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TV Networks Move Forward With New Attribution Model

By Published on .

'Thor: Ragnarok.' The TV industry has given the name 'Thor' to its attempt to better prove its results for advertisers.
'Thor: Ragnarok.' The TV industry has given the name 'Thor' to its attempt to better prove its results for advertisers. Credit: Marvel Entertainment via YouTube

TV networks are moving forward with developing a standardized method for proving commercials drive business results.

Code-named Thor, the methodology developed by the analytics company Data Plus Math will be tested by A&E Networks, AMC Networks, Fox News, Disney-ABC TV Group and Discovery Communications among others.

The Googles and Facebooks of the world have long been able to prove so-called last click attribution, meaning someone saw their ad and then took an action. Since watching a TV commercial typically happens earlier in the funnel, networks have had trouble proving commercial exposure leads a consumer to take action.

"Facebook and Google have been taking credit for a lot of the hard work we do upstream in educating people on brands," says Mel Berning, chief revenue officer, A&E Networks. With Thor, the goal is to provide new common lift metrics across traditional linear TV as well as on-demand and digital platforms.

These efforts were first announced in October, when top ad sales executives from most major TV networks groups sat down together at a meeting hosted by the Video Advertising Bureau to discuss a way to prove commercials led to specific actions, whether that be purchasing an item, visiting a website or test driving a car.

There's a low barrier of entry to test Data Plus Math's method, according to people familiar with the situation, requiring little to no technology investment and a modest fee.

Within the next few weeks, participating networks will be taking the model out to marketers and run attribution analytics for a variety of ad categories to see what works.

AMC Networks has already lined up a client to test the methodology, says Scott Collins, president of advertising sales. And Discovery Communications will do a test with a few clients in the first quarter, says Ben Price, president of national ad sales.

The goal is to have some results in time to include the attribution model as part of the annual upfront haggle in the spring, both Collins and Price say.

And moving forward, Price expects there will be at least of segment of Discovery's business that will be negotiated based on business outcomes.

Data Plus Math's solution uses data from set-top boxes, smart TVs and over-the-top platforms combined with machine learning techniques to essentially "learn" the connection between multi-screen TV exposures and customer sales or conversions.

Thor is one of several efforts by TV networks to work together to help fix issues surrounding TV advertising, including the inability to measure across all platforms and devices where consumers are watching content.

Turner, Fox and Viacom are also working together to standardize audience targeting on TV through OpenAP, but the consortium has yet to gain traction among other networks. The biggest obstacle according to network executives is the cost of entry and the need to upgrade internal technologies to be compatible with OpenAP's system, which can be costly.

And early this week NBC Universal gathered top executives from rival networks, media agencies, marketers and digital advertisers for a powwow to discuss the biggest issues plaguing the industry. Leaders from Fox Networks Group, Google and Twitter discussed problems with measurement, ad creative and commercial format, but those in attendance criticized there was no clear game plan regarding next steps to tackle these issues.

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