Not All Metrics Are Created Equal: Revising TV Viewing Behavior Measurement Methods

Today new technologies enable brands, agencies, and networks to move well beyond the focus group and surveys
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Historically, if you wanted insights on your potential customers' viewing behavior, focus groups and surveys were the gold standard. Those measurements would turn into learnings, which would then be applied to strategies or campaigns. This was the default approach for years.

Today, however, new technologies—and the data they collect—enable brands, agencies, and networks to move well beyond the focus group and surveys. Passive viewing measurement captures deeper knowledge about viewer behavior, so organizations can discover which content grabs (and keeps) a particular customer’s attention, and what doesn’t resonate at all. Those behavioral insights can then be used to drive strategy and improve products. Think of it as the right message to the right people, right when they’re receptive to it.

So as we move away from focus groups toward passive viewing data collection and analysis, our previous measures of success no longer apply. Adapting your measurement approaches, then, becomes key to serving both your customers and your shareholders.

If you buy or sell media based on viewer behavior data, here are two key factors you now need to consider.

1. Know the Difference Between Device-Level Measurement and Person-Level Measurement

In previous collection methods, census data, including set-top-boxes and smart TVs, provided fantastic data in terms of what’s on screen—but not in terms of who is in the room and controlling the remote. And most marketers will agree: knowing when a TV is on or off isn’t quite the same as knowing if, say, a 40-year-old woman is watching television and actively paying attention.

Measuring device activity is different from measuring a person’s actual behavior.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a TV on in another room, and weren’t paying attention to it at all. Or if you’ve had the TV on with the best intentions of watching a program, but got distracted or fell asleep. (No judgment! We’ve all done it.) In the past, that set-top box device measurement (being on) would count as successful engagement—but we wouldn’t actually know whether the viewer was mesmerized by the show or snoozing away.

For example, traditional measurement may say that moms watch cartoons during the day. In fact, during Q3 2017, TVision data shows that, during the day, moms were in-room with cartoons on the screen, but they weren’t really paying attention (like their kids were). Moms were paying attention, however, to reality shows broadcast between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.—a key insight for brands, agencies, and networks in developing and scheduling relevant content and messaging.

2. Viewer Completion Rate (VCR) Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Anyone is in the Room

Measuring completion rate can be great, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Let’s say your team has put a significant portion of its advertising budget into a prime-time commercial. Set-top box data shows that the ad plays to completion during a well-known sitcom or news magazine. Great, right? Not so fast! In actuality, the ad aired to an empty room, as the whole household was in the kitchen finishing dinner.

Sound like a typical evening at your house? We thought it might. In fact, we learned this scenario is pretty common: In 2017, TVision’s data showed that during early morning, up to two thirds of 100% video completions had very low attention. Attention must be taken into account to measure the true effectiveness of media.

Thankfully, technology now enables brands, advertisers, and networks to better understand viewer behavior—and to use those behavioral insights to improve both products and media strategies. By reconsidering what you measure and incorporating viewer behavior data into your analytics, you’ll be well positioned to ensure your messages command attention.

Yan Liu co-founded TVision Insights while earning his MBA at MIT. Prior to TVision, Liu started and ran Yo-ren, a leading digital marketing agency in China, and worked at McKinsey in Tokyo. Follow TVision Insights on twitter at @tvisioninsights.

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