TV Attribution: Measuring the Impact of Television Advertising 

Have you ever wondered just how effective TV advertising is? When the topic of TV commercials is raised, most people think of multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads that are water cooler topics of discussion the following Monday. What people rarely discuss is whether TV ads make the intended impact.

TV attribution helps business owners and advertisers better understand the actual impact of TV commercials. If you are on the fence as to whether TV commercials are worth it, consider the extent to which such ads are tracked and evaluated as detailed below.

Consider the Context

The impact of an ad shown during a nationwide sports event or another nationwide broadcast will be significantly greater than that of an ad that airs locally. Though businesses can monitor sales before and after the airing of a commercial, TV ratings also help tell the truth about TV commercial success or lack thereof.

If your business is regional or runs nationwide ads, consider using customized segments for market comparison purposes. Such analysis is also effective for businesses that air ads in different towns, villages, etc. Run your TV ads in the selected markets, establish the audience segments tracking in Google Analytics and conduct an initial test. 

Choose a market for test purposes. Set additional markets in areas where the commercial does not air. Such comparable markets serve as controls for the experiment. The ensuing data enables you to analyze changes in traffic to the website, search engine results and more, ultimately quantifying the spike in response to the ads airing in a specific market. This is the insight your business needs to strategically air commercials in unison with other components of a comprehensive inbound and outbound marketing campaign. 

Gauging the Real Impact of TV Commercials

Measuring the reach of a TV commercial requires more than the use of an analytics dashboard. Some businesses rely on professional ratings and consumer monitoring businesses such as Nielsen. The Nielsen scale tracks advertising figures in terms of the number of viewers tuned in at specific times. Nielsen and similar services use “people meter” systems that collect information about viewing audiences. 

Ratings services like Nielsen gauge what content is viewed, the point in time when viewers watch and the people viewing the content. Nielsen also tallies the number of people in tracked households watching TV. The Nielsen tracking service even collects information about viewer age, gender and location. However, it is the viewer count and viewer demographics that matter most to prospective advertisers. 

Measuring the ad’s actual effective reach requires analyzing the audience tuned into a specific network at a specific time. The percentage of the audience that watches the ad and the frequency of viewing determine the effective reach. There is an art to achieving a balance in airing frequency for optimal exposure that reminds viewers of the value proposition yet does not overpower them with the message.

Monitor Social Media and Search Volume

Present TV ads to the public in an incremental manner, gauge the ensuing response to your social media pages and you’ll have a better sense of which ads are most effective. Search social media platforms for your company’s name and the keywords you used in your ads in the aftermath of their airing to gauge the impact. 

Increases in comments, likes and followers after a commercial’s airing indicate there is meaningful interest in the brand. Combine the social media response rate with search volume statistics after each ad airs, use that data to develop insights and alter your TV ads accordingly. 

Be Mindful of TV Commercial Timing

Some TV ads take months or even longer to make a meaningful impact. Though the majority of those who see a TV commercial are most likely to search for more information about the company or move toward the top of the sales funnel soon after exposure, some take longer. 

The best TV commercials generate both short-term and long-term interest. When in doubt, space out your TV ads so you can accurately gauge their respective impact on the bottom line. Begin by tracking the “micro” impact of the initial TV ad in the form of:

  • Online traffic
  • App downloads
  • Calls
  • In-store foot traffic 

Next, transition to the “macro” impact of the ad across the months ahead. Recognize it might take weeks, months or longer for repeated airings of the ad to make a difference in customer interest. Track changes across the ensuing months to get a true sense of the commercial’s impact. Progress to the next ad, compare the results and strategically alter your advertising campaign as necessary.

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