TV Needs a Channel-Agnostic Measurement Strategy

This article was originally published in Adweek. 

In the early 2000s, marketers thought TV was destined to follow print media. TV was over. Online engagement was growing by double digits, investments in digital media were skyrocketing and the new age of big data was upon us.

But TV never died. Despite early doom and gloom predictions, TV continues to be one of the top-performing media channels available. Yet, many marketers still measure it in isolation or cobble it together within several different measurement solutions. OTT is purchased and measured by the digital team, linear within “traditional,” and the tension between them is felt within measurement.

Although marketers’ definition of TV has changed, the way consumers engage with it hasn’t. Instead of finding different ways to measure modern TV buys, marketers should look to a single solution that can accurately measure cross-channel media impacts.

Mass reach and frequency vehicles have always been a mainstay of long-term brand building, and television stands as one of its primary pillars. Despite all the new ways to consume media, many consumers still spend significant time with traditional linear TV, creating the perfect place to talk to a large number of people.

But marketing shouldn’t just drive marketing KPIs, it should drive business ones as well. It must be apparent that marketing and media are driving incremental sales with a clear ROI. To do this, brands need measurement solutions that prioritize business metrics.

Hurdles to measurement

Marketers may agree that TV is one of the most important communications platforms, but measuring it has never been easy, especially when compared to digital opportunities. Digital is easy to track, so measurement solutions have flourished with one-to-one cookies, universal IDs and cross-device targeting. Unfortunately, many marketers today keep trying to take the precision and surveillance available within digital and replicate it within the analog world.

Within linear TV, this is only a sample of data, often does not give marketers the entire story and ignores other offline media altogether. OTT might offer newer measurement approaches. However, it can only track digital viewership and this may be stifling its growth. Both measurement solutions lack a consolidated TV approach and still don’t account for all the other media within the market.

This has created a patchwork of measurement solutions, most of which are reliant on sophisticated tracking and implied consumer intent. While this is great for intrachannel optimization, it doesn’t help us understand the whole network effect, nor the comprehensive media impact. Marketers must think of channel-agnostic measurement solutions.

Measuring TV without consumer surveillance

One of the most difficult-to-measure channels might give marketers the answers they need once they learn how to measure it.

The answer might be something the industry has relied on for decades: marketing mix modeling (MMM). Since the ’90s, CPG brands have relied on this tested methodology to understand incrementality within their media and marketing mix. Over the past 30 years, marketers have expanded its use beyond CPG to every industry.

Google and Facebook have even begun championing this strategy because of new regulations and practices of data sharing. This is due to three reasons: It incorporates online and offline media, it skips fluffy marketing measurements like awareness and measures media impact on actual sales and, possibly most important in today’s data restrictive atmosphere, it doesn’t require any personal data.

Marketers have always been threatened with budget cuts, and these days are no different. Many CMOs must justify their efforts to CFOs and CEOs who know little and care less about how many impressions a campaign gained or what landing page visits looked like. They want to know what marketing and media is doing to their bottom line. MMMs can showcase just that without a patch-worked solution. All online and offline media is understood within one proven methodology.

Most importantly, it gets marketers around the sticky data issues. The amount of money and effort this industry has invested in consumer surveillance is baffling. Marketers should be spending money on better creative and additional reach, not tracking users across the internet and beyond.

Consumers have had enough and, in many countries and a few states, they are passing laws to put an end to it. We thought iOS 14 put a dent in consumer measurement solutions, just wait until the lawyers and politicians get involved.

Future-proof your measurement solution

Consumer consumption and regulatory trends should not impact long-term measurement solutions: It doesn’t matter how many cord-cutters there are if a solution doesn’t rely on the data flowing through those cords. It doesn’t matter if Google eliminates cookies if the solution doesn’t rely on cookies. It doesn’t matter if the government limits the types of data marketers can harvest if they are just as successful without it.

If we find a single way to accurately capture the various types of TV, then marketers should be able to add every marketing channel to this solution.

TV, in all its forms, remains one of the greatest drivers of long-term brand growth and should be the cornerstone of any modern measurement solution. Marketers must find a future-proof way to measure their impact on business, and it seems like we’ve had the answer all along.