Accelerating Attribution

Attribution, according to the CIMM Lexicon is “The reason that a prospective customer does what they do. More specifically, why they came to the site, entered the funnel, and performed a given action. (Source: Mediamath)” Accurate attribution would enable a marketer to get the correctly measured sequencing of consumer initiated events that influenced that consumer’s behavior. It is not an easy task.

CIMM recently hosted an attribution accelerator conference where speakers from such companies as Turner, CIMM, Nielsen, comScore, Time Inc., J&J, Citibank, Sequent Partners, AOL, Rubicon, Google, TubeMogul, Verizon and Samba TV presented their views on attribution. Where is attribution research today? How can we spur development to ensure existing models can keep up with demand as attribution moves beyond digital?

I sat down with Jim Spaeth, and Alice Sylvester, both Partners at Sequent Partners and asked them the following questions:

Charlene Weisler:  Please define attribution and the best forms of attribution 

Alice Sylvester: Attribution is the study of individual media tactics’ contribution to sales. The best forms of attribution do not use a priori models that pre-suppose the solution (first click, last click, W, U etc.).  The best forms of attribution incorporate other elements besides digital, at the household level. 

Charlene Weisler:  Tell me what your company is doing to track and measure attribution. 

Alice Sylvester: We have a number of projects going on – notably the Attribution Accelerator event, which will quicken the pace of innovation, fortify the science and galvanize the industry toward new attribution solutions. We also have a CIMM study of Attribution that will assess best practices and areas of improvement in cross-platform attribution.

Charlene Weisler:  Which existing models are doing the best job of attribution? 

Jim Spaeth: We don’t know — we will be looking to identify a best practice over the course of the next few days — we do know, however, that many of the existing models are insufficient given that they need to: reflect the fact that media has diminishing returns and adstock effects, that media has short and long term effects, that the media have interactions among them, that there is an effect of the brand (baseline), different responses by consumer segments and past purchasing behavior, and that different ads generate different responses. 

Alice Sylvester: The best job of attribution will address these issues.  Oh and then there is the issue of walled gardens and a significant portion of data from Google and FB not being generally available. 

Charlene Weisler:  How can you ensure that existing models keep up and move beyond digital. 

Alice Sylvester: The marketplace will definitely determine winners and losers – skepticism is creeping in among marketers who have had some experience with attribution.  

Jim Spaeth: There is a huge issue as to how to impute non-digital events on a digital data stream.

Alice Sylvester: There are issues with validation and the veracity of A/B test that have to be addressed in order to increase confidence in attribution.  And there are significant issues in device matching at the household which can be a source of significant error and in data matching across big datasets.  

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How Rural Americans Became the Hottest ‘New’ Demo. Interview with Patrick Gottsch

Patrick Gottsch, Founder RFD TV, has a very clear mission when it comes to RFD TV’s programming, branding and market position. "We have two goals,” he says, “They are, one, to serve the needs and interests of rural America and, number two (which is as important) is to reconnect the city with the country. If there is one thing that unites rural America, whether they are in agriculture or not is that we have to do a better job of communicating with the folks in the city." 

RFD TV, recently added to the 12 million home Charter system, is arguably the fastest growing cable network in 2016. It is 16 years old, reaches over 50 million homes across the U.S. in both rural and urban markets, is measured by Nielsen and repped by Sony Pictures Television Ad Sales. The network offers five hours of news programming a day combined with entertainment programming spanning rural tastes like music, rodeos and country western sports programming. It is one of the few remaining family owned media companies in the U.S. with, as Gottsch states, “strong cash flow.”

Gottsch, who grew up on a farm, believes that, “There is a real disconnect and a growing disconnect between urban and rural America over the last couple of decades. It is frustrating that programming for rural America is all programming with an urban perspective. We have got to get people thinking differently about rural Amwerica.” That disconnect was made all the more evident by the results and aftermath of this most recent Presidential Election, which showed just how differently rural and urban America voted, predicated on different, sometimes opposing, self-interests and challenges.  

Although America’s farms contributed over $177 billion to the U.S. economy, some advertisers and MVPDs do not always see the value and strength of rural American audiences and consumers. Many, like Chevy, Nationwide, RAM and Polaris do see the value. But some like McDonalds, Walmart (which surprisingly started in rural America) and others, don’t.  Rural consumers have high median net worth according to MRI (2016 Doublebase) with a 122 index ($278,442 vs. Total US $227,551) and have a higher median earned income $41,101 than the Total US $38,920 in the same study. They are also heavy users of a variety of household items, often own multiple vehicles, enjoy a range of leisure activities… and they vote! Ignoring this audience is a big mistake, as Gottsch explains in this exclusive interview.

