By Michael Pardee
As with the rest of the industry, Scripps Networks is facing the challenge of rapidly changing audience and advertising measurement needs. The traditional “currency” by which advertising is planned, valued, bought and sold is under attack.
Advertisers and agencies face increasing pressure to demonstrate the efficacy of marketing expenditures, at the same time that the standards and institutions by which media is measured are unable to keep up with changes in the media environment. Agencies, advertisers, media companies and research firms have to work harder and smarter to understand consumer media use and advertising receptivity.
To find accurate, reliable, relevant and cost-effective audience measures, they had to delve into consumer behavior, motivation, perception, content and platform relationships, context and, ultimately, how these influence responsiveness to ad messages.
Scripps has used proprietary and syndicated sources to investigate media use and affinity, audience characteristics, ad exposure, media engagement, sponsor integration and cross-platform convergence to better understand the drivers of ad receptivity and effectiveness. Based on this research, we offer several observations we hope will contribute to current industry discussion of media metrics.
While we share industry concern with DVR playback, ad skipping, audience defection during commercial breaks and ratings differences by pod position, seven years of cumulative research points to program environment, sponsor integration and media convergence being much more strongly linked to ad effectiveness than differences in ad exposure.
In fact, based on minute-by-minute and second-by-second analyses, break audience levels are generally within 10 percent of program average, and differences between pod positions are less than that. Even ad skipping during same-day playback represents a minor consideration relative to differences of 50 percent or more in ad recall, likability and purchase intent resulting from choice of media vehicle, use of sponsor integration and cross-platform convergence.
Although finding industry standards and acceptance for measures of emotional and rational engagement and ad receptivity is far more complex than reaching agreement on standards for behavioral measures, there is a growing body of evidence that these cognitive differences are real, and that they are stronger predictors of advertising impact than traditional behavioral measures. To this point, several syndicated sources of ad impact and audience engagement data have recently emerged. Based on these, we believe relatively straightforward, forecastable and reliable ways exist to use data from these sources to calculate a media value metric that takes into account both behavioral and ad receptivity factors.
Recent studies by IAG and Nielsen Place Values show custom short-form programming, which Scripps Networks pioneered several years ago on a few of its channels, when followed by a traditional 30-second spot can double ad recall, likability and purchase intent relative to the 30-second spot alone.
Using both dial tests and analysis of second-by-second data, we found that well-crafted custom short-form programming can actually build audience from the lead-in program and sustain audience levels through the breaks. We know from engagement research that this is in part due to maintaining the continuity of the viewer experience from programming to sponsored short-form, contextually appropriate advertising and back into program content. The research also shows that this continuity, viewer affinity with content and the channel and the specific ways viewers engage with the content and channel are highly correlated with the level of viewer ad receptivity, even across platforms.
Perhaps the most challenging and fastest-evolving aspect of media measurement is to capture the value of cross-platform convergence. Widely distributed high-speed broadband service, video-on-demand and mobile video devices make it possible to adapt traditional TV content and advertising to new devices, locations and times, giving consumers a never-before-available level of content, control and convenience. They also offer a whole new set of possibilities for advertisers to create an integrated marketing campaign across platforms and advertising formats, such as reinforcement of television messages on the Web and synchronization of HTML ads with video content, as well as personalization of content and advertising, timing of messaging relative to the purchase decision process and precise control of ad weight.
Syndicated research for cross-platform engagement is finally here. Early results show that the converged TV Internet experience is more engaging, and results in greater ad receptivity among regular users of a television channel and its companion Web site, than users of just one of the two platforms.
Capabilities of the new digital interactive media represent both a more complex measurement challenge for researchers, and the potential for more direct data collection. Cross-platform measurement is expensive and difficult, whether to estimate combined reach and frequency or to measure media engagement and ad effectiveness. However, the two-way nature of interactive media lets us measure user response to ad campaigns in real time, both for Web-only campaigns and for cross-platform campaigns. We can see clear spikes in Web traffic, click-through and time spent on related pages whenever corresponding promotions, advertising and content airs on TV.
No matter what the final outcome, just as we will never return to watching black-and-white TV, advertising, ad media and the metrics we use to value them will never be the same again.
Michael Pardee is senior vice president of research for Scripps Networks, a portfolio of ad-supported media properties including HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living TV, Great American Country and their companion Web sites.