Deeper Dive—Data Plus Math plots a path for attribution in TV advertising

Attribution hasn’t always been the strongest means of measuring TV advertising effectiveness. But recent deals for Data Plus Math signal a shift in the linear advertising world.

This week, Data Plus Math, a neutral third-party ad measurement firm, announced a partnership with Comcast-owned ad network FreeWheel to build a cross-screen TV/video media solution optimized on attribution. The solution will give FreeWheel clients a way to determine the best mix of TV and video channels needed to achieve desired ad campaign outcomes and a way to measure incremental impact of TV, VOD and OTT advertising on overall ad campaigns.

Also this week, Data Plus Math expanded its agreement with NBCUniversal to wrap linear TV, VOD, addressable and OTT inventory into measuring actual business outcomes for marketers.

These deals demonstrate that attribution, a key measurement for digital advertising, is becoming more important for gauging the effectiveness of TV and video advertising. Data Plus Math CEO John Hoctor said it shows how far attribution has come.

Companies used to measure business outcomes like sales, foot traffic and website visits by just observing how they changed while ads were running on television. Hoctor said that way of measuring was the equivalent of using a “very dull tool.”

Another way of measuring effectiveness was to compare ad schedules with fluctuations in call volume or web visits. Hoctor said that’s something that the direct response ad industry has done for many years, but he said time-correlated outcomes don’t work as well today in TV when so many viewers are watching either on a time-shifted or on-demand basis.

Hoctor said Data Plus Math has changed how attribution is done within video advertising by introducing anonymous household exposure data with outcome data including web traffic/visitation data, foot traffic data, first-party data from advertisers, auto registration data and more.

“With this approach, we can match up exposures that happen anytime during a campaign with outcomes that happen anytime during that campaign,” Hoctor said.

For example, he said if a household sees ads for a restaurant three times in one week and then visits that restaurant the following week, Data Plus Math can look back and show that the household was exposed three times while showing which networks, programs and specific ad creative were being viewed when the exposure occurred. The data would also show whether the household saw the ad on linear, on-demand or OTT.

Data Plus Math then runs a machine learning program on top of that data to determine how credit for that outcome should be properly distributed among channels and programs. Hoctor said this allows TV advertising to better compete with digital in terms of showing marketers ROI on a more granular level, which can benefit both buyers and sellers.

“We have a firm belief that TV is actually undervalued and undercredited today,” said Hoctor. “Both sides, if they shine a light on the value that TV’s driving, there’s a really good story.”

With attribution on the rise for measuring effectiveness in TV advertising, Hoctor sees a new trend emerging around TV attribution shifting away from acting like a report card and more toward functioning as a business partnership. He wants sellers and their clients to possess more agency around optimizing campaigns by giving them a platform to monitor and make changes to campaigns.

“It’s not just about when a campaign is over, reporting ‘Hey, look how great we are,’” said Hoctor. “It’s measuring this stuff in-flight and providing those insights back to the buyer. In that way you’re really partnering on driving outcomes rather than just reporting after it’s over and done with. That’s where this has to go.”