In the Race to Standardize TV Measurement, Data Is the Only Safe Harbor

By Laura Manning

The advertising industry is under a microscope. With the economic uncertainty facing the industry, every ad dollar counts. Marketers are facing the challenge of having to prove that each dollar spent is getting a return and that campaigns are performing to their maximum potential.

While that's not exactly a difficult feat for the paid, search, and social branches of the digital advertising industry, where the science of campaign measurement has been exacted, it's been an obstacle for the biggest screen in the house. This has forced the industry to evolve legacy measurement tactics and seen brand marketers and advertisers scramble to invest in new technologies and solutions that promise to yield stronger campaign performance outputs.

It is a confusing, and exciting, time. The industry is on the precipice of change. Change that is, arguably, long overdue. And while there is no way to future proof any industry — let alone the advertising industry — there is a safe harbor. Data.

The call to set cross-platform measurement standards is growing louder. This was incredibly evident at NBCU's most recent One23 conference, which saw much discussion around the need for unified measurement across platforms. Cint was recently announced as a NBCU designated leading provider of unified, holistic, deduplicated cross-platform campaign performance measurement. And while NBCU and the rest of the newly formed joint industry committee are working hard to develop the standard and appoint companies to lead the charge, it starts with unifying first-party viewership data.

Historically, TV has been one of the most difficult mediums to measure outside of reach and frequency. A TV screen is not a "clickable" medium, which has often left advertisers in the dark when it comes to precise targeting and understanding how effective, or ineffective, their campaigns are on the big screen.

In recent years, significant streaming growth has benefited marketers by allowing them to use similar targeting and measurement options to digital media. Linear TV, however, still has its challenges.

Today, marketers are trying to navigate many TV data currency options to measure their TV buys alongside CTV/streaming and digital to get a comprehensive cross-platform view of their media performance. As measurement providers, we need to make sure that we can support as many alternative data currencies as possible today to allow marketers to do just that.

Eventually, we should get to exacting. Think about how exacting targeting is on consumers' phones. We're at the point where we can find videos trending on TikTok of wives dropping hints about what they'd like their husbands to gift them by speaking certain brand names and key phrases out loud within the general vicinity of their husbands' unattended phones. And that's just one example. Now, the industry has that same chance — to get to that level of exacting — with the most influential screen in the home.

With unified data and standardized measurement, TV advertisers will be able to more accurately measure the impact of their campaigns to drive better awareness, recall, consideration, purchase intent, and favorability. Maybe even someday soon, advertisers will be able to do that while the campaign is in flight. We're already seeing it with smarter creative plays on the big screen.

How many viewers looked up from their phones during the Tubi commercial when they thought someone in the room was turning off the Big Game to turn on Mr. and Mrs. Smith? How cool would it be to be able to take that a step further and, if you're a brand advertising executive at Tubi, be able to see measurable outputs around how many viewers resonated with the ad experience? Or how many viewers took an action around Tubi in the moments following the ad?

We're not yet at the point where we have full insights into that kind of measurement, but we're getting closer. And when we get to that increased level of pattern recognition, TV advertisers will better be able to determine what is working and what isn't to eliminate ineffective strategies.

We can't claim to know exactly where we're headed when it comes to evolving the TV measurement conversation. We're closer to a solution now than we were even a few weeks ago. The progress we make now may not always feel like leaps and bounds, but over time, the returns will be massive.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Laura Manning is VP of measurement at Cint.