TV Has an Identity Problem That Marketers Can No Longer Ignore

As consumers continue to watch TV and video across a growing number of devices and apps, brands know they must understand holistic reach and frequency across channels. As a result, traditional gross-rating points, single-channel measurement and small panel-based metrics no longer meet their customer data needs.

The rise of OTT has made the permeation of data across the TV industry clear, but the importance of identity in that equation is still ambiguous. What the buy and sell sides must understand is the pivotal role identity plays in solving persistent cross-screen measurement issues created by TV’s transition from set-top boxes to fragmented online platforms.

To be successful, a consistent and consented identity foundation must be established. This authenticated view of a household will enable measurement providers, marketers and media owners to accurately capture ad exposures across channels and platforms, including addressable.

How do marketers define the modern household?

The crux of the measurement conundrum is the lack of a consistent definition of one of TV’s most familiar concepts: the household. There is no common definition of what comprises a household and the people in it. Therefore, the industry must endlessly redefine and compromise on what specifies a household, leaving a brand’s ability to match data to this specific group complicated and inaccurate.

Take my household, for example. My husband’s name and email address are attached to all our streaming subscriptions, while I manage our cable and internet. Further complicating matters, our online and offline purchases are equally divided between us, and those could be attached to our personal or work emails.

In short, it’s messy, even in a household of just two people. To avoid further revenue lost to measurement missteps, data connectivity at the identity layer is needed to piece all this together.

Sorting out downstream problems

Any stakeholder who buys or sells TV inventory should care about downstream problems—not just the Media Ratings Council, which one can assume is unlikely to certify numerous versions of what accurately defines people and households.

Brands want to understand how to reach their most valuable prospects across screens, but this requires an authenticated data source. Without a standard definition for “household” across its agency, tech and platform partners, achieving a single view of the customer becomes difficult. This is especially important for CPG brands whose increasingly diversified product offerings make accurate measurement essential to understanding what channels drive specific sales.

The same goes for brands focused purely on reach and awareness. They must account for how OTT—in addition to linear—is adding reach to households in a deduplicated way. When households are counted differently, they cannot be measured accurately and frequency capping across channels is unachievable. Only a consistent, unified view of a household allows advertisers to see the full picture and manage investments accordingly.

The sell side faces similar hurdles that can be solved by a consistent identity. As more media owners join the likes of Fox, Disney, Roku and others in taking on cross-screen assets and expanding their addressable inventory offerings, they’ll look to count the credit for the reach and performance of their platform. They will maximize inventory through “true fluidity,” the better management of investments across all screens and properties. But to accomplish this, they will need a standard definition of household to strengthen inventory and capabilities to meet advertiser demands. Publishers, too, must be able to connect their own users to data in a way that is consistent and simplified to guarantee reach and impressions among strategic brand audiences.

The upfronts and beyond

As TV players approach a crucial planning period for the 2021 upfronts, it’s important to note that cross-screen measurement is possible with the right identity partner. But for this capability to mature and impact the bottom line, a standard definition of people in households is needed for all.

Doing so will only bring greater value to the TV landscape. As data continues to reshape the ecosystem, there’s no doubt the industry will eventually consist of many measurement and analytics providers—some of them marketers themselves—who need to work with TV ad exposure data in a privacy-conscious and collaborative manner. With this many stakeholders needing data to measure against KPIs, the industry requires a strong foundation based on consented identity.

TV is just scratching the surface of data collaboration. In the meantime, as more addressable TV ads are delivered across screens to households, the identity layer remains critical to accurately measuring reach, frequency, conversions and business impact. To unlock the next generation of TV measurement overall, we must have an interoperable and consented identity. With a uniform identity layer fueling the broader ecosystem, TV companies and their partners’ ability to reach viewers when and where they want to be reached will only flourish.