Special Edition: The problem with TV attribution

Welcome to a special edition of Marketing Blueprints. Today, we’re bringing you part of our recently published report, “Everything Wrong with TV Measurement.”  



Only 37% of TV advertisers say they’re very confident in their TV measurement.      

TV advertising’s been around since the 1940s. It’s one of the most iconic and visible forms of marketing. In fact, it’s the biggest offline channel by ad spend. So why is measuring its impact so difficult?  

Rewind a few decades, and TV was considered measurable.   

Nielsen placed monitoring boxes in households across the country to track viewing behavior. TV viewers recorded programs they watched in paper diaries, allowing Nielsen to extrapolate show ratings while estimating reach and frequency of ad campaigns.  

On the qualitative side, focus groups provided direct viewer feedback, and moderators gauged reactions to commercials through open discussions. Telephone surveys judged viewers’ ad recall.  

For retail products, marketers analyzed in-store traffic and sales data between test and control regions. Redemption rates of coupons featured in commercials indicated direct response levels.  

Clearly, none of this formed a perfect system. Self-reporting is inherently limited, and Nielsen’s paper diaries existed through years of criticism. Focus groups are expensive and must be conducted and interpreted carefully to gain real insights. Plus, it’s all a far cry from the advanced analytics that are table stakes for marketing attribution now.   

The birth of digital channels meant marketers could track user behavior at an unprecedented level of granularity. Impressions, clicks, and conversions were all definitively quantifiable. You could watch a buyer’s journey from ad exposure to final sale, raising expectations for data-driven measurement and making traditional TV measurement practices outdated in comparison. It’s why: 

  1. Half of TV advertisers say difficulty measuring TV has led them to invest more in other channels.

  2. Only 37% of TV advertisers say they’re very confident in their TV measurement.

  3. 45% of TV advertisers say either linear or CTV is the hardest channel to measure in their media mix. 

Still, how did we get to “TV can’t be measured”? And can we find our way back to feeling confident in our ability to prove the results TV drives?   

Download the free report at the link below for three ways advertisers can set their TV campaigns up for measurability. And, of course, profitability. 

Read the report.