Charlene Weisler: How do you see the role of RFD TV in a channel line-up?

Patrick Gottsch: We try to do our part by offering a TV channel that focuses on rural interests that are distributed into the cities. We are on Dish network and Direct TV, Charter, ATT uVerse, Mediacom and others and we are accomplishing that goal. We are a business channel for rural America in the morning, but instead of focusing on the stock markets like CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox, we are focused on the commodity market out of Chicago. We have prime time news programming but it is the rural evening news – it’s not the farm news but we have a bureau in Washington DC that works on the Hill, works with different agencies with the USDA. We cover stories dealing with rural education, rural healthcare, rural development and, of course, agriculture. We actually have a larger audience in the city than in the country. They see this as unique programming. Unfortunately, the only time that rural news is covered by outlets such as Fox or CNN is when there is a disaster. There are 27 million homes outside of A and B counties and 57 million people living in rural America. Many of our viewers have farms that have been in their family for generations. It is a different lifestyle. They have different values, they have different needs. Many of the major associations have programs on our air - corn, wheat and beef. We are the only network serving rural America and their unique interests and lifestyles.

Charlene Weisler: What are some of the larger issues that need to be covered for rural viewers to connect them to urban America?

Patrick Gottsch: We were frustrated by the Presidential debates – no questions were asked about rural America. We hosted a series of Rural Town Halls – one hour in primetime live, offered to each and every candidate and they could come on free of charge. The “Rural Town Hall” series featured candidates including Sen. Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Jim Webb, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and special guest USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the series just won the CableFax Award for Public Affairs programming. There were only two rules: #1 The questions would only be about rural and agricultural issues and #2 You couldn’t bad mouth another candidate. It was a tremendous success. One of the biggest issues now is that farmers are getting old – their average age is 62, and everyone is concerned about passing on the farm to the next generation. The big question is the death tax. How can the land be passed on to the next generation to produce the food that the folks in the city need? Rural healthcare is just as important as it is from urban perspective. Rural development - Many of our small towns are losing businesses. Nobody is paying attention to rural America and doing things to develop reasons for our sons and daughters to remain in small towns. This is not being addressed.

Charlene Weisler: It is a bit ironic that our President-elect who captured much of the rural vote is a native New Yorker who grew up and lives in the city.

Patrick Gottsch: Donald Trump could have run as a Republican or a Democrat. It didn’t matter. It was his independence. He seems to have strengthened people – they want change and he basically said, “What do you have to lose?” I think that resonated. The commodity markets this summer are at their lowest point that they have been in ten years - $3 corn, $8 soybeans, $4 wheat. Everything in rural America revolves around commodity prices. If farmers are getting good prices for their crops they are buying new cars, taking vacations, making donations. 

Charlene Weisler: Aren’t most farms large corporate farms?

Patrick Gottsch: No. That is a misconception. Less than 1% of all farms are corporate farms. 99% of all American farms are family farms that have been in the family for generations. 

Charlene Weisler: Is there a challenge in reaching certain advertisers? 

Patrick Gottsch: There is a wall built between rural and urban America. We tell advertisers that we are beating CNN and MSNBC in Nielsen ratings* and in MRI** among all networks in reaching Middle America but ad agencies and clients ignore Middle America. Our viewers own an average of four pick-up trucks. Chevy understands that and advertises on our air but Ford Trucks tells us that they reach our consumer through football. Our audience is vibrant and has different needs. The biggest frustration is with the recent election. Secretary Clinton stopped buying on our air while Trump bought every spot we had in the last three weeks leading up to the election. 

Charlene Weisler: How are you getting more distribution?

Patrick Gottsch: It is a challenge. This past February we were dropped by FIOS who also dropped Outdoor, Sportsman and the Weather Channels. They are dumping rural networks. Comcast dropped us and when they announced their merger with Time Warner I testified on Capitol Hill. We run up against this all the time. But now we will be reaching many new and larger urban markets thanks to Charter who will be rolling us out in markets like New York City, LA, Raleigh and Cleveland in December. 

Charlene Weisler: Do you have a digital strategy?

