“It has never been easy to measure audiences, and it has gotten much trickier as the audience has become more fragmented and has drifted off into multi-tasking,” said Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) President Scott McDonald to open the ARF Audience 2017 Measurement conference in New Jersey on Monday.

For advertisers in an era of digital television distribution, it’s more challenging than ever to determine the right combination of platforms to best deliver their message. How exactly are audience segments going to be defined and then measured in comparable ways?

While there is no simple answer at the moment, one current myth that is about to be busted, according to CBS and Nielsen, is the common consensus that the digital platform currently offers the best experience for an advertiser.

“Television and digital should be designed to complement and support each other,” noted David Poltrack, CFO, CBS Corporation; President, CBS VISION, at a session alongside Leslie Wood, CRO, Nielsen Catalina Solutions highlighting the findings of a collaborative project of the television/digital landscape. “But I think the perception out there is that, somehow, television is missing some audience that digital is going to generate. That is simply not true.”

In an analysis of an estimated 843 different advertising campaigns on a cross-platform reach basis (based on the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017), the average television component based on reach and frequency delivered 58 percent reach against target. The average digital results were only 2 percent against target.

After eliminating the bottom 40 percent of the campaign in terms of volume to further assess television versus digital, the television reach increases to 70 percent. Digital also improves, but only to 6 percent. And, based on the top 20 percent percent, television’s reach is 81 percent versus digital’s 21 percent.

“Digital is not contributing more reach to TV,” noted Nielsen’s Wood. “What digital is doing is adding audiences that are already watching TV. It is not a different group of people, and I think there is a perception that the people that are using digital aren’t watching TV.”

“Most people give television the reach advantage but they give digital the target advantage,” added Poltrack. “But you have to remember that the biggest users of primetime television are large families who purchase a lot of goods and tend to over-index on most against primetime. By just buying television, the probability is you are going to get over a 100 index in most product categories.”

Also according to the study, 80 percent of TV advertiser campaigns are said to be on-target versus only 31 percent for digital. Digital ads are considered more inconsistent than television. And for large cross-media campaigns, reach still comes primarily from television.

“The best advertising campaigns understand the consumers’ buying patterns,” said Poltrack. “And the most effective ones are timed within 48 hours of an anticipated purchase occasion. If you have both, there will be a greater effectiveness in the campaign.”


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