TV Upfront

A&E Networks will guarantee TV ads drive business results

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(From l.) Chloe shows her mom Christi and fellow dance Maddie her new routine on 'Dance Moms' on Lifetime, part of A&E Networks.
(From l.) Chloe shows her mom Christi and fellow dance Maddie her new routine on 'Dance Moms' on Lifetime, part of A&E Networks. Credit: Scott Gries/A&E Television Networks

In an effort to better compete with digital behemoths like Facebook and Google, TV networks have been on a mission to prove TV commercials drive business results like a test drive of a car or downloading a coupon.

Now A&E Networks will guarantee these outcomes for advertisers during the TV upfronts.

A&E Networks, whose networks include Lifetime and History, conducted several tests over the past six months on a model to attribute results to ads that was created by analytics firm Data Plus Math. It is also working with data providers such as Nielsen Catalina and iSpot.TV.

"Initially, I thought we would be going into the upfront doing more testing, but what we got back makes us feel stronger," says Peter Olsen, exec VP of national ad sales, A&E Networks.

In addition to A&E Network, TV companies including AMC Networks and Discovery have started testing the Data Plus Math attribution model. A&E is the first to come out and say it will use it set guarantees.

Olsen expects to do fewer than 10 deals with outcome-based guarantees during this year's upfronts, but says in time they will become a significant part of how the company does business.

While A&E is certainly not abandoning tradtional Nielsen ratings guarantees, for certain clients' campaigns, attribution will become the primary guarantee, he says.

This moves beyond the audience targeting that's been the focus for TV networks over the last few years. Instead of simply guaranteeing delivery to a very specific audience—households with an income of $100,000 and in the market to buy a car—the attribution guarantee is intended to assure brands that their buys will actually produce a business result.

"Strategic target guarantees are a nice step, but we believe that outcomes are what matter most to our clients who are under increasing pressure to prove the effectiveness of their media spend," Olsen said in a statement.

Currently, Olsen says Data Plus Math is furthest along in measuring foot traffic at retail locations and car dealerships and website traffic. And for certain categories like auto, retail, quick-service restaurants, and anything where a client is looking to drive people to a website, he is confident they can offer guarantees on those outcomes.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that NBC Universal would also be measuring how TV delivers brands' business outcomes using iSpot.TV. But it is not going so far as to sell against these business outcomes just yet.

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