Forty TV ad-sales executives gathered Friday to consider the possibility of adding yet another yardstick to a growing pile of measurement plans being considered by TV networks and Madison Avenue in an era when audiences for programs ranging from “The Walking Dead” to “Law & Order SVU” are increasingly difficult to count.
Representatives from ABC, A&E Networks, AMC Networks, CBS, CW, ESPN, Viacom, Fox, Discovery Communications, Time Warner’s Turner, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Crown Media’s Hallmark, among others, are mulling the project. They took time out to listen to the particulars of an offering from a company called Data Plus Math that is developing a system that uses data to map out the effects of various forms of video on sales of product. This so-called focus on “attribution” and outcomes” – tracing exposure of a commercial to an actual sale – is at the heart of a project that has been code-named “Thor.” It is meant to help advertisers tie their commercials to something they have long sought – proof their many 6-, 15-, 30- and 60-second commercials result in tangible purchases.
The meeting took place under the auspices of the Video Advertising Bureau, a trade organization for the TV industry.
“We’ve been clamoring for a great industry-level provider on attribution for an obvious reason. We fully believe that when the TV ad platform’s effect on sales outcomes can be widely known, we’ll have the sophisticated data advertisers want in order to double-down on the TV ad platform,” said Sean Cunningham, chief executive of the group, in a prepared statement. “The next step in our attribution quest is accelerating both terrific forensic data and predictive data capabilities, pressing for the solution with the features that advertisers most need.”
The VAB said the demonstration was “generally well received,” and suggested the TV networks “agreed to continue their collective investigation of ‘Thor’ for potential 2018 activation. ” Some TV executives are concerned about the cost of adopting and implementing the technology, according to one person familiar with the matter. At a time when many networks have spent significant sums to put in place new measurement technology from Nielsen and others, TV executives are likely to examine the financial effectiveness of the new “attribution” proposal.
People familiar with the effort stressed that it is in its infancy. Even so, some of the executives involved hope to start testing capabilities by the end of the year, according to one person familiar with the matter. Under some of the plans being discussed, set-top box data would be harnessed to determine when ads ran and how they may have affected consumers’ intent to purchase.
“Thor” could help TV networks strike a hammer blow for ad dollars. As the linear TV audience has dispersed among streaming video, DVR playback and many other methods of consumption, the industry is struggling to count them in a way that will capture advertiser support. Despite the rise of mobile tablets and subscription video on demand, most TV networks continue to derive the bulk of their ad revenue based on the number of linear viewers their TV shows attract.