TV allows this medium to be run similarly to other one-to-one channels, including direct mail, digital and mobile, where strong household-level targeting can drive incremental ROI.

As TV audiences become more fragmented in terms of device, service provider and time, advertisers must integrate their campaigns across all emerging video channels to generate desired reach. The growth of the second screen really matters, making it equally important to integrate those campaigns across digital, mobile and social media. This integration comes at a cost, so targeting becomes the key part to drive efficiency when operating across so many disparate channels. Advertisers have far more control over who sees their message within any given channel; the challenge is to do this at a household level across channels rather than the other way around.

The True ROI

With so many channels in play it is more important than ever to demonstrate the true ROI from traditional TV campaigns, and compare that to emerging channels. True ROI should reflect the actual in-store sales uplift an ad generated, using household-level data.

Recent studies on CPG brands have shown that while digital banner ads can extend the reach of a TV spot and drive sales from existing customers, TV has a much greater potential to pull in new customers to a product or brand. But it has also been observed that social activity around a TV show in which an ad airs is correlated to the ability of that advertising to break through and affect in-store sales uplift. It would seem that social buzz around a TV show or event can both extend ad impressions and provide greater opportunity to drive ROI.

So we should expect the cost of advertising in live events to continue growing, while longitudinally the solution for TV media buying should be a balance between:

  1. Broad and time-sensitive: targeting TV events where the primary objective is to drive awareness, buzz, social interaction and earned impressions.
  2. Targeted and efficient: integrated targeting of households across TV, digital, mobile and social with specific goals for building brand value and driving short- and long-term sales uplifts.

The ratio of each will vary by product or brand objectives and the dynamics of the industry in which the brand plays. But most importantly, for each specific campaign the measurement metrics must match with objectives to ensure the right goals are reached.

TV will always be an expensive medium, but one that provides unique opportunities for brands to engage in real time with large-scale audiences using unique creative across numerous media channels at once, while driving response from new customers. As media consumption fragments, these opportunities occur less frequently but with more relative value.

Campaign-to-campaign success metrics will therefore vary significantly, but over time the primary goal of TV advertising must be to demonstrate a strong impact on sales as a direct result of exposure and the halo effects it enables. The technology and execution may change, but the business objectives should not.

Follow dunnhumby (@dunnhumby) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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