TV Can Make Attribution More Actionable

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by John Whitmore, head of data strategy at TiVo.

Measuring campaigns by tying ad exposure to customer conversions, whether they be in-store purchases, car test drives or online site visits, isn’t anything new. However, turning measurement into practical improvements and campaign optimizations hasn’t always lived up to its promise.

In most cases, the problem is one of scale, precision and statistical significance: The more conversions that can be tied back to individual ad impressions, the more marketers can analyze what drove those conversions and optimize toward the best tactics.

For ecommerce advertisers, this has proven relatively easy. These advertisers run lots of digital ads and capture online conversions, all of which is easily trackable via cookies.

However, for marketers in other categories such as CPG and auto – where conversions largely occur in brick-and-mortar stores and for whom the high reach of TV is a must – actionable attribution has been hard to achieve, with clear barriers standing in the way.

The Limitations Of TV And Digital

In TV, small legacy viewing measurement panels have made it nearly impossible to link the TV viewing and ad exposure of individual households to conversion data. Because legacy TV measurement companies such as Nielsen measure the viewing behavior of only thousands of households and then extrapolate, tying together household viewing and purchase behavior requires extensive data sampling and modeling.

This results in a monthslong wait for campaign performance results and reports that provide generic insights at the DMA or ZIP-code level, rather than specific insights tied to household ad exposure and purchase behavior. These data limitations mean marketers may not know even the presumed effectiveness of their campaigns until it is too late to take action.

Meanwhile, in digital, display, online video and search, initiatives don’t usually reach as many people as TV, so it’s harder to find enough consumers who have been exposed via one of those channels and actually converted. This results in small sample sizes, which in turn make it statistically unreliable to slice and dice the data to understand which targeting tactics and ad creative executions are working and which aren’t.

In short, TV has viewing reach and scale, but lacks the precision and timely measurement needed to get actionable insight. Digital, in contrast, has the promise of precise measurement, but typically lacks the reach and scale needed to be a true reflection of a campaign’s success or failure.

Granular And Scaled Measurement

Marketers will always need reach. So long as TV delivers it, marketers won’t and shouldn’t abandon TV completely for the efficacy of digital and its granular, scaled measurement.

What’s clear is that TV measurement must be both more granular and scaled for it to be more actionable for marketers. Next-generation TV data sets – whether they are sourced from set-top box data or smart TV automated content recognition – promise to tie scaled, household-level TV viewing and ad exposure to what individual households buy and where they shop.

The net result of more granular TV measurement at scale is more attributable conversions, giving marketers better evidence that a campaign is working and a greater chance of being able to isolate and analyze specific campaign tactics in a statistically significant way.

The benefits of this approach could significantly transform how marketers optimize their campaigns, especially their TV ad buys. TV targeting – long restricted to broad demographic groups and geographic areas – can become more precise as marketers rapidly test the direct impact of their ads on more granular, measurable audience segments.

Likewise, by enabling marketers to understand the impact of their advertising more quickly, marketers can now better understand the impact of seasonality and context on actual consumer behavior and act on it.

With the all-important holiday season upon us and revenue figures on the line for marketers across many industries, adding next-generation TV data sets to the attribution mix can be the difference between launching a successful holiday campaign and maximizing ROI versus “spraying and praying” and hoping for brand lift.

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

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to remove a mischaracterization of comScore’s TV attribution product. 

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