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Last updated: May 13, 2019


It’s the most wonderful time of the year -- if you’re a TV ad buyer. Spring marks the annual upfront season, a series of events allowing TV industry executives to pitch ad space to buyers. It means flashy, “upfront” presentations served with a side of free food and drinks and wooing and schmoozing by networks in the hopes that advertisers will commit money to ads that will run in the next season.

But smart advertisers aren’t just focusing their ad dollars on shiny new objects. Smart buyers are also focused on the data and analytics that not only inform their buying decisions, but also help them meet their strategic objectives and deliver the largest return on investment (ROI).

Though its impact has shifted, TV is still the medium that represents the largest potential audience and can help brands extend reach in a targeted fashion and in a way that consumers know and trust. Even in today's increasingly digital world, a new report finds that TV will continue to beat digital video advertising spend through 2023.

But familiarity is not enough to justify budgets. For those holding the advertising purse strings, it's critical that they have viewing data to inform marketing efforts, including how to best reach specific targets in today's fragmented TV landscape. But effective measurement continues to prove challenging for marketers and advertisers across most platforms.

Measuring the success of ads and identifying the right-time insights to improve the ROI of a spend has never been easy, even when most marketing was limited to a few TV networks, radio and newspapers. The challenge has only grown with the explosion of TV networks, satellite radio, digital advertising, email, social networks and the countless other modern-day distractions competing for customers’ attention.

In other words, marketing measurement is more important now than ever before, especially as ad buyers face unprecedented pressure to justify spending.

Strategic planning and the importance of analytics

While the options have increased, the fundamentals remain the same. Before spending money, ad buyers should develop a media strategy to guide them toward success, including:

• Determining overall marketing objectives and goals

• Identifying the target market

• Considering the budget

• Learning from previous results

Today’s media strategy relies on a cycle informed by previous measurement results and made smarter as it is fed more data each year. Historically, ad buyers would spend large sums of money on ad placements based on intuition (for example, buying networks and shows simply because they were popular), without having any data or insights into whether these spots would work for them.

Today, this has changed dramatically. Marketers certainly have access to data, and its proper analysis is key to their success. Consumers have become highly selective when choosing the branded media they engage with and the media they ignore. If brands want to catch their ideal buyer’s attention, they must rely on rich analytics to create targeted personal ads based on individual interests, rather than broader demographic associations. This allows teams to serve the right ad, at the right time and on the right network to move consumers down the sales funnel.

The more digital TV becomes, the more access advertisers have to real-time insights -- the real gift of marketing measurement. Real-time insights provide marketers with in-campaign performance results, allowing them to adjust and optimize campaigns in-flight, even as the campaign airs. But many advertisers have not yet adjusted their buying strategies to deliver the campaign flexibility needed to realize these financial opportunities.

When it comes to marketing spend, executive leadership is looking to deliver results today, not three to six months from now. The ability to reallocate TV ad dollars to more efficient investments during the campaign is priceless -- and possible -- with effective measurement tools.

For marketing professionals looking to make the transition to a modern unified measurement platform, there are several critical first steps to keep in mind:

• Get the right people at the table, and define their roles. Align key players, and get full buy-in to the effort early in the process. Make sure to include your creative, digital, media buying and any other agencies used to support your marketing efforts.

• Define success and how it will be measured. Have conversations about your company’s long-term goals and what success looks like for your team, and determine the metrics you’ll use to measure your progress. A unified measurement platform elevates measurement of investment value to meaningful business outcomes like sales, revenue and shareholder value.

• Identify key data sets across the company and agencies. Map out the data gathered in the disparate parts of your business with an eye toward bringing them all into a unified measurement solution.

• Focus on data quality and flow. No matter the method of attribution, bad data quality renders it useless. Incomplete, inaccurate or old data can drive decisions that cost marketers not only dollars, but brand strength and customer loyalty.

In today's changing landscape, TV is not going anywhere anytime soon and neither are the advertising opportunities they beget. In fact, TV is the medium that ranks highest for its “ability to build an emotional connection with a brand,” regardless of the volume of cord-cutters and digital ad spending. TV is evolving, and advertisers must evolve their strategies in tandem to ensure they’re leveraging the right measurement tools and data, so they can plan to be wined and dined during the next annual upfront season.

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Written by Rex Briggs