More Critical Thinking Is Needed In TV Attribution

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

Today’s column is written by Maggie Zhang, executive vice president of video research and insights at Dentsu Aegis Network.

Nowadays, anyone can easily find enthusiastic advocates for TV attribution at every turn, myself included. As we celebrate the newfound capabilities to understand and measure TV performance, more critical thinking by marketers is needed to differentiate what’s hype from what’s real and, more importantly, what does and doesn’t make sense for their brands.

What’s not to like about TV attribution? For the first time, marketers are able to quantify TV’s impact with more granular and timely data and garner actionable insights. They can evaluate performance against historical campaign benchmarks and across individual networks, dayparts, programs and creatives. The ability to conduct data-driven optimization finally puts TV on par with digital for ROI measurability and accountability.

As TV attribution gains traction and popularity, there have also been misunderstandings and misuses of this relatively nascent tool. To help brands avoid chasing the buzz for the sake of it, a robust learning agenda at both the marketer and industry levels is needed to allow for a measured approach to evaluating the relevance and feasibility of existing TV attribution solutions.

In many conversations with brands, three common questions consistently come up that require a deep dive:

1. What is the right KPI to measure TV performance?

We have all heard marketers say, “I want my TV campaign to drive awareness, and I also want my TV campaign to drive action.” While this is a worthy demand, when defining and measuring action, the devil is in the details. Many TV campaigns are planned for upper-funnel, long-term branding objectives. As a result, short-term sales may not be the right and fair KPI to determine TV’s impact. Instead marketers view awareness-driven signals as a proxy for discovery and consideration.

To find the right KPIs, marketers take a three-step approach:

A) What is the campaign objective?

B) What are the short-term or mid-term consumer actions that best manifest themselves as awareness indicators?

C) Based on specific brands and their respective sales cycles and consumer behavior, what is the most feasible data source to operationalize an awareness-triggered action? For example, is online search or site visitation available for TV attribution?

This approach will give marketers a clear framework to determine the right KPI for TV attribution. Otherwise, they may run the risk of aiming at the wrong target and misjudging TV’s performance.

2. How do we properly interpret TV attribution results?

Generally speaking, TV attribution involves statistical modeling, calibration and projection through a probabilistic or deterministic methodology. It is important for marketers to understand whether the results are relative, absolute or open to interpretation.

For example, some vendors create indexes to compare relative performance across networks or dayparts, whereas others report projected incremental visits, searches or sales driven by TV. Attribution providers and agency partners are responsible for providing clarity and simplification of methodology and analysis to facilitate proper outcome interpretation. Otherwise, they may risk misapplying attribution results to ROI calculations and budget planning.

3. Will it result in real-time optimization?

It depends.

Although digital-like real-time optimization is highly desired as a unique value proposition, it doesn’t mean every TV attribution exercise will result in real-time optimization. Depending on the TV tactics involved, buying method and campaign schedule, certain daily or weekly optimization capabilities can be leveraged as an insights tool, but not as an activation tool immediately applicable to linear TV buys.

Marketers should set realistic expectations on how TV attribution results can be activated.

Setting a learning agenda

TV attribution as an applied data science discipline is still nascent and evolving. Marketers should set a robust learning agenda to drive and orchestrate ongoing test-and-learn exercises. Determine the right stakeholders and partners, ask hard questions and set accountable timelines and milestones. This measured approach requires a clear and strong alignment with long-term marketing objectives and helps avoid disjointed or siloed one-off tests for short-term learnings.

On a broader level, the industry as a whole should come together to create standard-setting agendas and consistent operational guidelines to ensure credible and sustainable practices. The last thing we want to see is misuse or overhyping that leads to counterproductive outcomes and hinders the continued growth of TV attribution.

The three recurring questions reflect only a subset of ongoing discussions with marketers in their pursuit of TV performance measurement. Once marketers set TV performance KPIs consistent with overall campaign objectives, continue to educate themselves on attribution methodologies and analytical outputs and properly interpret and apply attribution learnings, we will be on the right path. This will allow us to truly tap into the full potential of TV attribution as a reliable analytical platform to support brands’ planning, activation and measurement processes.

It’s easy to feel enthusiastic, but we’ve still got work to do.

Follow Dentsu Aegis Network (@dentsuaegis) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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