Patrick Gottsch:  Yes. We have a Country Club that we stream on VOD and on Roku. Our disadvantage is that the speed of broadband is not as good in rural areas and our demo is older. They don’t want to watch on handhelds – they want to watch on their big screen TVs. We have a deal with Adobe to enable authentication and we are working with our cable and satellite affiliates to offer TV Everywhere availability.  Some distributors, like AT&T already have that option enabled so viewers with RFD-TV in their package can watch us anywhere.  We are also working to expand over the top options like Amazon, YouTube and Roku for viewers that want to supplement their current pay TV packages or sample our content.   We are someone restricted in what we can offer given our current distribution contracts but that is evolving and we will evolve with the changing ecosystem.

Charlene Weisler: What is your global strategy?

Patrick Gottsch:  Globally we cross borders and our programming plays well across the world. I have traveled to Brazil to attend a farm show and you would think that you are in America. We have the same values and concerns and want to talk about the same things. We are all in the same boat. The world will soon have 9 billion people in it. How do you feed everyone with less land and water? Something has to give.  We are actively looking for ways to exchange news with other countries including Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, India and South Korea. American farmers produce food that is exported around the world. They play a critical role in the global food marketplace. In terms of reaching new international customers, we have recently hired a distribution and marketing specialist to distribute our content internationally via the growing number of OTT platforms that incumbent distributors are launching.   We already have a base of international viewers that subscribe to our Country Club platform from countries such as Germany, Canada and New Zealand that we will be building on.

Charlene Weisler: What is your message to advertisers?

Patrick Gottsch: We are a family owned business and have a good cash flow. We know that consumers want rural programming – over 200,000 published comments during the Comcast / Time Warner merger discussions at the FCC to please protect rural America. We have a very loyal audience. RFD TV is very important to rural America. So we will stay the course whether advertisers come or not. There are advertisers who do recognize and appreciate the rural consumer. But some advertisers think they are reaching this audience through other programming such as football - They are not. Don’t take this audience for granted. 

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*Source: Nielsen Media Research, 2Q16, M-F 9a-2p) with HOH Farmer 18+ viewing, RFD 0.16 rating vs CNN 0.09 and MSNBC 0.12
** Source: GfK MRI (2016 Doublebase), A18+, RDF-TV is ranked: #1 in Middle America (OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, IA, MN, MO, ND, SD, NE, KS) with an index of 197 (2nd is WGN America at 138 index). #1 in B, C, or D counties (index at 234 with #2 INSP at 173).


The Secret of Programming Success Revealed. Interview with Producer Mark Cronin

Veteran Producer Mark Cronin had an unusual background for entertainment. “I went to school for Chemical Engineering. I hated that career, though, and got myself out by harassing the Howard Stern TV show until they hired me in the early 90’s,” he explained. From there he became a showrunner for MTV Singled Out before launching his own production company, Mindless Entertainment for game shows and talk shows and, eventually the reality show, The Surreal Life. “That became a big hit. Now I produce Idiotest for GSN (in our fourth season now), and Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean for Bravo,” he added.

Charlene Weisler: How has content creation changed (or not) since you first started in the business?

Mark Cronin: When I started in reality TV it was still a pioneering genre. Now, as a mature business, there are standard procedures, positions and production methods. In the early days, I think we were making it all up as we went along.

Charlene Weisler: How do you craft a character’s image that the audience will believe? 

Mark Cronin: When people are on a reality show, you really need them to reveal the truth about themselves. Some people do it easily and willingly and others have more trouble being honest and real in front of the camera. I always construct and cast my shows so that the truth will come out one way or another. Once someone is being honest, truthful and revealing, the audience will know it, recognize it and love it.

Charlene Weisler: What is the state of reality TV today and where do you see it headed in the next five years?

Mark Cronin: I think reality TV is moving more and more toward gritty truth and I think that’s great. It shows the audience maturing and craving more honest revelations and an art that reflects real life in an interesting way.

Charlene Weisler: The Hollywood Reporter just reported on how some producers are not receiving producer credits. Can you talk a bit about what a producer does and why there is a controversy about producer credits?

Mark Cronin: I think the problem isn’t real producers not getting credit, it’s NON-producers getting producer credit. In reality TV, so-called “vanity” credits have always been around. Managers of an important talent (like the host of a game show) often get a producer credit - I think because they want to pad their resume for the future - not because they actually perform any kind of production service to the show. We give it to them to make negotiations with the talent go more smoothly. A real producer is one who actually works day-to-day putting the show together. It’s an actual job that you have to show up for.

Lately, mostly in the scripted world, financiers have started demanding “produced by” credits instead of their traditional “Executive Producer” credits, which everyone knows is a vanity credit. I am thankful that the PGA has started a review process where you have to meet the criteria of actual WORK to get the “p.g.a." designation after your name. I hope that same type of designation comes to reality TV soon - we could use the help clarifying our credit system so that the people who actually do the work can get the credit.

