Attribution, or the ability to tie ad exposure to a marketer’s goals—including store visits, brand lift and even sales—has long been a staple of digital, search and social ad campaigns. But that has changed dramatically over the past several years as the evolving dynamics of the television industry have led to increased investment and adoption of attribution in what is still the most effective medium in the world.
A leading driver of this shift is WarnerMedia, now a part of AT&T, having introduced new products and solutions more than half a decade ago that pushed clients to move beyond just buying on age and gender to real audience segments that matter more to them: millennials that play soccer, new mothers in the market for compact SUVs, taco-loving dads and so on.
Dan Aversano, WarnerMedia Ad Sales’ SVP of ad innovation and programmatic solutions, has been at the forefront of the company’s efforts in this space. Ad exposure is one thing, he says, but it’s not the only thing. There are a lot of benefits to television advertising, traditionally just known as an upper-funnel part of a media plan, that have gone unmeasured. Through WarnerMedia’s partnership with AT&T sister company Xandr, the company is creating new ways for clients to truly understand how their ad dollars are working through the entire marketing funnel.
So, why TV attribution now?
Attribution is not exactly a new concept. Marketers have been chasing the perfect attribution model since the John Wanamaker days. It is such a hot topic today because we are finally in a position where we have the right data, integrated in the right ways, so that we can start to actually understand how media drives consumers’ perceptions and actions.
That is a huge reason why our work with Xandr is so exciting: We are able to accelerate a lot of the work that WarnerMedia has done over the past half-decade in the precision marketing space with insights from AT&T’s 170 million consumer touchpoints.
Is attribution in TV for everyone? How does it work?
Yes, absolutely. Everyone should be using some form of attribution for their TV investments. And not just for TV, but for all of the investments driving their brand. The only reason why a marketer wouldn’t do it is if they can’t do it.
So, how do you do it and why is it so hard?
It starts with insights, ones that outline exposure to marketing messages and activities. Then you also need insights on the behavior or impact you are trying to measure.
For example, if you are an auto manufacturer, you need to know about who is seeing your commercials on TV, your display ads on their desktop, your mobile video ads on their phone, and even what direct mail campaigns they are receiving or not. That marketer would also want to know things like who is walking into their various dealerships and, more important, when.
Marketers now have access to much of this data from information they are collecting through their own data management platforms, through partners like WarnerMedia and its unique collaboration with Xandr, and also from trusted third-party vendors who license data, like set-top box data, and offer digital tagging solutions.
Once all matched together (and ensuring privacy compliance, of course), the auto manufacturer has an understanding of who saw their ads, when they did and, through some fancy math, if it caused an action—whether they stepped into a dealership or visited their website.
Believe it or not, the analytics are the easy part here. Getting access to the right insights for your business is the hard part.
Attribution in television is still nascent and is not one-size-fits-all
- Rather than sticking with just a traditional television schedule, The Clorox Company more efficiently realized incremental sales when optimizing TV investments using relevant audiences.
- A major auto manufacturer saw a 6.5 percent lift in dealership visits after running an optimized TV campaign, powered by Xandr’s insights.
- An insurance company increased search engagement by 26 percent over a traditional TV campaign.
- A pharmaceutical company generated a 7 percent increase in conversions compared with a traditional TV campaign, and also drove 56 percent more search engagement through audience-based campaigns running on WarnerMedia’s networks compared with competitive networks.
Have these methodologies been proven to be accurate?
Yes, we’ve proven time and again the efficacy of these new attribution models. Many of these methodologies are similar to those used by trusted third-party vendors and even many advertisers’ in-house analytics teams. The big differentiator here is our ability to use our data from over 170 million AT&T consumer touchpoints, in a privacy-compliant manner.
There have also been some other benefits we’ve come across as we’ve evolved our capabilities and studied the effects of various campaigns. For example, we’ve been able to understand with more nuance how the creative and messaging decisions within an ad have an impact on performance. Does “available for a limited time” really create a sense of urgency for consumers to take action, and to what extent?
Another great insight we’ve been able to learn and share with clients has been how targeted schedules perform as a complement to demo schedules, as opposed to one versus the other. This is important because a successful media mix will involve a number of tactics. Understanding how one affects the other is vital for marketers to efficiently manage their investments.
Have there been some early results to show the impact?
We have begun using this new capability in a few different ways. First, we wanted to begin showing the value of video advertising. And time and time again the data proves that premium video advertising works. I don’t think anyone is surprised by that, but believe it or not, it has been very difficult to verify that on a campaign by campaign basis using solid data.
Second, we have really put a stake in the ground proving that advanced TV works. When you use insights to put the right ad in front of a more relevant audience for a marketer, it works even harder for the advertiser and delivers more impact for the brand.
Our sales team quickly identified a great partnership opportunity with Mediahub and their client Chipotle to innovate around different ways to measure TV campaigns.
After some initial testing—including a first-ever sales lift deal late last year—we were in market earlier this year for another audience-based campaign powered by Xandr’s insights, which specifically looked to optimize for increased foot traffic to their restaurants compared with what a traditional TV schedule would drive.
Not only did the campaign increase visits to Chipotle’s locations, but the level of engagement between the WarnerMedia teams, the Chipotle marketing team and Mediahub was remarkable in and of itself. This kind of trust and collaboration is critical to making these much-needed innovations work.
Are there any specific challenges preventing this from becoming the normal course of business?
Right now, we are focused on building scale. We’ve organized the data and cleaned it. We’ve built the models and mathematics. Now we are focused on scaling. For the categories where we have great data—auto, QSR, insurance, among others—we are working on automation of the models. By the end of this year, we will be at full scale there. We plan on using the advanced attribution capabilities across the board. For other categories, like movie studios and consumer packaged goods, it’s more about how to get rights to additional data sets so we can measure sales for them. Those conversations are under way.
What is the value of TV attribution for publishers like WarnerMedia?
We know video advertising works. We know that premium video advertising really works. But the value for us is in using these insights to make better decisions. We are quickly getting to a point where can consistently use attribution insights from a brand’s previous campaign to optimize future ones. That’s where there is real value, where we can help advertisers increase the impact of the investments they are making with us.