TV Advertising Readies for the Performance of a Lifetime

This article originally ran in AdExchanger in February 2018.

There is nothing new about advertisers’ desire to measure performance.  I personally built my early career developing digital solutions to drive and prove return on media spend. What is new is the desire to tie these same digital performance metrics to television.  It’s something that we all should have been prepared for someday.  Someday appears to be now.

As evidence, one needs to look no further than TV’s younger cousin, online video. Despite well-publicized concerns about ad fraud and viewability, advertisers continue to increase their investment in digital video.  This is borne out by both trend data and anecdotal evidence gathered in my frequent conversations with agencies and advertisers. In fact, more advertisers appear consistently bullish on digital video advertising than any other form of TV advertising, including linear, VOD and OTT.

Digital video has become core to advertising investment strategies. So, you might ask, with all the negative publicity that video endured over the past year, why does this medium continue to fare so well?

No doubt, online video is a tremendous medium that pairs the engagement of sight, sound and motion with the precise targeting capabilities of digital.  I would argue, however, that the primary factor driving continued enthusiasm around digital video is measurability.  While data can improve all phases of the advertising workflow, including planning and targeting, in the end the one thing that marketers really want to know about their advertising is, “Did it work?”

Digital video is often viewed as a very effective advertising vehicle, especially when compared to TV. Is it really?  Maybe.  But more importantly, the mechanisms are in place for an advertiser to prove its effectiveness, or lack thereof.  Make no mistake –it’s entirely possible to run bad video advertising. One needs to look no further than the cheap reach, fraud-ridden options that tarnished video’s reputation. If an advertiser was measuring the right metrics, however, this would quickly become apparent.  Adjustments in video strategies could be made. Results would soar.

Did a viewer see an ad, do a search, buy a product?  Boom, it worked.  That’s ad effectiveness.  It’s what fueled the growth of digital display media two decades ago. In turn, the now ubiquitous nature of digital performance metrics is putting pressure on all other media, including TV, to provide this same level of accountability. 

Fortunately, advanced TV advertising is well-positioned to answer this need for accountability. The same data sets available in the digital world can now be transposed to TV, either directly or through advanced modeling and device graphing.  And where there is data, there is potential for measurement.

This is not to say that all measurement and TV attribution challenges have been solved, or standardized.  Challenges such as standard data segments and consistent cross-screen metrics continue to pose problems.  These challenges, however, are solvable. The answer lies in using data to connect the dots.  We need to connect devices, connect consumer viewing experiences, and connect ad exposure, then tie that all back to outcomes.

Said differently, we need to connect ad exposure at the top of the marketing funnel—the domain of TV advertising—to actions taken at the bottom of the funnel—whether online, or in store.  When we try to separate the two—using media metrics such as GRPs to measure a TV campaign’s success, and using performance metrics such as conversion to measure digital success—we give an unfair advantage to digital.  This creates a consumer chasm that does not account for the influence that awareness or favorability may ultimately have on a purchase decision.   Using data linkage to close the chasm makes TV more accountable –and gives it due credit—for contributing to an outcome.

Some would argue that television plays a different role within advertising, citing its ability to drive long-term brand affinity that wouldn’t be measurable in direct sales.  For instance, when does a 40-year-old decide to buy a Mercedes versus an Audi?  Does it happen when the buyer sees a great new ad? Or does it happen back in the teen years? There’s an argument for both. But that’s OK. There is still a role for aspirational and awareness driving TV ads – we can measure that too!  The point is, whatever the objective, it should be linkable to a given outcome. 

Accountable performance is no longer a “nice to have.” TV’s future depends on it.  Within the next three years, many believe that TV will be measured by the same performance metrics as digital. 

That may sound aggressive. As someone who lived through the early days of internet advertising, however, I saw first-hand how the ability to measure clear ROI can jumpstart an industry. This is likely true even for one that’s been around over 70 years.

 

Interested in seeing the stats behind Scott’s article? Download this PDF to see what advertisers and marketers said about their 2018 TV and video advertising strategies.

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