Charlene Weisler: What goes into making a successful TV franchise?

Mark Cronin: Enormous popularity. Everything is about having a huge audience that enjoys the show. What makes a show popular? In my case, I stress humor, big characters and surprising honesty in my storytelling. Those three main elements seem to have worked very well for me over the years.

Charlene Weisler: How have technology and digitization impacted program creation, scheduling and targeting decisions?

Mark Cronin: You know, I have not been hugely affected by digital concerns. I try to make a great show and tell a great story, regardless of the delivery system to the audience. The fans of my show respond in real time on Twitter these days and it can be tempting to take that as scientific feedback, but I think it’s a mistake to over-react to the Twitterverse. The Tweeters are a small and specific demographic. The vast majority of my audience (millions, not thousands) is still just trying to watch and enjoy the show - and what they think is more important to me. Recently, the use of drone aerial footage has really let us take a quantum leap in production value. For Below Deck it has been a game-changer in the look and feel of our show. That’s a new technology I really adore.

Charlene Weisler: What is the secret to content success today?

Mark Cronin: Audiences have been watching reality TV for 30 years now. They know all the tricks. These days they want truth - honesty - the surprises that can only come with capturing the insanity of real life. They want the stuff that makes you say, “You can’t write this stuff!” because if you can write that stuff, it’s not reality.


Finding the Way Forward: Brands on TV

Has the bloom faded on digital advertising? There are more brands on TV, showing increased TV ad spending over previous years. According to AdAge, Chipotle is running TV ads for the first time since 2012 in select local markets. The company has been increasing its promotional and marketing spending in the face of declining sales, with second-quarter spending at 4.3 percent of sales in 2016, up from 2.3 percent a year earlier. The recent presidential election is also a testament to the power of television. According to TheStreet, TV political ad spending in 2016 has broken all previous records. And BIA/Kelsey has been forecasting a general return to TV for ad spend.

But in a digitally hyped media atmosphere, one might still be tempted to ask: Why advertise brands on TV? The answer is simple: Among those working in the television marketplace, there’s arguably no stronger media platform for brands in terms of reach, accountability, measurability, and engagement than television.

Read the full article on the Videa blog.


Insights into Holiday Shopper Behavior. Mindshare Releases Their Black Friday and Cyber Monday Research Results

One of the foremost things on an advertisers mind at this time of year is holiday shopper behavior. Mindshare has just announced the results of their new research study that reveals fascinating consumer behaviors among those who said that they were planning to shop on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

As their press release noted, “Mindshare NA surveyed 779 upcoming shoppers for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to look at what (and why) people want to buy, what they want from retailers, where they seek discounts, and much more. The research was led by Shop+ (the agency's dedicated retail unit) using The Pool (Mindshare's proprietary research tool).” The study polled Adults 18+ with an even split between men and women.

Joe Migliozzi, Managing Director, Shop+ Lead, Mindshare, explained some of the study takeaways and how advertisers can maximize their impact on buying decisions:

1.       Never underestimate the power of showrooming. A great deal of shoppers will use their phones to check for prices while in-store, which means there’s an opportunity for competing brands and retailers to push out their messages instead.

2.       Shoppers have clear budgets in mind. Brands and retailers should consider helping shoppers find the products that meet their budget by curating their offer messaging and promotions for different types of shoppers and budget ranges. That applies to social media in particular. As people are posting deals and what they bought afterwards on their social networks, brands can engage with these posts and offer shoppers additional services, be it future discounts or customer service.

3.       Many shoppers have an expectation that there will be deals that supersede all other deals—64% of shoppers in our study said that they get deals on Black Friday that they can’t get at any other time, a data point that rises to 72% for millennial shoppers in particular. So, if your brand thinks as the holidays as simply a time to piggyback on increased retail traffic, that’s a mistake. Planning for increased discounts and promotions during this time is critical to grabbing shoppers’ attention.

4.       Men are avid shoppers. It was surprising to see how much men took the lead on not just spending (although that was quite significant – men say they’ll spend nearly 69% more than women), but certain behaviors as well. Part of that has to do with their purchase of big ticket items, and part of that has to do with greater numbers of men who strongly believe that there are certain deals you can only get this time of year, certain deals that you can only get in store, and more.

In terms of how these results can be used to predict the success of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Migliozzi explained, “We surveyed folks who were already planning to shop so we believe that brands and retailers who ground their media strategies in data and insights and continue to adapt to changes and events throughout the holiday season will do better than those who don’t.”

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