It’s Time to Make Linear TV Attribution Less Complex

There isn’t always a clear line between advertising initiatives and outcomes—but there should be

TV advertisers are pivoting from demographic targeting to more advanced audience-based buying. And more than half of advertisers in the U.S. plan to increase data-driven linear (DDL) spending in the next 12 months, according to the Xandr Global Relevance Report.

As investments grow in this space and TV targeting evolves to be more like digital, advertisers are eager for concrete performance metrics beyond audience reach and impressions to measure ROI, justify investments, and validate media mix strategies. The 2021 Relevance Report also unveiled that nearly 46% of advertisers want to know how to use DDL for performance goals.

For media owners, the landscape has become even more competitive as consumers shift to streaming. It’s increasingly important to prove the impact of linear TV, demonstrate the advantages of advanced targeting and meet advertiser needs in the rapidly evolving marketplace. Attribution—the ability to connect the dots between ad exposure and consumer attitudes or actions (like in-store and online visits)—has emerged as a promising way to evaluate TV advertising.

3 attribution challenges

Connecting advertising initiatives to outcomes is complex and requires expertise in data and statistical methods. Attribution providers have proliferated the market in the last several years with black box solutions of varying quality, both in terms of data and algorithms.

As attribution has gained traction for its obvious value, some challenges have emerged that advertisers and media owners should keep in mind when choosing a solution.

1. Lack of standardization: Attribution studies don’t always leverage the same data that was used for campaign targeting and measurement. This inconsistency can decrease confidence in the validity of the results. The definition of a successful outcome to ad exposure can also vary widely. For example, how does one define a visit to a retail location in terms of location precision and dwell time, and how long after an ad exposure does a visit count?

Industry collaboration is needed to establish standards to ensure consistent results. The Media Rating Council, of which Xandr is a member, is working to define standards in this space and ensure adherence thereafter.  

2. High costs: Attribution studies can be expensive, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to marketing budgets for multiple reports across campaigns with each programmer. Advertisers need a cost-effective solution to execute attribution studies across multiple media owners and understand holistic campaign performance.

3. Slow turnaround times: While reporting inaccuracies and steep costs are a challenge, advertisers must also factor in slow turnaround times. Executing attribution studies requires extensive communication between advertisers, vendors and individual media owners to align on goals, share data and deliver results.

Consequently, reports can take up to several months to deliver post-campaign. This becomes particularly challenging when results are meant to provide advertisers with insights to make faster and more informed decisions to optimize campaign spend.

Technology’s role in attribution reporting

Solving the complexities of attribution reporting in advanced TV requires technology platforms to play a critical role. A key factor in driving adoption of attribution reporting is the use of transparent, industry-accepted methodologies within a platform that has the flexibility to use different client-relevant datasets in a privacy-compliant way.

Automation also can help enable cost-effective attribution reporting at scale through data integrations for faster processing and through workflows that enable efficient communication between buyers and sellers.

At Xandr, we’ve developed a geo-location attribution solution that provides advertisers and media owners with insights on lift for in-store visits from TV advertising. For advertisers, these studies can be aggregated across media owners used in a particular campaign, unlocking a complete view of visit lift performance by daypart, week and audience income. For media owners, reports provide visit lift performance across networks. Both reports can easily be requested and viewed in-platform.

Tying ad exposure to measurable bottom-funnel outcomes enables advertisers to understand which audience, networks and even dayparts have the most impact on real business results and reveals an expanded view of the consumer journey. By leveraging a platform to reduce the complexities in attribution reporting for advanced TV, media owners and advertisers have an opportunity to make TV more accountable and understand its incremental impact throughout the full marketing funnel. 

As a senior product manager at Xandr, Kaustubh Singh oversees data analytics, campaign reporting, and attribution for Xandr’s buy-side and sell-side advanced TV platforms, Invest TV and Monetize TV.  With over eight years of ad-tech experience, Kaustubh has been critical in driving Xandr’s commitment to accelerate audience-based buying.