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TV Measurement Will Never Be What You Think It Needs to Be – and That’s Okay

TV measurement will never be what you think it needs to be -  and that’s ok. To understand why, let’s take a quick look at the state of the industry. 

Advertisers have never had more ways to scale, optimize, and connect with consumers through television. Broadcast and cable TV – referred to as linear TV in the ad tech world –  continue to draw sizable audiences and a significant portion of ad spend. Connected TV (CTV) services like Roku or Hulu have, in recent years, attracted larger and larger portions of both viewership and ad budgets.

The wide range of choices have made ad measurement a challenge. Some in the industry have held out hope that the rise of addressable and connected TV will make measurement more precise, but they struggle to rectify traditional linear measurement with the digital capabilities of CTV.

TV measurement will never be what you think it needs to be –  and that’s ok. To understand why, let’s take a quick look at the state of the industry.

Linear TV has never been deterministic. An ad goes out, and while the measurement systems have done a fair job identifying the primary user of the TV in the moment, an advertiser never really knows who saw the ad, how many people saw it, or how many times they saw it.

Connected TV, as an IP-delivered platform, can help advertisers connect with specific consumers, for effective full-funnel, cross-device marketing. This means advertisers can eliminate the guesswork and more accurately target, deliver, and measure TV ads and incorporate this data into re-messaging ads that go across a viewer’s personal devices.

If all of this sounds like an amazing bright spot for marketers and advertisers in a world where cookies are disappearing – a way to be accountable to clients and measure what’s working – it is.

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But there’s a catch.

The various CTV platforms and channels reach different audiences at their core. One TV manufacturer may reach upscale audiences in certain counties; another is strong against lower-income audiences in others. Further, the methodology and data taxonomy for collecting audience information across the platforms likely does not conform. These differences mean brands lack certainty around who they’ve reached. It may be that they aren’t reaching someone on Hulu for example, that they already served in Samsung’s Smart TV universe. Attempts to conform have faltered because the platforms build gardens around their data, in order to differentiate. Ironically, those attempts at differentiation stall widespread adoption of CTV, which would boost their revenues even further.

As a result, while CTV is growing rapidly, linear continues to be the leading component of most advertisers’ TV strategies. They will buy “linear TV” on a handful of networks (e.g., sports packages on NBCU), measured traditionally, and incrementally add CTV. They will employ “incremental lift” measurement from the various CTV sources (typically, ACR-based data on a manufacturer such as Roku, LG, or Vizio) to rationalize the CTV investment.

As the industry evolves, this method bears reconsideration. The majority of TV viewers can already be reached solely on Connected TV (a Statista study earlier this year confirmed 92% of people in the US view CTV, with deep usage among the desirable Gen Z and Millennial target demos). Importantly, “linear” – the act of watching live programming – is not the sole provenance of broadcast TV! Viewers can – and already are – watching live TV on a number of streaming services. CTV is not incremental – it is mainstream. To help navigate these confusing times, brands interested in CTV will need skilled advisors with the ability to offer visibility up and down the sales funnel – including TV.

A strong DSP, with a graph based on Households, and able to identify the people within the home, can plan, buy, and also measure across all platforms and channels – with the same methodology and measurement capabilities. DSPs can do the rather difficult work of optimizing campaigns across devices and platforms, connecting a Smart TV user on a big screen to their mobile device and so on. (In the case of Viant’s Adelphic DSP, we can even attribute digital advertising impact on purchases made offline, in brick and mortar stores.) The complexity of targeting audiences across platforms can be overcome, removing the swirl and angst around the attempt to normalize “linear” and connected TV, and can even be an advantage in a campaign run on a truly omnichannel DSP with the latest advancements in measurement capabilities.

For example, a brand awareness ad served on CTV can be combined with a retargeting ad placement on mobile or desktop devices — ideally to help push users down the purchase funnel.

The ad ecosystem has offered brands an unprecedented number of opportunities to get their messages to the public, but we have distracted ourselves by creating levels of complexity in CTV measurement which are rapidly becoming irrelevant. Brands can reach every target user on CTV, couple that exposure with other channels, and more easily report and attribute performance via aligned digital measurement.

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