Attribution Challenge #1: Relying Too Much on Ratings Data

by Calum Smeaton on Aug 6, 2015 3:00:00 PM Digital Marketing, DRTV

Attribution_Challenge_1-847648-editedLast month, I discussed the top five TV attribution challenges faced by advertisers today. Future posts will address these challenges in more detail and offer advice for overcoming them.

When talking about the world of TV advertising, I often describe it as an industry just entering its renaissance—after decades of being stuck in the Dark Ages. While the industry has made great strides in the past few years due to new buying and planning strategies, more sophisticated analytical technologies and the changing nature of TV viewing itself, TV advertising still has a long way to go before fully reaching its “Age of Enlightenment.”

One of the biggest challenges for advertisers is relying too much on ratings data (often referred to as “audience data” outside of the U.S.). Traditionally, TV advertising has been bought and designed around ratings, which I refer to as a “flawed currency.” It’s all about how much an advertiser spends to reach a specific target audience. Ratings data fails in three basic areas:

1. Measurement

This is truly a flawed economy based on sample sizes that break down outside of the national scale. The currency of impressions (and even its constituents of reach and frequency) tell the marketer nothing about whether the advertisement was seen, recalled or influenced any decisions vis-à-vis the brand.

2. Segmentation

Today, marketers are used to targeting customers by rich segmentation profiles based customer data, psychographics and behavioral signals. In TV, the marketer has very limited targeting – restricted to age and gender and a general audience type by network.

3. Timeliness

It can take up to six weeks to even get ratings data.

Efficiency and Performance

Ratings data doesn’t tell advertisers the crucial details about their spots. How can an advertiser really know if a campaign is working? That it’s impacting ROI? That it’s contributing to new and returning customer growth? With after-the-fact analysis, an advertiser can’t accurately answer the critical question: What actually worked?  

Today, TV advertising is increasingly being bought and designed around efficiency and performance—the two most critical things for advertisers. So how do you do this? By leveraging spot and response data, advertisers can get much-needed, real-time insight into the value of their campaigns.

Think about this: Does it matter if you reached your target demographics if you didn’t reach your financial benchmark? I’ve spoken to hundreds of advertisers who, after looking at real-time response and spot data, found that who they thought were buying their products (thanks to ratings data) had very little in common with actual buyer profiles based on who the spot drove to engage with the brand.

The only way to optimize TV campaign performance is through spot-by-spot, minute-by-minute analysis of an advertisers own response data from outlets like the Web, call centers, app downloads, SMS, etc. We live in a real-time business world and advertisers need to leverage the valuable data they already have to measure, improve and leverage the benefits of TV campaigns in real time.

Next time, I’ll focus on Challenge #2: Planning Based on the Lower Price. Check out my first post from the series entitled The 5 Biggest Challenges in TV Attribution.

Photo by Naypong/

Calum Smeaton is CEO of TVSquared.

Calum Smeaton's blog
Get a2bFilfillment's FREE Ultimate Guide to Fulfillment e-Book
Subscribe for tips on how to grow your direct response marketing business!
Subscribe Now!

Follow Us

New Call-to-action

Editorial Disclaimer

The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.