Marketers Who Get Out Ahead of the TV Attribution Trend Stand to Win Big

By Tripp Boyle, SVP, Connekt Technologies

It’s early times for TV attribution, but things are going to change dramatically—sooner than most expect. Connected TV devices have made their way into three-quarters of U.S. homes, opening the door for a massive increase in digital measurement and tracking capabilities, even in the linear ecosystem. Marketers stand to benefit from a new outcome-based approach to buying TV advertising, but some pushback from the networks is a given, especially around upfronts. With scarcity intensifying, the networks have little motivation to commoditize their inventory or sell it down.

Marketers are paying more attention to their TV ad spend these days because they can, thanks to the capabilities enabled by connected TV devices. Even though ratings are down, networks are raising rates in an effort to stabilize the bottom line, further frustrating buyers. That’s not a business model that promises long-term viability. Instead, they should be looking for ways to increase the value they provide in the form of more readily available and transparent data. Some already are, while others are dragging their feet. But the ultimate outcome seems a foregone conclusion—marketers are simply going to demand it.

The data at play here is incredibly valuable. Marketers should not just be interested in buying broad TV audience swaths, like 18-to 49-year-olds, anymore. Addressability at a much more granular level is what they’re after, and that can only happen with widespread digital attribution. If the value exchange between advertisers and consumers can also be improved as part of the process that data is going to become even more valuable.

Current media mix models aren’t going to disappear overnight, nor should they, as they continue to serve marketers well in many contexts. Despite declines in broadcast C3 ratings over the past two years, TV still represents a $70 billion advertising market. Digital ad spending is expected to surpass traditional ad spending for the first time in 2019, but most digital’s gain is coming at the expense of print and directories. 

Projections call for TV advertising to remain relatively stable over the near term, and marketers will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in that media channel. The same marketers are also going to start holding those investments more accountable than they do in current media mix models. That’s where attribution and data come into play.

The goal is to evolve these models over time with better and more readily available data.  Initially, measuring TV attribution in a silo will give brands some data to compare to digital platforms, which is helpful. However, the real payoff comes with the ability to move linear TV to a multi-touch attribution model that provides a more complete picture of a customer’s journey—from exposure and awareness, all the way through to purchase. Television will continue to play a huge role at the top of the funnel, but multi-touch is the ultimate goal for TV attribution.

The biggest question is how quickly this evolution will take place. Some pundits, while acknowledging that TV attribution and addressability are surely coming, talk about it in terms of a five-to 10-year incubation period. I’d argue that it’s going to happen much faster, with a marked shift in priorities becoming apparent over the next 12 to 24 months. 

Networks like NBCUniversal, A+E and others have already been talking about advertising models based on business outcomes since the 2018 upfronts. A+E reportedly closed five deals with outcome-based guarantees during its upfront last year, and it promised to optimize those campaigns in mid-flight based on factors such as sales, foot traffic and website visits.

No doubt, outcome-based advertising will become a hotter topic of conversation, and there will likely be many more deals announced in the coming months. These early deals will give both brand marketers and networks opportunities to learn more about the technologies involved, the results they return and the impact they have on top and bottom-line performance. As this evolution continues, data standardization will begin to emerge. Existing measurement systems like Nielsen TAM are not going away, but we’ll start to see more digital methodologies thrown into the mix.

If digital transformation has taught us anything, it’s that first movers generally end up ahead of their competition and are the first to reap the benefits of new paradigms. They also gain access to first-mover cost efficiency that can quickly evaporate once the model is proven.  That’s the situation marketers are facing now. Attribution and data measurement may cut their teeth in the scatter market, but as they evolve —which they surely will and, I believe, much faster than most expect—marketers who have already developed some experience in this area are going to have a huge advantage. The technology has been built and methodologies have been proven for years in digital. Now is the time to start being smarter with TV.


Tripp Boyle serves as senior vice president at Connekt Technologies, where he is responsible for driving strategic business deals and partnerships with advertisers, brands and content companies. He also plays a critical role in shaping Connekt Technologies’ product roadmap and solidifying its thought-leadership position as the company powering the future of TV.

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