The Struggle is Real-Time for TV Networks

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Contributed by Matt Naeger, SVP, Client Partner, Merkle & Andy Fisher, Chief Analytics Officer, Merkle

TV Networks have been at a marketing disadvantage for decades compared to other industries. The digital world has brought about the ability for brands in retail, financial services, healthcare, and others to reach and advertise to consumers in a measurable manner. Using retail as an example, if Target sends an email that drives a customer to coupons in its Cartwheel app, the consumer opens, clicks, and loads the coupon, then goes to the store and makes a purchase with that coupon from the mobile app. The retailer owns that data, and the customer is known throughout the journey. If a retailer decided to test different offers in that email to its customers, the response on each offer could be measured and then a new, optimized offer could be incorporated in the next email send. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward process. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple for a TV network trying to drive tune-in for its shows.

It is difficult to measure how campaign tactics drive TV tune-in. But it’s even harder to build operational approaches that allow for networks to optimize their tune-in strategies and then act on the resulting analytics. At its core, optimization requires a culture that spans across a marketing organization’s processes and the ability to make insight-based decisions rapidly.

The measurement of a TV network’s email effectiveness and optimization process often looks more like this: A network drops an email for the fall season one week before the season starts, then does some A/B testing (which in itself is difficult to conduct). A month later, the network gets back the results. The network is left holding the results of a test without an opportunity to apply them to a next step.

Many people may say that the problem can be blamed on evolving technology and the network’s inability to quickly access viewership data. While those have significant impact, they don’t tell the entire story. The typical TV network marketing department is accustomed to spending a great deal of time researching, planning, and creating campaigns, then they simply release into market and wait. It’s true, the measurement component of a campaign is hard, but when optimization isn’t embedded in the existing culture, it leaves companies with a compounded challenge: how to optimize in-market campaigns.

Despite these real challenges, some TV networks have begun successfully measuring and optimizing campaigns. Those who are achieving and working toward this goal are gaining competitive advantage as a result. Feature film is also starting to find a way around the challenges of measurement and optimization. For example, if you’re promoting a theatrical release, the majority of the campaign has already occurred by the time opening weekend starts. How would you optimize and potentially pivot your strategy based on learnings mid-flight, before you have even sold a single ticket? You would have to measure audience response, buzz, and social sharing — and also be able to associate these behavioral patterns with the actual box office sales. It involves a lot of data, analytics, and experience-based insights. It’s quite a process, but one that has the potential to offer opportunities to respond quickly and nimbly to campaign initiatives, leaving the door open for optimization.

Today, marketing for TV networks and media and entertainment companies is becoming less about big brand campaigns and more about direct-response marketing. Gone are the days when broad-reach demographics were enough to make a tune-in campaign a success. CMOs are savvier than ever and have been heavily exposed to the targeting, measurement, and optimization potential that serves other industries. As a result, marketing optimization, along with the company’s ability to adopt it, is going to play a significant role in a network’s success going forward.

To learn more, attend Matt’s Advertising Week session, “We Have Arrived: How the Convergence of Data & Media Changes Everything,” on Monday, September 26th at 4:15 p.m. at The Bing Stage at 11 Times Square.

About the Authors

Matt Naeger, SVP, Client Partner, Merkle

Matt brings nearly 20 years of experience in direct marketing and advertising industries, both online and offline, to his role at Merkle. Matt helps clients identify new ways to utilize data to drive the decision making processes behind their online marketing programs and build better user experiences on the web. He has been instrumental in establishing Merkle as a recognized leader in the digital space through his writing and speaking engagements. Matt is currently applying his efforts to support our work for HBO NOW and Key Bank.

Andy Fisher, Chief Analytics Officer, Merkle

Andys ‘primary responsibility is driving Merkle analytics innovation, especially in digital, social and media analytics areas. Prior to joining Merkle, Andy was the EVP, Global Data & Analytics Director at Starcom MediaVest Group where he led the SMG global analytics practice. In this role he built and managed a team of 150 analytics professionals across 17 countries servicing many of the world’s largest advertisers. Prior to that role, Andy was Vice President and National Lead, Analytics at Razorfish, where he led the digital analytics practice and managed a team of modeling, media data, survey and business intelligence experts. He and his team were responsible for some of the first innovations in multi-touchpoint attribution and joining online/offline data for many of the Fortune 100. Andy has also help leadership positions at Personify and IRI. Andy is an avid traveler having visited more than 100 countries. He also follows the chess world and is the former US high school chess champion. Andy holds a BA in mathematics from UC Berkeley and an MA in statistics from Stanford.

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