Rethinking TV attribution: The full-funnel approach

Ad Age 18 Apr 2019 02:26

With tens of billions of dollars on the line every year, marketers have long sought the ability to accurately measure the impact of television advertising. 

Most recently, borrowing data-driven tactics from digital has uncovered new ways to evaluate ad investments in TV. 

But simply uprooting the attribution models of digital and planting them in television loses sight of what we should be striving for as an industry: a full-funnel approach to attribution, aligning and balancing the value of branding with business-specific outcomes for marketers.

A smarter way?

During the past half-decade, the marketplace has moved more toward data-enhanced methods of advertising. Television, once probed and examined as a standalone (yet critical) part of a media plan, is now able to deliver the data and analytical insights that digital has been able to for so long.

However, our industry has the tendency to over-react to the new, shiny object du jour. Television is fundamentally different from digital. Although there are common data sets that have brought these environments much closer together and enabled cross-channel marketing like never before, we need to be careful and much more prescriptive with our approach to attribution.  

New audience-based practices have allowed us to also look at short-term impacts, like sales effects and traffic driven to websites. WarnerMedia has been on the front lines of examining these new spaces with partners.

Understanding outcomes from TV advertising is important, but there are many nuances and watch-outs with guaranteeing just business results:

  • The car ad may be a snoozer.
  • People eat less ice cream in winter.
  • Unexpected political and cultural crises can wreak havoc on shopper sentiment.

And so on. 

The ability to understand business outcomes from marketing campaign to purchase is certainly an interesting and, ultimately, a vital goal. Should we be guaranteeing these outcomes though?

There’s no one-size-fits-all

New approaches to attribution should be informed by collaborative discussions with brands and agencies. 

For example: the CMO of a car brand has different key performance indicators from the CMO of a CPG company. The length of time it takes to change perceptions and drive a car sale is much longer than convincing new parents of the merits of diaper technology.

This plays out in all of the data available today. Television advertising bought, planned and measured using audience-based attributes is very effective in many different ways:

Return on ad spend increased by more than double compared with the average TV ad campaign executed using traditional demographic metrics.

  • Purchase consideration for an auto marketer increased by 50 percent.
  • In-store visits for a retail marketer increased nearly 10 percent.
  • Online search engagement for a streaming audio marketer increased by 72 percent.

Just because we can now measure lower funnel impacts from television advertising doesn’t mean we should just treat TV as solely a lower funnel vehicle. By guaranteeing that a handful of TV spots will drive incremental sales, a standard is being created that is impossible to achieve quarter-over-quarter. 

This can also create unrealistic expectations in the long-term, particularly when you consider some of the factors outlined earlier, like seasonality and ad creative. 

Making attribution actionable for marketers 

That “last-click attribution” mindset is the original sin of digital and has led to outsized credit being placed on platforms drafting off the impact of other marketing channels. You miss out on all of the mid-to-upper funnel impact that TV has and continues to deliver like no other marketing channel can.

In television, each network is only a slice of TV audience available for advertisers, merely a portion of their larger marketing efforts that should extend to digital, OTT, social, in-real-life and elsewhere. The reality is that these channels work in tandem, and television continues to be the straw that stirs the increasingly complex and fragmented media drink. 

We ought to focus our efforts on experimenting with attribution and creating predictive attribution solutions that stand up for the long term.

Marketers win when consumer insights can be harnessed to better optimize future campaigns and prove TV’s value throughout the marketing funnel—across both brand and outcome—in unison. 

This process should start with creating highly captivating content that draws in highly engaged fans, then applying precision advertising methodologies that deliver that creative to the audiences that make the most sense for the brand’s goals.

The insights from the campaign can then be used to optimize future campaigns and prove TV’s value, creating a continuous improvement loop that is not just predicated on showing a lift, but helping clients understand why their marketing worked in the past and how it can work harder in the future. 

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