In 2020, CMOs who don’t gain an air traffic controller’s view of marketing attribution across channels might find themselves looking for a new job. TV attribution is getting a lot of buzz these days. It isn’t because brands are being sold on the latest gimmick—it’s because those who cannot find a way to tie ad dollars to business results will be at a distinct disadvantage in the ad buying marketplace.
TV has famously been a black box for attribution and has lagged behind digital media in some forms of accountability. Much like programmatic and addressable TV in the last decade, TV attribution is going through its own phase of definition. What is real TV attribution? What can be expected of it? What separates the real McCoys from the pretenders?
Attributing business outcomes to TV media takes the form of a number of strategies. However, brands that want to become confident in their understanding of TV attribution will quickly learn the following:
- It cannot be done alone.
- A part-time solution won’t help your always-on business.
Let’s start with an uncomfortable truth for brands. You cannot become a master of granular TV attribution overnight. Not when you wait weeks for networks to deliver spot logs to your agency, who themselves have a vested interest in controlling media strategy. Many brands are too far removed from knowing what is working and how they can be empowered to react to the voice of the consumer.
Brands want, very simply, to know if consumers watching Network X in Daypart Y with Creative Z saw their spots and responded in a positive way. They don’t want to guess with probabilistic methods, and they don’t want to find out weeks after being on air if their strategy is working.
Partners that can help monitor exactly what is airing on TV and in what competitive context are a great place to start. TV is a frequency medium and it does not take place in a competitive vacuum. Knowing each spot that a consumer sees, on which combination of networks, and how much competitive noise they encounter enables a brand to calculate concrete figures of return.
These data points must arrive with the speed needed to take action. If a particular creative is performing 50% worse than others on a given network, the information is strictly academic if it is not actionable within days. Attribution as post-mortem is masochistic. It must be real-time or it exists only to torture the failures of the planner.
Finally, it really isn’t any different than the data scientist cliché: garbage in, garbage out. Attempting to cobble together an attribution solution that doesn’t include all critical elements is unhelpful at best, and most likely actively misleading the efforts to optimize.
TV attribution is about accountability. Solutions that don’t close the loop for TV and business outcomes will very quickly be outed as not being solutions at all.