Flight to Accountability

Purchaser targeting. Say it out loud, because you’re going to hear more about it, if you haven’t already.

Purchaser targeting is exactly what it sounds like.  True single-source measurement that matches viewing records from TV set-top boxes with purchase activity from databases such as frequent shopper cards for those same households. This form of measurement provides advertisers with the ROI metrics that they seek from traditional advertising, allowing them to better target their campaigns by evaluating media such as television programs based on the product purchase profiles of their viewers. The Holy Grail we have all seen and have been waiting for. It is hard to believe it has finally come.

Sex and age demographics have reigned as the primary currency of choice in determining the “right” allocation for media buys. But the world is changing and changing rapidly. Purchaser Targeting through single-source measurement is quickly replacing those demographics. It’s the difference between 20th and 21st century targeting.

Although the sex/age groups were designed to serve as surrogates for the actual purchasers, too large a percentage of purchasers are not in the selected sex/age target, and, too large a percentage of the sex/age target are not really purchasers of that product. Recall-based surveys by MRI, Simmons and Scarborough, for example, have shown this for years. But their ability to report only at a monthly or slower tempo unsuitable for the television business has kept this information from having a pivotal impact on TV buys.

Today, direct Purchaser Targeting information is becoming a credible means for selecting TV programs, networks and dayparts. At the Advertising Research Foundation’s Audience Measurement 3.0 Conference in June, it was said that by the same time next year most top marketers would be using this data in the planning and execution of their campaigns.

Media choices continue to proliferate at an unprecedented rate, as do the number of devices for consumers to access them. Consumption opportunities are everywhere, all promising the involvement of addressability and personalization. The need for a means of optimizing the media mix has never been greater.

With more than $260 billion in U.S. advertising expenditures on the table — not including the larger amount being “spent” by various forms of price discounting like “promotions” — the largest issue facing advertisers is one of weight and allocation relative to their marketing/media spend. Especially in a tumultuous economy, choices need to be on target more than ever to reach the right audiences. Just as financial investments are coming under closer scrutiny, media/promotional investments are also coming under that increasing “flight to accountability.” Organizations have many pressing questions. What media expenditure is right for us? How do we allocate the budget across media to achieve the biggest impact? What would Don Draper of Mad Men do? What would Henry Paulson stewarding the mad economy do?

As new media becomes more prevalent, brands must find a way to certifiably account for the return on investment in these new tactics. It would be far better for the data to be aligned within a more inclusive single-source system spanning the holistic marketing and media pie without having to resort to mere ratio estimation, ascription, fusion, modeling and other outmoded approaches.

Second-by-second viewing data captured via set-top boxes enables advertisers not only to evaluate the reach of an ad, but also track actual impressions that lead to sales. This of course requires a system designed to match purchase data onto the set-top box data. That technology is here today.

Brands looking for a way to allocate media investments in order to maximize ROI finally have that tool. Organizations now have the power to merge those databases together on a single-source, same-household basis — with complete privacy protection. Purchaser Targeting is the way the future will go, and it will bring media up to a par with sales within major global organizations.

Bill Harvey is president of TRA, a media marketing research company.