Magazine article Variety

Advertising's Holy Grail

Magazine article Variety

Advertising's Holy Grail

Article excerpt

Has the age-old question about waste finally been answered? By Peter Caranicas

For more than a century, advertisers have complained about the unscientific nature of their business by repeating the famous words attributed to 19th century department store mogul John Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half."

Finally, in the second decade of the 21st century, we can answer Wanamaker's question, says CBS research guru David Poltrack. With new technology, measurement services such as TRA, Nielsen Catalina and Nielsen MBI can quantify the "the amount of your product that was consumed by people before they saw your ad and the amount consumed after they saw your ad. They can document the return from the advertising."

The impact of this development on TV advertising can't be overestimated. "It's is something advertisers have always wanted," Poltrack says. "Financial management has always put pressure on marketing departments to measure the value of investments in advertising, and now for the first time we can do that with precision."

How? Measurement services collect data from millions of set-top boxes and compare viewing behavior with information about what those same households actually buy, gathered via shopper cards. The method - single-source measurement - gauges TV viewing and product consumption of the same household.

"This allows us to go back to an advertiser and say, 'you sold X hundred thousand more tubes of toothpaste to people who saw your ads than to people who didn't,'" says Poltrack. "It answers the Wanamaker question."

More than that, Poltrack adds, it allows advertisers to zero in at the program level and see which TV shows are working for their products, and even which creative is best, and make adjustments to increase its effectiveness.

Consumers agree to share their information when they get their shopper cards but, says Poltrack. …

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