By John Brauer
Advertisers and marketers share a common goal: to understand the consumer path to purchase after seeing an ad or hearing about a brand. Factors ranging from the pandemic to increased options for consuming information and entertainment make achieving that goal more challenging than ever. At the same time, TV's technological evolution has enabled deeper insights into consumer journeys than were ever possible before and given brands the ability to influence purchase decisions throughout the journey with advanced targeting and addressable tactics.
For many years now (since 1898!), the funnel has been the "go-to" image advertisers and marketers use to visualize and think about how buyers move from awareness to action. Today, buyers live in a multimedia, personalized world that offers a growing number of new touchpoints — new devices and services through which viewers consume both entertainment and the information they use to make buying decisions.
To adapt to these changes effectively, advertisers and marketers need to shift their perceptions of the buyers they want to reach and how those buyers buy. Buyer journeys are now more diverse, multifaceted, and interconnected than can be captured by the traditional funnel model. Advertisers and marketers need to consider an expanded and updated view of the funnel, a view informed by comprehensive, unified, cross-platform impression measurement.
The classic "awareness-interest-desire-action" (AIDA) funnel model generally has led to each phase of the funnel being measured independently from the others. Now that more touchpoints are measurable using similar technologies, the industry has more reliable ways to align touchpoints with the choices buyers make on their journeys.
A marketer's ability to influence buyers' choices on their journeys starts with informing them about the offering, product, or service. Historically, television has always been the most influential medium for delivering advertising and branding messages to the masses. Today, TV has changed. To reach the masses, messages must appear everywhere people watch video. This means advertisers must embrace both linear TV and streaming. Reaching buyers as they journey from exposure and awareness to purchase now starts with measuring linear TV and streaming in a holistic, integrated way. Cross-platform, unified impression measurement is now essential.
Effectv has spent much of 2021 analyzing a combination of Comcast first-party insights and research from trusted partners to better understand streaming and linear TV. The following identifies some of the important differences between the two and why streaming should be part of any effective video advertising campaign. It also explains why streaming alone isn't enough, and how unified impression measurement can enable effective cross-screen attribution and more effective campaigns and strategies.
How People Watch Linear and Streaming Content
To understand why cross-platform measurement is so important, it is necessary to understand how consumers of video watch content today. Why? Because to reach buyers, an advertiser's messages need to appear where they spend their time. Here are some data points that show how viewership is changing.
- The March 2021 Nielsen Total Audience Report found that among viewers 18 years of age and older, 69 percent of video viewing time is spent with linear TV, while 31 percent is spent streaming.
- Effectv research found that among all streamers, more than 75 percent of streaming content is consumed via TV.
- In homes capable of having a streaming subscription, the same Nielsen report found that viewers spent 35 percent of their viewing time watching advertising-supported cable. Streaming accounts for 31 percent of that time, with 21 percent spent with broadcast TV.
- Per streaming meter data collected through Nielsen, 44 percent of time spent streaming in the first quarter of 2021 occurred with content or places such as Netflix where ads are not an option. As a result, streaming-capable households spent 222 percent more time with ad-supported linear TV than with ad-supported streaming.
Audiences have adapted their media consumption to this new and converged environment. Linear TV is still dominant for now, but streaming is definitely mainstream, which raises a question: Why does so much of the advertising industry continue to treat streaming and traditional linear television as separate strategies?
Linear Plus Streaming Equals Better Audience Reach
The reason why linear TV and streaming video are treated separately comes down to measurement. Streaming campaigns are measured based on the number of impressions delivered, often to an audience target defined more specifically than basic age and gender demographics. In contrast, TV is measured based on a ratings system that only gets as specific as age and gender information at best.
Ratings systems use sampled panels and statistics to approximate TV program viewership. When ratings systems were developed in the 1960s, these methods worked well to measure viewing of the three major networks. Viewership options have evolved into the rich, dynamic tapestry of compelling content across the hundreds of networks and streaming services viewers know and love today. However, the industry has continued to rely on ratings instead of ad impression delivery for estimating TV viewership. Even when TV and streaming are measured in the same way, advertising platforms often can't ascertain the unduplicated reach into an in-market audience across platforms.
To move advertising forward, the industry needs to modernize how it quantifies the value of TV. This means shifting the measuring stick for TV advertising from program ratings to advertising impressions.
Cross-Platform Measurement Delivers Results
This year, Effectv has created a single, unified pool of impressions. This pool combines ad server impression counts for streaming with ad impression counts for linear TV viewing within Comcast's footprint of millions of U.S. households.
Effectv has analyzed thousands of campaigns from thousands of advertisers. This effort has helped the company understand how streaming and traditional television combine to deliver audiences and results. Here are some of its findings.
- Linear remains critical to delivery of reach. For example, Effectv's analysis of more than 5,000 campaigns shows that, on average, 82 percent of exclusive reach came from linear TV.
- When campaigns allocated more than 40 percent of their TV budget to streaming, there were diminishing returns as the reach from TV is sacrificed for the frequency on streaming.
- Adjusting the mix of spend between linear and streaming optimizes the reach extension of streaming.
All these insights are made possible by a set of cross-platform data insights. Such insights enable planners to calibrate ad mixes to specific geographies and audiences.
The Bottom Line
Impression-level measurement of both linear and streaming options unlocks the ability to align more closely with more buyer journeys and convert measurement into outcomes.
TV and how viewers consume video content are changing and will continue to change. Converged, cross-platform measurement is essential if advertisers and marketers want to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their messages and investments. Such measurement also enables advertisers and marketers to translate viewership data insights into meaningful, profitable outcomes.
The need and desire to align with evolving buyer journeys means marketers and advertisers must shift their perceptions of those journeys. Impression-level, cross-platform measurement can enable and support that important shift.
About Author: John Brauer is the VP of insights and analytics at Effectv, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.