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Data-Driven, Audience-Based Buying and Beyond: ARF ConsumerxScience 2018

May 23rd, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

Every year, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) holds its conference for media executives, ConsumerxScience. This year, the conference focused on cutting-edge trends in advertising research, such as commercial length and audience segmentation, as well as the ethical boundaries of using data for audience-based buying.

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal fresh on everyone’s minds, ARF President and CEO Scott McDonald noted that while science has always been a top priority at the ARF, “a single-minded focus on matters of fact can still leave us blind to the ethical implications of our work.” Values, rather than data-driven facts, “arise from some shared understanding of what we regard as right, as ethical, as decent or fair.” The business of data-driven audience-based buying must find ways of balancing science with ethics.

Here are the main takeaways around audience-based buying for TV and upcoming trends across the industry spectrum.

TV Research Initiatives

“There is a greater interest in trying out new things and doing things differently for television,” noted Horst Stipp, executive vice president of global business strategy at ARF. This need for innovation is driven by the perception that TV must better compete with digital, and that TV ads are interrupting peoples’ viewing enjoyment. With NBCUniversal’s recent announcements about reducing its ad loads, new research has been launched to measure the effectiveness of shorter ads and the impact of creative.

TV Ad Length

As viewer attention becomes ever more fragmented, advertisers are beginning to experiment with shorter ad lengths and pod formation. Mihkel Jäätma, CEO of Realeyes, presented research on the impact of six-second ads. The research “reflects that the attention span of audiences has been shrinking for a while, which is why we are getting to very short format ads now,” he explained.

According to Jäätma, brands often wonder how much can really be achieved in a mere six seconds. His work, however, suggests that shorter ads play an important role in retaining a message. “Six-second ad formats are much better at triggering memories of things you’ve already shown people,” he explained. These ads act as reinforcement to other messaging, moving consumers “to the next stage” in the consideration process. It is the “follow-up and harvesting of a brand rather than building a teaser to show longer ads and tell longer stories.” But, he emphasized, simplicity is vital to focus the message in such a short time limit.

TV Creative

“It is all about the creative,” Stipp stated. He recommended advertisers create short ads like TV promos. Local stations should consider feeding ads as both stand-alones and as part of bigger campaigns working to reinforce brand messages. There’s also an increased interest in branded content and branded integration, which would tend to be less disruptive if done well and able to fit smoothly into the content. “But it must not be perceived as tricking you into thinking of it as content,” Stipp warned, as such a result would draw viewer backlash.

There’s also the impact of where an ad is run in the context of a program. One example that comes to mind is sports programming, where ads in those shows are tied to athletics or have athletic spokespeople. “If you find a good match, the ad will not only be more effective, it’s likely to be seen as less disruptive and will encourage purchase intent,” Stipp concluded.

TV Research Trends

“We have a lot more behavioral data to work with than ever before, but best practices are still evolving for the use of the data for insights,” McDonald noted. The future of media research will rest on more rules around data use and retention, whether through industry self-regulation or government regulation. Privacy will also be more of a consideration as consumers learn about how their personal information is being used…or misused.

To that end, we need more data transparency (labeling) and validation (quality scoring) while simultaneously developing the right tools to get more insight and value from all the data collected. And with artificial intelligence and machine learning continuing to advance, it’s vital that research departments establish a balance between classical research and data science approaches.

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