« Back to Posts

TV’s New Punch Combo: Segmenting & Attribution

If you’re in TV advertising, the quaking ground just shook a little harder. But also, maybe some clouds just cleared and a rainbow promising the ole’ pot of gold showed up just in time.

TV is known for its reach. Now, like so many shows it contains, TV’s going for a makeover. Unquestionably, TV delivers a brand message to a lot of people in a lot of places at once. But how much of each ad is seen? And what ads drive results? TV networks wouldn’t commit to saying. 

It’s no secret, in recent years, the glow of TV advertising has started to dim. Gross ratings are down, victim to the fragmentation brought on by Netflix, mobile phones and peak TV eating itself. Yet, like a sneaky coffee addiction, brands stayed hooked on TV because they couldn’t handle the headaches from slipping sales when they went cold turkey off of the tube. 

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google’s targeting and segmenting tools to deliver a better slice of what brands want–something more than an age/gender demo that would put Sarah(s) Palin and Silverman in the same bucket. Clearly they have two different styles, purchasing habits, political views, neighborhoods and the like (and both are hilarious and offensive for very different reasons). 

Last year, Networks made a splash by reducing ad loads to focus on giving brands greater attention and pushing scarcity to drive pricing up. Kudos. That helped. But brands want more.

And so, with the pressure to deliver more for the dollar ratcheting up, TV networks just took a mighty one-two swing back at the social-digital set. This year, TV is bringing something it hadn’t quite had before: deeper intelligence about who actually saw an ad and decisive evidence linking that data to what actions people take after seeing said ad.

More specifically, some TV networks  just eliminated two historically huge digital advantages, the ability to target against custom segments and the ability track ad exposures on a TV glass to business outcomes in their funnel. IE, real attribution in an industry that has always been relegated to guesswork.

This means the the IP-level digital advantage held by Google, Facebook and the rest of the cookie-based digital universe just saw that edge disappear with the broad adoption of glass level, IP-level transparency afforded the market by Inscape.tv and its 8+ million opt-in smart VIZIO TVs that deliver insights by the millions each day.

Photo credit Snatch c/o  Kai Seidler

This year TV networks like A&E, NBC and ABC are effectively saying “Ok brand– you want to know if ad spends work? Instead of scapegoating Nielsen and the difficulties of attribution– let’s connect TV ad exposures to business outcomes or eyeballs on a TV screen to eyeballs on your digital footprint”.

As TV[R]EV founder ad Turner Exec Jesse Redniss said quite simply this week “attribution is everything”. Let’s also tip a hat to the same guy who, upon discovering the social-to-TV tune in phenom, also floated the concept of a cost per touch model back in 2013 . While “outcome based TV selling” isn’t quite pay-per-click on TV, it’s getting close.

But why would networks put their necks out like that? When innovators such as iSpot.tv arm the biggest TV buying brands with “conversion analytics” they are giving the buy side the ability to hold networks accountable at scale, networks don’t really have a choice. The smart ones, like NBC are playing ball.

“We want to move from the handcuffs of legacy measurement and currency to measurement more closely tied to clients’ success metrics,” said Mike Rosen, executive vice president, advanced advertising and platform sales at NBCUniversal. “Innovation in ad tech, like iSpot for TV, is now allowing us not only to better target but measure results in a way we never have before.”

If brands are going to hold networks accountable by connecting ads on a screen to viewers in their funnels, NBC sees in there the opportunity to not just to embrace a more responsible accountable relationship with the hands that feed them– but as an opportunity to measure outcomes against premium forms of inventory– prime time where there are less ads,  and optimized, where the ad placement is enriched with smart segmented data. And you just know they have proof those augmented segments outperformed a typical linear feed.

And what about this new wave of audience segment-based buying? That’s the jab-jab-jab leading up to the knock out punch delivered by attribution.  By developing new customized segments and buying against more specific demos, TV networks are opening up their inventory to brands on a new set of terms. Now Palin and Silverman can be treated more closely to the snowmobiler and stoner each are, respectively. And whats more, that segmentation can carry to digital, giving brands a bridge to spend with greater fluidity.

Now ROI is literally a transactional item on the TV purchase order. The sales teams that always sold reach can now sell a connection from viewer to shopper with more confidence than ever. That is huge. It’s what brands have been itching for.

Granted, these shifts may not fix everything. Audiences that have left live viewing will not come back to the numbers they were before. Those ships have sailed in a million directions. But at least the massive audiences that remain on TV, still the anchor device in any household, are more trackable, more easily to linked to sales actions. Now in the age of ad fraud, the entire TV market can now become more transparent and just in time. This doesn’t just cut at the weakness of Nielsen demo measurement- it speaks to the new level of precision and actionability brands need in the Amazon algorithm-ed world of commerce.

As the networks take the leap and connect TV viewers to online shoppers, and brands start to optimize spends against real funnel performance and not the sparkle and sizzle of a showreel or an Upfront,  the question will soon become– why am I caring about the size of an audience again?


*Photo credit Snatch c/o  Kai Seidler