TV Ad Tracking - How Do I Know if Users of my App Have Watched a TV Advert?

by Intrasonics Team

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Since the dawn of TV, investments have been made by companies into advertising on the TV media platform.

Advertising companies and marketers experienced in TV campaigns know that the right TV ad spot to promote brands, as part of a wider media plan, is an approach that often pays dividends.

Despite the expertise that these marketers have and the fact that TV advertising is older than digital forms of advertising on smartphones, computers and other devices connected to the internet, a TV campaign is not without its downsides.

The Problem With TV Ad Tracking

Although advertising on TV has existed long before mobile phones and computers were invented, let alone widely accessible to most people, one prevailing problem has been tracking the performance of ads.

Especially when compared to digital adverts which can be tracked by clicks and impressions, or even provide insights as deep as gender, device used and location, there is no digital signal that gives you an accurate number of people who viewed a TV advert.

So, what are the options open to brands and advertisers who are looking to track their TV advertising accross different TV spots, TV channels and campaigns to see exactly how successful and effective they are?

That’s what we are going to look at in the following post.

Different Forms of TV Tracking and Ad Tracking

There are a few tracking methods that are typically used to track tv advertising data. We explore the three main ways below:

Measuring Bursts of Activity

One of the most common approaches used to track TV advertisements works on the theory that when a large number of the target audience of a particular ad campaign tunes in, it leads to a large burst of activity. Whether that activity is an app download, a product purchase or whatever target action you’ve set for a new customer to take.

As a result, some companies measure the burst size to calculate the effectiveness of an advertisement as it will normally be higher than the normal volume for that specific day, time and region.

There is evidence to support this theory, as many studies, including one by Facebook have shown over 90% of people sit and watch television, do so with another device with a screen close to them or actually in their hand.

Because of this, TV commercials have become a major digital response driver, and in particular, app activity.

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Another piece of research by Google found that over a quarter of all the users of smartphones discover new apps through TV ads.

That is why it is so important that advertiser companies can effectively quantify and optimise the impact the TV has on the activity on apps.

While this is a simple and statistically sound approach because it only takes the aggregate volume into account, there is no way of easily associating those numbers with the activity that occurs following the first broadcast of the ad.

Looking at Probability of Target Audience Being Part of Bursts

Following on from the above, many companies employ methods to try and solve the related problems by assessing the probability of specific users and members of their target audience were in that burst.

This possible attribution is worked out using a special algorithm that looks at the channel distribution of the advertisement, as well as network types, characteristics of the device used to view the ad and the timing of the bursts in relation to when the ad was broadcast.

This is a more advanced and trickier technique to perfect, but it is more precise than simply trying to attribute users to particular TV advert spots.

Given the importance of attribution that is user-specific and its long-term effects on the analysis a company uses, this method should involve as numerous variables as it possibly can and not just be focused on timestamps.

Tracking Using Audio Fingerprinting

Perhaps the most intriguing method of TV commercial tracking is one of the more recently developed techniques used by a variety of companies, including Shazam and our own at Intrasonics.

This method incorporates the use of audio fingerprinting technology in a fascinating way.

Audio fingerprinting or acoustic fingerprinting as it is known involves generating a shorthand digital summary from an audio track, such as a song or piece of music, that can be used to identify the music or find something similar in a special database.

In tracking TV ads, the special technology is used to find and identify a TV spot’s music, and then provides a link for the user to related content.

As it is still very much early days with the use of this technology, it is uncertain if users are loading the app to benefit from the associated content through the audio fingerprint as the advertisement is being broadcast.

After all, some may still use the app to find the additional content but do so in their own time long after the advert aired.

If they do use their phone or device and the app to lead them to the content, it would not just be an incredibly powerful signal, but also a valuable set of data that could be used to enhance the ability of the algorithm used to detect additional users.

Is Audio Watermarking or a Combination the Way Forward?

One thing that connects all of the different approaches outlined above is that for them to be successful at tracking TV commercials and providing accurate analysis, they require a single and reliable source of data.

But, there’s a really big plus to using audio watermarking over audio matching in ad tracking, namely that you can track the medium as well.

This means that even if the same ad is broadcast on YouTube, channel 4 and ITV, for example, watermarking will allow you to determine how e.g. through which of these three mediums the ad was seen by the user.

This is one of Intrasonics’ core measurement for advertising (MFA) offerings which we provide to global leaders in market research like Ipsos

When all of these different methods are used at the same time, they can inform one another and improve results.

Contact Intrasonics for Help With Your TV Tracking Needs

At Intrasonics, the team have perfected various forms of audio watermarking and fingerprinting solutions that can help with tv ad tracking.

We can help you develop solutions to help you track the performance of a tv spot on the different tv channels.

Get in Touch With Our Team Today For a Demo


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