by Karl Stillner , MediaPost Op-Ed Contributor

Measuring business outcomes are reflected in many of the TV ad marketplace headlines in 2018. Networks and MVPDs fight to defend the impact of TV advertising.

However, for marketers committed to TV, eMarketer predicts U.S. TV spend of $69.17B in 2019 increasing to $69.52B in 2020. Activating advanced TV with modern audience segments provides the best opportunity to extract the full potential of TV investments and fold TV into a true omnichannel strategy.

Advanced TV targeting in the context of this conversation refers to the targeting capabilities of addressable TV (live linear and on-demand) and audience indexed TV, also referred to as data-driven linear. Both have strengths and weaknesses in terms of their scale and precision, however they share a key similarity. Both are entirely dependent on high quality data segments to be effective.

Activating advanced TV targeting without strong audience data is like buying a new 4K TV to watch an old standard definition DVD.

Addressable TV is conceptually straight forward — an audience is matched against a TV service provider’s set-top-boxes and ads are delivered on a 1:1 basis to the target audience. The available supply of addressable inventory is still relatively small, compared to conventional TV but growing quickly.

Audience-indexed linear TV is a paradox in that indexing digitally sourced audiences is a more recently developed capability than addressable TV, however it applies to legacy TV delivery technology.

With audience-indexed TV, an audience is matched against a TV viewing panel, with networks, dayparts and programs scored, based on their density of the target audience. The democratization of TV viewing data has opened up the floodgates in terms of allowing digital data providers to activate their audiences against legacy linear TV.

That seemed like a dream only a few years ago. The upside is massive scale though it loses the fidelity of 1:1 targeting.

Thanks to recent advances in TV viewing data and wide adoption of data on-boarding partners, modern digital audiences can now be activated against both variants of advanced TV. While the merits of activating a standalone TV campaign with better data sets are clear, a more powerful yet overlooked strategy is the ability to orchestrate true omnichannel campaigns across TV + digital through a common data lens.

Orchestrating omnichannel campaigns up until recently has been fundamentally crude, due to severe mismatches in the audience data used to plan and target digital vs. TV. Digital media would be precisely targeted to modern audiences and TV media with legacy age/gender demos.

Any coordination between the two platforms was limited to flight dates and sequencing, and it was assumed (though not commonly quantified) that omnichannel campaigns would delivery broader reach when media was compared to single channel campaigns. However, now that TV and digital can both target the same audiences, marketers can orchestrate TV + digital campaigns with far more precision and intent.

Which all leads to a key question: With the golden age of TV targeting finally upon us, how should marketers best take advantage of these capabilities? Marketers that are looking to make the most of indexed linear TV here are some best practices:

Data Efficacy: It’s time for marketers to pair advanced TV targeting with modern audience segments, and to ask activation partners tough question. Where exactly is this audience sourced from? How often is it refreshed? Are there other audience segments that more closely align to who we really want to reach?

A simple litmus test is whether a marketer would use their advanced TV target audiences in one of their digital campaigns. If the answer to that question is no, it’s time to reevaluate your advanced TV target audience segments.

Omnichannel Orchestration: TV and digital can now target and post off the same modern audiences, and in doing so, effectively report off a common denominator. While media suppliers for the time being may only be able to guarantee against legacy/age gender demos, marketers can plan and report against in-target audiences today.

Finding Value: Indexed linear targeting is most effective when marketers let audience data drive media plans. TV is predominantly premium and brand-safe. Conventional constraints on dayparts and network weighting should be loosened with the emphasis shifted to efficiently delivering in-target audiences. Tentpole programming still has its place, but index scores and cost should be the foundation for most TV plans.

Our industry has spent over a decade developing the pipes, platforms and marketplaces to make advanced TV targeting accessible at scale and now that it’s finally here, it’s easy to get excited about the novelty of the targeting technology itself. However, the underlying audience segments are just as fundamental to marketers extracting value.

Most marketers today recognize TV advertising is an incredibly powerful platform, in spite of blinders around measuring business outcomes. New initiatives to measure TV’s impact will help substantiate those views. However, actually planning and executing better TV campaigns will come down to marketers pushing more budget into advanced TV targeting powered by modern audience segments.

That's how TV will get back to playing offense.

*This piece originally appeared September 12, 2018 in MediaPost

See here for the piece as originally published.