Are You Ready for TV Advertising’s Data Revolution?

By Joshua Pisano, SVP of Business Development & Product Strategy at MRI-Simmons

Every aspect of TV advertising has changed substantially in recent years, including planning, targeting, creative formats, measurement and even how buyers and sellers transact. Combined with technology advancements and shifting consumer preferences, one thing is clear. We are in the midst of TV advertising’s data revolution.

As with any major era of change, the real winners will be those who pioneer through uncharted waters and in this case embrace the data opportunities in front of them. And those winners will understand that one size does not fit all, as different use cases call for varying data considerations. Let’s break down how marketers can lean in and take real action throughout the entire advertising process to improve business outcomes.

First Things First: Data without opportunity for action is meaningless.

Data is the connective, golden thread required to stitch together a sound strategy. It’s simplistic sounding, but potentially complex to execute. It’s not just about selecting the right data at that moment. It’s about choosing interoperable data, like your consumer target, so that it can be used throughout the campaign lifecycle. This means leveraging a data source that can be used to define the target audience, and then to plan, execute, and measure the outcome of a campaign.  Let’s call this a “one audience” strategy.

By doubling down on a “one audience” strategy, teams can break down silos, simplify workflows and triage any areas where the strategy may be breaking down. Like any properly designed experiment, you need to control the number of independent variables you change, in order to properly draw conclusions from your observations. Inconsistent data usage prevents both buyers and sellers from getting a clear read on what is driving campaign results, whether it’s the target, the creative, and/or media placement. So as the industry blazes full steam ahead, here are some fresh thoughts on how to apply the one audience data theory across the entire TV advertising lifecycle.

Research: Do you know the household behind the glass?

Knowing your audience is critical. And researching the types of people who consume certain content isn’t a new concept. What is new? An increase in the volume and type of data available and the ability for it to be actioned at the household level for planning and targeting. As part of the data revolution, it’s key for brands to ensure that the data they are using for research is in-depth, channel-agnostic and able to be actioned on.

Know your audience’s lifestyle, behaviors and preferences precisely, including media usage so you can plan across channels and partners accordingly. For example, MRI-Simmons’ proprietary insights from our recent Cord Evolution Study shows that viewing habits are shifting rapidly. Since 2016, consumers say they have doubled the percentage of time spent on time-shifted streaming content, moving from 21% to 41% respectively. In fact, it’s the number one way people are consuming TV shows, with live traditional cord viewing taking a distant second then followed by DVR/VOD and finally, live streaming. By understanding how and where specific audiences place their attention, you can ensure you’re building a cross-media strategy with dollars allocated appropriately, especially key to driving incremental results. The right data can also take you from a high-level segmentation to helping you truly personify – and target – at the household level.

Activation & Identity: Kick the match rate addiction and focus on your target.

A key step in the audience activation process is being able to make these targets portable so they connect to key media partner destinations. Unfortunately, over the course of the last decade, many marketers have developed a match rate addiction, believing that higher match rates simply mean better since reach has been the driving KPI.

First, high match rates don’t necessarily mean high *quality* match rates. Some organizations use fuzzy matching logic, and others have better or worse matching algorithms in general. One way to evaluate match integrity is to look at an audience you understand. For example, if you were to select an audience of people “likely to be in-market for a Lamborghini” and there were 50 million matches, you would (or should) be suspicious. At first blush it’s exciting to see that there is a scalable audience. But quickly, you know something’s up as it’s unlikely 1 in 5 people are in-market for a $250k vehicle.

Match rates are important, but the accuracy of the match is also something we need to discuss.  Marketers need to understand the accuracy of the match so they can balance between reach and accuracy in order to drive their goals. Match rate alone cannot give you this.

Determine how you are evaluating match rate and quality within your organization.  Start by determining what you know about the target audience you are trying to match.  Then instead of just looking at the match rate, look at the profile of who was matched.  Does it align with what you know from the source data, or in some cases common sense, or was it biased/distorted by the match? For example is it underrepresenting a certain group?  Validating your match is key to guiding how you use the matched data.

With a one audience strategy focused on data integrity and not just vanity match rates, marketing teams can optimize the data they use across channels, including TV, CTV, social and digital.

Taking an apples-to-apples approach to measurement.

Historically, measurement has reported on a campaign’s reach and frequency against particular age and gender demos. But now that audience targeting is no longer two dimensional, shouldn’t measurement be in 3D too? For example, if you’re targeting an exact audience such as “lapsed customers in the past 6 months”, you should understand the reach and frequency of this target, not a general proxy. Better yet, you should aim to link the online and offline actions of your exposed audience to truly understand ROAS.

Both buyers and sellers should consider elevating their measurement strategy to use the same audience data for post-campaign measurement as was utilized upstream during the research, planning and activation steps. A true people-based approach with consistent targeting data opens the door to linking business outcomes back to your target audience. And a one audience approach becomes even more compelling if this ingredient can be brought into clean rooms, which the industry, including buyers, sellers and linkage providers, are doubling down on. This means the data can safely be connected to other critical first- and third-party data sources for next level insights.

Data Quality: It’s time to Marie Kondo your data strategy.

If data is key to navigating today’s convergent TV landscape and executing a one audience strategy, then data quality is the must-watch prequel.

So, ask yourself, “Does my data spark joy?”. Didn’t think so. The KonMari method of decluttering took the world by storm the moment Marie Kondo’s series hit Netflix. Not because people love cleaning their houses, but because viewers were inspired to take a look around and decide, “It’s time for better.”

Buyers and sellers must have this mindset when choosing data for their data-driven TV strategies. It’s not necessarily about more data, it’s about better data. Data that comes from a reputable, privacy-compliant source. Data that is fresh and reflects modern consumer behaviors, preferences and lifestyles. Data that is also unbiased with proper representation of the nation’s society across age, gender, income, ethnicity, education and more.

Create an internal data quality scorecard. Weigh the importance of various data quality factors based on your unique business and goals. Factors to consider include source type, scale, freshness, uniqueness, depth of insights, accurate representation, historic performance, ability to activate across channels, consumer opt-in, and privacy compliance. These scorecards should not be used solely upon initial evaluation. They should be reviewed as part of a regular practice as changes can happen rapidly. Just think about how privacy regulations are changing across the globe to understand why your scorecard must evolve over time.

One Audience, Lots of Opportunities

Nailing the right TV strategy can feel overwhelming. By leaning in and starting with one audience you can help shape TV advertising’s data revolution. This approach can accelerate learnings and drive the true campaign and business results marketers are striving for.

About the Author

As Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Business Development, Josh Pisano plays a pivotal role in the continuous evolution of MRI-Simmons’ product portfolio. With a heavy background in technology, and over two decades of experience in media and marketing, Pisano conceptualizes and builds solutions that expand MRI-Simmons’ consumer truth set beyond traditional use cases and into key growth areas like advanced advertising and digital / programmatic activation.

In 2019, Pisano launched ACT, MRI-Simmons’ digital activation solution. Since then, he has prioritized making MRI-Simmons data seamlessly available in all environments, while maintaining the high-quality, representative and privacy-compliant data assets the brand is known for.