Demand for convenience hasn’t just eroded the barriers between online and offline channels – it has flattened them. Consumers want to engage with brands, make purchases and perform other types of transactions through whichever channel suits them, whenever the need arises. And nothing less will do.

This shift in consumer behaviour has changed more than just the variety of omni-channel experiences brands provide; it has also transformed the way marketing campaigns are executed and measured. To make an impact, brands need to engage consumers across a growing number of channels, which means bigger budgets and therefore greater accountability.

Although digital advertising’s 50% share of the market has not diminished the attraction of TV ads — TV spend is expected to hit £20 billion this year — the difficulty of measuring their immediate impact has long been a problem. While TV enables marketers to reach vast audiences in a single slot, its effect on digital engagement has historically been harder to measure.

Simply tracking gross rating points (GRPs) or Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) viewer ratings to quantify how many people saw your TV ad is no longer enough. Creating a complete picture of performance now means connecting the dots between TV advertising and digital responses. So how can marketers attribute the same standard of accountability to TV as the digital world? Step forward, TV attribution.

The big picture

Media mix modelling (MMM) has long been the de facto standard for evaluating return on advertising investment across all of a brand’s marketing channels, including TV. But these traditional models only capture the long-term impact of TV at an aggregate level, and must be augmented with short-term impact analysis to truly understand holistic performance.

For example, if a retailer were to run a TV ad during a primetime show — such as The Champions League final or The X-Factor — and detect a simultaneous rise in website visits, how could they be sure the two were connected? Such lack of clarity into TV’s immediate impact on site visits and other digital responses significantly hampers marketing investment decisions. Fortunately, the issue can be resolved with more modern TV attribution models. These models not only help marketers understand the influence their TV ads have on digital consumer behaviour, but also which specific aspects of their TV ads trigger the greatest response.

Different models

So what do TV attribution models actually do? The short answer is that they quantify the impact of TV ads on digital responses that occur within minutes, hours or days of a spot airing. The long answer is a little more complex.

The most accurate TV attribution models apply a multi-dimensional, algorithmic approach, which looks at historic, granular-level TV impression data (network, geography, spot length, etc.), along with digital response data (website views, content downloads, store locator searches, etc.) to determine an accurate baseline of digital response activity. Each time the model runs, it calculates the incremental lift over baseline driven by a TV ad on a desired digital response.

A sophisticated model will be able to tease out the causal impact of each TV spot regardless of constant TV ads running in market. The result is a granular view of the impact that each dimension of TV has on desired digital actions, so marketers can make more informed optimisation decisions.

Connecting the dots

TV advertising is used almost exclusively for branding purposes. With the exception of direct response TV advertisers or those with extremely short sales cycles, most brands don’t expect a sale or other downstream conversion to occur within minutes, hours or days after a consumer sees a commercial. Rather, the more immediate response will likely be some form of digital engagement with a brand, such as a website visit, video view, quote request, etc.

Since those who engage more correlate with those who buy more, the ability to measure and optimise TV buys to maximise digital brand engagement becomes essential. Accurate TV attribution takes the guesswork out of determining which combination of tactics (network, daypart, region, etc.) will drive the greatest digital response, so marketers can allocate their TV budget and optimise their creative rotation more effectively moving forward.

As consumers increasingly expect brand experiences to move with their needs, marketing budgets are stretching further than ever before. Marketing attribution is now essential to optimise spend and ensure each channel is used effectively both in isolation, as well as part of campaigns as a whole. With TV still accounting for a significant portion of marketing spend, it is vital that marketers gain an accurate view of the role TV plays in their omni-channel strategy. By implementing the right TV attribution model, marketers can connect the dots between TV ads, digital responses, and tangible results.