TV Attribution Mustn’t Copy Digital’s Short-Term Focus

More and more marketers are becoming increasingly interested in using TV attribution tools to measure the impact of their TV campaigns. In part, this is driven by digital native brands which want the same sorts of measurement tools they’re used to on social and display campaigns.

But TV risks becoming too focused on the short term says Paul Evans, newly appointed global CEO at Australian TV measurement company Adgile Media. In the interview Evans discussed changes in attributes towards TV measurement during the pandemic, and why he thinks marketers’ skill sets can be valuable for driving the direction of a tech company.

How does Adgile Media’s tech work?

Finding a business with genuinely original technology was one of the prerequisites for me when looking for businesses to join. And that’s what Adgile Media has. Its visual recognition technology, and how that’s applied to television, just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The metaphorical way of thinking about it is that Adgile’s technology watches television in the same way you or I do. It then interprets that as clean, independent, genuine first party data that doesn’t exist anywhere else. The industry is very used to having data on advertising content through spot lists, the kinds of reports you’d get from Nielsen. But this data is much more rich and granular, it gives you an understanding of the creative and the messaging used within ads.

And it’s also real time. Brands and agencies are used to getting spot list data a week or two after the fact, so data on things like share of voice have this latency built in. But our data is real time, which lets advertisers react and adjust their campaigns much faster.

That data drives three product capabilities – analytics, attribution and activation. So analytics helps advertisers understand what’s being shown, and the composition within the marketplace. With attribution, our data helps advertisers understand exposure in real time, so they can then link that to outcomes and close that loop. And lastly you can activate off the data, where you could say trigger a search, social or programmatic display response based on what’s happened on TV.

Has the pandemic driven increased desire from brands to prove TV advertising’s effectiveness, in order to justify spending?

Yes I think it has. I’ve worked as a marketer for 20 years, and one thing we’ve seen during that time, which has been pretty well documented, is the dilution of businesses’ marketing functions’ scope and influence at the boardroom level.

I think even before COVID, a marketer’s biggest Achilles heel was accountability, and proving ROI. But I think we’ve seen an even greater focus on that during COVID. As in many areas, COVID has been an accelerator of existing trends.

We’ve seen that at Adgile as well, in the demand for attribution capabilities, and being able to prove TV advertising’s effectiveness. Without a doubt, every marketer right now needs to be able to prove that what they’re doing is having an impact in the short term and the long term.

It’s sometimes said that the push for TV attribution is partly driven by D2C brands who want the same capabilities they’re used to online. How appropriate is it to copy digital models of attribution in the TV world?

There’s a dilemma for marketers at the moment in how attribution is often positioned as a short term valuation of activity, but marketing dollars are usually meant to deliver on a wide range of business objectives which might be longer term. So sometimes you’re interested in short term outcomes like app downloads and immediate sales, but CMOs and CFO should be interested in the long-term effects of advertising as well. And that’s particularly relevant for TV.

A lot of addressable online display advertising is typically all about immediacy of return. And measures like last click are much more appropriate. But television is also falling into this trap of being focused only on short-term responses.

We try and think about it a little bit differently. We’re quite marketer aligned in how we think about TV planning and buying, and our products are designed to be more holistic in demonstrating not just the short-term returns of TV advertising, but the longer-term impacts as well. It’s really important that attribution is seen as a bigger and more holistic tool for marketers.

How can you appropriately measure TV’s longer term impacts?

Partly it’s about measuring over longer periods, so stretching your datasets out over weeks and months to prove longer term changes in outcomes.

But it’s also important to understand that there’s no silver bullet, or one solution that can solve it. You need to have a suite of research and measurement solutions that can look at very long term measurement. So econometrics for example is great for measurement over longer periods, but you should still combine that with shorter term attribution tools.

What has the transition been like moving from buy-side to ad tech, have there been big cultural differences?

When I was told by the guys at Adgile that they wanted to offer me the CEO role, I genuinely had to consider it carefully. As CEO at a tech company you have to take a much broader view of the world, and you’ve got a much broader set of problems and challenges and opportunities that you’re wrestling with. And that’s very different from my role at Vodafone, for example. At Vodafone I was looking after media strategy operations, in-housing, working with tech partners, and it’s all quite focused.

But what I’ve learned so far, and I had hoped this would be the case, is that the marketing mindset is quite applicable here too. As a marketer, you’re thinking about the customer and putting them at the heart of your business, and thinking about how to solve problems strategically. So I feel here I’m able to apply my marketing knowledge at a different level.

I think marketing is a brilliant discipline to lead and drive businesses. In ad tech particularly, it’s often seen as a downstream function, but it’s not. With marketing you’re thinking about true customer value over the long and short term, and about addressing needs. You’re never just inventing stuff for the sake of inventing stuff, which is a very ad tech sort of trait.

What are your priorities as CEO?

So we’re a startup business in rapid growth mode, but COVID obviously put the brakes on, as it did with most industries in every market. But we’re working to come out of that phase and are doing really well right now. My job is to build on that momentum, particularly in the Australian market which is our heartland right now. But then as we look to scale the business and prove replicability, we’re looking at North America and Europe for market opportunities.

And on top of international growth, we’ll focus on innovation. There’s an innovation drive within the business to build out the capabilities and the applications of our data beyond what we’ve got at the moment.

But I think the one other area that I would emphasise is focusing on people. I think it’s imperative for any CEO, and particularly at tech companies, to build great talent, and build an incredible culture. And for me that’s going to be about positivity, and about transparency and honesty in the way that we operate. And that’s going to be important in helping us scale the business across markets and to deliver great things in terms of product innovation.


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