The Future of TV Advertising is People Based

Jeff Collins, CRO, VIantHow we measure TV advertising – and how those methodologies compare to those used in digital – continues to be one of the most contentious issues in the industry. Jeff Collins, CRO at Viant, says that TV’s panel-based measurement is no longer fit for purpose, and that the future is a people-based approach that looks at both engagement and data gleaned from automatic content recognition (ACR). 

In a very short span of time, the concept of television went from one big screen in the living room to a multiplicity of different screens accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. The shift from traditional TV to digital means measurement is an increasingly important part of understanding cross-platform viewing behaviour, and subsequently advertising.

The challenge however is that TV and digital measurement are not an apples to apples comparison. TV seeks to answer the question, “did someone view my ad?”, with traditional measurement consisting of tracking GRPs based on small subsets of panel-based proxies. On the other hand, digital tracks direct actions like clicks and conversions, in addition to eyeballs on a screen.

To date, the solution to unify these diverging metrics has largely been to move to the lowest common denominator and focus on how many people viewed an ad. The problem with this approach is that it leaves advertisers with big targeting and measurement gaps. The current approach to measurement can handicap marketers, leaving them without any meaningful understanding of engagement, impact, or certainly the value of any individual touch point in cross-channel advertising campaigns.

Today however, advertisers are embracing the technology to make TV accountable to actions like website visits, much the same way digital is today. While solely measuring actions doesn’t factor in an advertisement’s impact on KPIs such as sentiment, ad favorability, or recall, as we move to this more action-based measurement, we’re finding the single currency for TV and digital is people.

Achieving this single currency is happening with the use of connected televisions and tracking software like automatic content recognition (ACR) technology. ACR is a technology that captures and identifies content on a second-by-second basis across internet connected devices, such as smart TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets. With ACR, advertisers benefit from a wealth of data that outlines exactly which ad, channel, or program a viewer was watching, when, and for how long. This means advertisers can eliminate the guesswork and more accurately target, deliver, and measure TV ads.

In order to tie this back to digital, advertisers can combine ACR technology with a people-based approach, which allows advertisers to move deeper into the digital consumption happening within these same households. Today, ACR technology can be implemented to source data on a viewer by either collecting it directly from their smart TV, or alternatively through a combination of mobile and TV applications.

Solutions that can access data directly from a viewer’s smart TV are not only the easiest, but are also the most scalable way to capture all content passed through the television. This is done using video fingerprinting methodology, which utilizes images to identify what content is being watched and how long the viewer is watching it.

Video fingerprinting only requires a user opt in to data collection and that the TV is turned on. This allows advertisers to truly customize the brand messaging for every home based on TV exposure. For example, a pizza franchise could deliver an ad for a coupon across a family’s personal devices after that family viewed its commercial on their TV.

The alternative, which requires both ACR-enabled TV and mobile applications working together, is much more intricate. This solution relies on audio fingerprinting, which allows the mobile device to listen to the TV to identify what is being viewed. The data collected can then be used for targeting and measurement. However, getting this data is highly dependent on users both opting in to data collection and having the ACR-enabled application running, which creates challenges in scale.

Powered with the knowledge of what TV programs and content a household watched, advertisers can truly customize brand messaging for every home based on TV exposure.

People-based advertising relies on deterministic data, rather than probabilistic cookie data to match household TV viewers back to their individual devices. This allows advertisers to have one holistic view of a consumer’s TV consumption as well as digital site visitation and purchase behavior. As a result, advertisers can run cross-screen campaigns across a viewer’s mobile and desktop devices after a TV ad is aired in that household.

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