Recently, there’s been a lot of debate surrounding the long-awaited debut of Target Rating Points (TRPs) into the online world, courtesy of Nielsen’s Campaign Ratings, which seek to validate impression delivery by age and sex. On one side, there’s recognition that TRPs finally allow big brand TV advertisers a more apples-to-apples comparison between offline and digital metrics. Dissenters, on the other hand, argue that TRPs are a lazy metric, given the abundance of superior online measures already available.
Arguments aside, there’s no doubt that the introduction of online TRPs is a major step to bridging the gap between the estimated $60 billion spent on TV advertising and the $2 billion spent on online video advertising.
But what do online TRPs really mean to big-brand TV advertisers? And more specifically, how should smart marketers be thinking about extending the reach of their TV buys with online video? Here are four thought starters:
1. The aperitif: Simply adding video TRPs “over-the-top” of TV schedules
Advancements in cross-platform measurement, namely Nielsen’s Fusion panel, which reports on both a user’s TV & online consumption, mean that advertisers now have the tools to plan their video holistically. The key is the ability to de-dupe audience across platform, understand unique reach and frequency, and even begin to ascertain the most efficient mix in driving cost per incremental reach point — for example, identifying places in the TV schedule where adding online video best delivers “fresh” reach (i.e., light TV viewers) vs. building frequency (i.e., heavy TV viewers).
2. The starter: Using online video to “fill-in” TV schedules
This is where it starts to get interesting. A number of TV measurement services, from Nielsen to Rentrak and TRA, are pushing the envelope on cross-platform targeting — with varying degrees of sophistication — by “matching” their TV audience measurement panels, in some cases almost 20 million households, online. At the low end, they offer advertisers an efficient way to accentuate key TV programming initiatives by targeting program-specific audiences online (e.g., CBS NFL or FOX “American Idol” viewers) at a fraction of the cost. At the mid level, they provide the ability to reach viewers potentially underexposed to the TV schedule (e.g., light TV viewers). But perhaps most tantalizingly of all, the matching of second-by-second set-top-box HH viewing online offers advertisers the opportunity to monitor potential TV underdelivery and make good their schedules via online video, in more-or-less real time. This is a step closer to finally fulfilling the promise of online video as a true TV extension.
3. The main course: Evolving beyond age/sex buying targets & using consumption targeting
Finally, to play devil’s advocate, what if the debate of “to TRP or not to TRP” is actually ignoring a far more fundamental question about the efficacy of the metric itself, particularly as a predictor of sales?
There’s an increasingly influential school of thought, led by, among others, TRA, Nielsen Catalina and David Poltrak of CBS, who argue that coveted TV age-sex buying targets are a poor indicator of actual purchase intent. Admittedly, this was primarily based on studies in the CPG category, but it stands to reason these findings might potentially be applicable elsewhere.
4. The dessert: Evolving data-driven buying to incorporate actual purchaser targeting
By stripping out any personable identifiable information, several data providers have been able to match scalable, real-world purchase databases online (e.g., Catalina shopper data from grocery loyalty cards and Polk automotive intenders from DMV registration). This allows advertisers to target segments based on their in-market purchase intent, modeled off previous buying history. To close the loop, and prove the veracity of the targeting approach, advertisers can simply extrapolate audience video exposure to offline sales as determined by the “source” database (i.e. Catalina & Polk). In essence, delivering the Holy Grail for marketers is the ability to directly correlate ad exposure to purchase.
TRPs and targeting might never look the same again.