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Media Measurement Future of TV CTV

ACR data is the key to measuring more than just impressions on CTV

By Kyle Roberts, Chief executive officer

May 8, 2023 | 7 min read

Evaluation of ad performance across streaming is possible with ACR data, but is incomplete if not compared against robust ad libraries, writes AdImpact‘s Kyle Roberts as part of The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The New Data & Privacy Playbook.

Eye watching TV collage

ACR data provides media buyers with a more holistic picture of performance, argues Kyle Roberts / Adobe Stock

The pace of the migration of viewers from broadcast and cable television to CTV is increasing at speed. Streaming accounted for 38.1% of all TV watched in January of 2023, per recent Nielsen data.

The reasons why consumers are choosing CTV and streaming over older delivery methods, at this point, could be characterized as ‘Newton’s law of technological inertia‘; smart TVs are becoming the norm, thus consumers who want the latest in TV tech are inclined to select services that maximize the utility of their smart TV using any number of streaming services or platforms.

Newton’s first law of motion is also having an impact on brands and advertisers. As consumers adopt connected television devices, advertisers are moving their media buys from linear to streaming. As a result, the industry is working diligently to find and standardize new currencies on which to trade for advertising inventory; impressions, ad plays and uniques are just the top-level metrics streaming advertising is currently trading on. But much like Nielsen’s TV rating systems, even these limit the insight brands and advertisers can glean when running campaigns on CTV or streaming platforms.

Going beyond impressions

Brands have historically purchased TV advertising based on demographics measured in gross rating point (GRP), a rough estimate of viewer volume based on the typical audience-watching trends. Advertisers don’t buy on program adjacency. They don’t ask their media buying agency to purchase GRPs next to episodes of Seinfeld. Instead, they buy based on viewer demographics and the volume of typical impressions delivered by programs. Where ads actually run is more or less unknown to the brand in question. Their ads can run with syndicated episodes of Seinfeld or on new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Similar to TV ratings, broad-based impression data only scratches the surface of the impact of ads on their audiences. With technology enabled by the advancements in television hardware, we can now get impression data down to the specific slot wherein a particular ad ran.

Understanding ACR data

Insights around CTV ad buys being limited to simple impressions seem like a natural transition, trading ratings as the currency for impressions as the currency of record. But this simple adjustment in nomenclature misses out on the full technological capabilities of connected viewing devices.

Automatic content recognition (ACR) is a technology built into smart TVs that allow the set to see or hear what is being played on the television. Digiday’s Tim Peterson notes: “The total number of ACR-enabled smart TVs in the market is unclear, but as of October [2022], Vizio alone had more than 18 million ACR-enabled smart TVs in the market.”

ACR gives advertisers the keys to go beyond impressions, to understand who is watching and when. When paired with digital ad libraries, advertisers can find exactly where their ads ran – the hour, on what network or streaming service – and understand the exact corresponding impressions for the specific occurrence of their ads.

ACR data can also be employed as a competitive analysis tool. Brands can track their ad occurrences, but also track those of their competitors to gain insight into their media strategy. You can even go as deep as zip code, reading further between the lines about the impact of advertising at a local level.

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The power of ACR data in action

When numbers for viewing of the Super Bowl were released, there was some discrepancy across platforms that report ratings for America’s biggest sports event. Generally speaking, however, all of the reported statistics were in the same neighborhood. Whether you saw Nielsen’s 112.17 million viewers or NBC Sports reported 112.3 million viewers, it’s understood that roughly 113 million-ish people watched.

But knowing that 113 million people watched the Super Bowl shouldn’t be the only stat advertisers have at their disposal to measure impact. Evaluating specific advertising occurrences across the streaming ecosystem using ACR takes us beyond ‘How many people watched X show?’ and allows you to skip directly to the question ‘How many people watched my ad and how many impressions did a specific occurrence deliver?’

The Super Bowl or any other program becomes an ancillary component, rather than the whole shebang. You enable the ability to drill down further, clarifying what percentage of that 113 million were actually watching or potentially paused the live program to grab another slice of pizza.

Kyle Roberts is chief executive officer at AdImpact. To read more from The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, where we’ll be demystifying data & privacy for marketers in 2023, head over to our special hub.

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