Home Opinions What gets measured: mastering TV attribution in 2020

What gets measured: mastering TV attribution in 2020

Thomas Bremond, General Manager International, Freewheel
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“What gets measured, gets managed” might be an old maxim coined by Peter Drucker back in the 1950s, but it’s highly relevant today as the TV advertising industry heads into a new decade. Unless we can measure all ads equally against established metrics how can we truly gauge the success of campaigns?

As the TV industry’s transition to multi-platform accelerates, brands are seeing the value of advanced TV attribution improving ad spend effectiveness and optimising campaigns. With established models such as media mix modelling taking too long to produce results, brands are looking to more advanced multi-touch attribution models that are near real time and allow mid-campaign spend optimisation.

Increased availability of viewer data is paving the way for innovation, enabling advertisers to match real-world outcomes to TV ad exposure with increasing accuracy. From set-top-box (STB) return path data to viewing information generated by over-the-top (OTT) apps and automatic content recognition (ACR) software embedded in smart TVs, new datasets provide fertile ground for third-party vendors to develop innovative TV attribution solutions. The most advanced solutions track ad exposure across multiple devices, index viewing to target audiences and use media rankers to reach theses audiences, and then match ad exposure with consumer activity, whether activation or brand building.

But while the TV attribution market is making significant progress, there are still challenges to overcome to reach its full potential. This is especially relevant in Europe where data and identifiers are less accessible than in the U.S. and making the link between ad exposure and associated outcomes is complicated by privacy considerations. Here are three key challenges the European TV attribution market will seek to overcome in the year ahead:


Sell-side collaboration on audience definition  

One of the key barriers to TV attribution adoption is the lack of a common approach to consistently defining niche audiences across different broadcasters and sales houses. Each country has its own key TV advertising sales houses operating within diverse national regulatory, trading and measurement frameworks, resulting in complex market dynamics.

This year broadcasters must move beyond standardised, demographic-based TV audience definitions, and work together to develop a coherent approach to addressable. They need to define common niche audiences for TV advertising based on interests or behaviours, so advertisers can make audience-based planning a reality, to reach pet owners or mortgage renewers for instance, across multiple broadcasters through a single channel.

In addition to working together on a more systematic approach to defining audiences, broadcasters will also need to work closely with telcos and Pay TV operators, as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), to encourage interoperability, develop industry-wide capabilities, and build the necessary scale for effective TV attribution. Progress is already being made in this area, with the Project OAR consortium using CES [the Las Vegas conference/exhibition in January] to announce final specifications for dynamic ad insertion on linear TV, including a measurement spec for the buy side. But there is still a long journey ahead to full industry collaboration.


Specific permission requests for user-related data 

European regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as national data legislations and cultural attitudes towards data sharing, make using personal data for TV attribution challenging. While U.S. providers can map census-level data from connected TVs to device and user identifiers to define direct links between ad exposure and outcomes, this is more challenging in Europe as these identifiers are well-protected as they are personal information.

The GDPR regulates personal data sharing between organisations. As such, it places responsibility on broadcasters and operators to secure specific consent for the sharing and processing of user-related data that advanced TV attribution requires. This is a mandatory step before being able to create more relevant data sets for advertisers. Broadcasters are already building the right framework by creating unified registration and login services in order to make it easier for consumers to control their consent. However, the industry needs to build a sustainable one-to-one relationship with each consumer, which brings a new challenge for the TV industry which used to be one-to-many.


Increased accessibility of STB return-path data

In Europe, TV attribution vendors currently have very limited access to return-path data from connected devices such as STBs and smart TVs. In the U.S., broadcasters are contractually obliged to offer inventory to Pay TV operators, enabling those operators to match STB viewing and ad exposure information against household data, but these agreements are non-existent in Europe.

A collaborative, transparent and safe approach regarding data-sharing would allow new feasible attribution techniques such as matching ACR and fingerprinting from TV viewing on connected devices with web traffic and activation. Over the coming year the industry must develop data sharing agreements, to allow broadcasters and vendors an access to return-path data from connected devices and enable the advancement of TV attribution.


Brands must be able to assign a more representative value to TV advertising, adding greater accountability to their campaigns and, in 2020, an exciting wave of new TV attribution solutions will become pivotal in the advertiser’s toolbox. Addressing and overcoming the existing challenges to TV attribution will increase the capabilities of these solutions and will also open the door to cross-channel attribution using unified metrics such as NBC Universal’s CFlight, enabling brands to measure campaign performance across a full set of media types and optimise execution accordingly. What can’t be measured can’t be managed, so collaborating to master TV attribution must be a top priority across the industry in 2020.

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