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Using top of funnel outcomes as a predictor for sales, and optimising buys to reach persuadable households

Upwave, the brand analytics platform, is focused on giving TV ad buyers short-term evidence that their campaigns are working at the top of the funnel, and then using that as a predictor for future sales and lifetime customer value. The company has industrialised consumer survey data and combined it with deterministic exposure data to demonstrate uplift in key brand metrics. It has also created a ‘persuadability score’ that shows the households most likely to respond positively to brands and messages and is testing the use of this score as an optimisation tool for programmatic buying. Overall, Upwave is trying to bring a Google Analytics feel to brand measurement – less like post-campaign research consultancy and more like hands-on, inflight daily insights.

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With advertising budgets being squeezed, the brand advertising analytics platform Upwave believes it is a good moment to focus on how we help CMOs to justify TV brand advertising to a Chief Financial Officer. Using American Football for his analogy, Upwave CEO Chris Kelly says a brand’s Chief Marketing Officer needs to show how a brand campaign moves players down the field, even if you cannot show them entering the ‘end zone’ to score. This means demonstrating lift in key brand metrics so that you can at least point to demand generation if not demand conversion. And this matters because as Kelly points out, an advertiser of cold and flu remedies may not see the benefits of their investment for a long time, until they become the preferred brand when someone finally succumbs to a hard winter.

Upwave is trying to bring a Google Analytics feel to brand metrics measurement – less like post-campaign research consultancy and more like hands-on, inflight daily insights into brand awareness and sentiment using a software solution that can also support top of funnel optimisation. “If we do our job, we make brand campaigns feel like performance campaigns, which you can constantly look at and optimise every hour in some channels. Brand was missing that,” says Kelly.

The next step in this ‘brand-treated-like-performance’ approach is the use of programmatic to optimise brand campaigns. Upwave has generated a persuadability score that can be applied to a brand and its favoured KPIs at a household level. Currently in laboratory testing with partners, this gives a household a score between zero and one based on how likely it is that consumers can be persuaded by a brand or a message. The score spins out of data analysis and modelling that is underpinned by a combination of deterministic exposure data (including ACR or set-top box data) and consumer opinion survey data.

The programmatic buying will be optimised against the persuadability score (with Upwave feeding the data to the DSP – the company does not buy or sell media itself). “Based on how persuadable a household is, a decision can be made on what to bid [to win an ad spot].” Upwave’s ambition is that programmatic buys can be optimised for brand outcomes as well as for conversion.

Upwave has industrialised consumer surveys to generate the data that helps it understand brand impact and persuadability, and this includes full automation. Kelly says the company surveys millions of consumers every year. “We don’t maintain a panel; there is no single group of consumers. For every campaign we find a large representative sample of consumers to get their opinions,” he explains. For any campaign, tens of thousands of people are surveyed, including both exposed and non-exposed homes.

Upwave does not try to link brand-level outcomes to actual business outcomes, leaving others to fuse these data sets if they want to. But the brand-level outcomes can be used as a predictor, by showing propensity to become a customer, Kelly claims. When Upwave conducted some tests to gauge the accuracy of its uplift-to-customer assumptions, using grocery sales data, the connection was very accurate, he notes. “We believe we can be used to forecast sales, though we are not tracking sales ourselves. Our early tracking with sales data has been very accurate.”

Kelly says the TV industry is spending a lot of time worrying about audience measurement and currency but needs to put as much effort into demonstrating outcomes – and that includes top of funnel outcomes, where his company specialises. “If a CMO wants to protect their TV budget, what do they want to show: currency statistics proving that they got what they paid for [they reached their target audience] and they were not ripped off, or metrics showing their top of funnel outcomes and that it was effective advertising?” he asks.

Returning to his American Football analogy, Kelly explains: “When a player scores in the end zone, that is a sales conversion. But what about all the plays that get you down the field into the end zone? We measure the movement down the field.” He points to the potentially huge impact of brand advertising, which at its best generates demand and increases lifetime value of customers you do secure, which pays back over years (like when people churn from other brands but stick with yours).

The long-term impact of brand advertising may be understood but when the CFO knocks on the door, CMOs may need some answers today. “Within a short timeframe, we can accurately forecast that you are generating the basis for customer lifetime value,” Kelly claims.

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