Spot TV’s Attribution Improves, But Not At Digital Speed

Executives from NBC Spot On, Disney Advertising Sales, Publicis and Alphonso said attribution is getting better for both national and local spot TV with sectors like retails QSRs, auto, travel and beauty adopting it. The caveats: It’s still not as fast or scalable as digital, and new legislation may slow it down further.

Spot television is catching up with digital media when it comes to attribution — information showing how a commercial drives consumer actions like traffic in stores or on the web.  But local TV attribution lags digital in scale and speed. What’s more, new legislation tied to privacy issues could slow down the wheels of progress.

That’s according to a group of station, agency and technology executives who participated in TVNewsCheck’s webinar about attribution on Nov. 19.

On the positive side: “The attribution products of today have really changed,” said Shawn Makhijani, SVP of NBC Spot On and SVP of business development and strategy, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations. “You can seamlessly track spot viewing — perhaps to a web visit, a store visit, to finally a purchase — and then get that data back, easily sorted and come to conclusions.”

Makhijani noted that attribution has been available for years with direct response advertising. “I view us as being at the 2.0 version of attribution,” he said.

Adam Monaco, SVP, Disney Advertising Sales, local, said that attribution is available for campaigns at both the local and national spot levels, and ad sectors using it include retail, auto, quick service restaurants, travel and beauty brands.

As an example, Monaco referenced an attribution study his team recently conducted for a travel client. “We were a little concerned because some of the information that came back showed that one of their competitors, which was new to the space, was making some better offers that were resonating with consumers. But when we presented the information, [the client was] thrilled to have that, to see what they were doing well and what they were missing.”


In addition to helping their clients with attribution data, broadcasters are also using it themselves to understand tune-in promos’ effectiveness, said Chaitanya Upadhyay, VP Local Solutions at Alphonso. “They are using that as an effective ROI strategy for future campaigns,” he said.

Makhijani noted that with auto dealerships, “we’ve used it not just to say, ‘This is how your sales went up,’ but to educate them about what to buy” — in other words, what dayparts or shows will yield the best results.

Advertisers and agencies certainly appreciate the improvements that local stations and their tech providers are making with attribution, but there are some caveats to that. “From a local media perspective, we’ve seen an increase in interest and utilization of attribution,” said Tracy Chavez, EVP, director of investment operations for Publicis. However, she added, “It still has a long way to go within the local space to become more mainstream.”

There’s one piece that’s missing. “Within spot television, our trading practices are still not at the speed of digital,” Chavez said. “If I get results back from Chaitanya that things aren’t working for a specific daypart, for example, I have to go back out into the marketplace. If I have a market buy in 50 markets, I have to renegotiate that buy to move that inventory into a different daypart. And that could take a week.”

Because of that time lag, the idea that spot can offer attribution like digital “starts to fall apart,” Chavez added.

As broadcast stations and tech suppliers work to solve problems like that, they also face new legislation that’s aimed at protecting consumers’ privacy. That could impact the available information used for attribution.

Take, for example, the recently passed California Proposition 24, which limits the use of sensitive personal information.

Upadhyay noted that Alfonso is partnered with smart TV manufacturers that require consumers to opt-in to sharing personal information. And consumers are incentivized to do so because they get something back for their information, such as customized programming or picture-quality recommendations.

Regardless, “it’s a priority for us to make sure that we’re respecting the consumer and their privacy. But it will be more challenging to leverage third-party data,” said Disney’s Monaco, referring to the tighter privacy controls.

NBCU’s Makhijani said he agreed with Monaco. “But I’m a little less pessimistic. The one thing that’s amazed me, in all the time I’ve been involved with digital, is how well digital has been able to adapt to whatever legislation is put in front of it,” he said.

In the short term, Makhijani is more concerned about what Apple and Google are doing to block third-party cookies than he is about new legislation. “In the end, we’ll have to have a robust opt-in,” he said, stressing that it’s important the companies not to push the limits of privacy in order to avoid even stricter government rules.

Chavez pointed to a few areas where she hopes spot attribution will evolve. In addition to speed issue, there’s the matter of scale, the depth of markets where attribution is possible. Today, Alphonso is available to stations in 35 markets, and it picks up info on about 15% of TV households, on average. Upadhyay says Alphonso is working to improve that.

Chavez is also concerned about cable data integration. “We’ve talked a lot about broadcast, but not a lot about cable and where it fits in,” Chavez said. “We usually buy them together, so it’s about, ‘How do we get a holistic view of all video in one place?’ ”

Executives from NBC Spot On, Disney Advertising Sales, Publicis and Alphonso said attribution is getting better for both national and local spot TV with sectors like retails QSRs, auto, travel and beauty adopting it. The caveats: It’s… Click To Tweet

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