Precision Targeting in Linear Television: Another Path to Growth

By Hailee Hoffman
Media Center of Excellence

The worlds of traditional and digital media consumption continue to converge at a dizzying pace as consumers, particularly teens and millennials, keep shifting more of their media consumption to digital each year. However, linear television – that is, traditional broadcast TV that our parents and grandparents grew up with – is still the single largest video consumption channel. Yes, even in this age of cord-cutting. Think on that for a moment.

Recent research1 shows that linear TV accounts for a 62 percent share of millennials’ and an 82 percent share of adults’ video viewing time. Given these large numbers, it makes sense that linear is still the single largest media channel investment for CPG brands. But, for linear TV to truly be effective, marketers and agencies need the same data granularity for precision targeting in linear TV that they already get with digital.   

Unfortunately, the linear TV industry continues to lack that data. Brands try to translate rich insights about their consumers to a broad age and gender profile for TV planning and buying. This has historically been a big disconnect for TV campaigns – not having more precise insights to plan and target, or the ability to access campaign insights quickly and change course if needed. With digital media, purchase data can be overlaid with contextual and demographic targeting to create audiences for activation across digital platforms, and changes can be made quickly.
The approach of using purchase data to target the right audiences for campaigns has been proven to drive three to four times the sales return compared to other audience targeting techniques. Purchase data also provides opportunities for cross-platform targeting, using a common insight to find and deliver content to where consumers are engaged online and on traditional TV. For a consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer, this approach can bring 10–20 percent in media efficiencies.

While the industry is still years away from a common currency to plan, buy and measure on a single audience, purchase data is the clear link in driving more efficiency and effectiveness in linear TV buying.

Marketers who want to improve the performance of their TV campaigns need three essentials in their toolbox:   

Access to a robust technology platform that connects what consumers watch with what they buy. A platform that can integrate viewership and purchase data provides the necessary link to knowing whether a campaign is actually driving sales lift.

The ability for continuous optimization of campaigns. Without being able to get early reads on a campaign, that is, while a campaign is still running, it’s impossible to make the needed tweaks to make it more effective.   

A single source household-level view into the purchase behavior of millions of households. Marketers must be able to tap into insights from data on millions of U.S. households, including those with loyalty/frequent shopper program (FSP) cards. Traditional demographics and attitudinal segments can also be used in this single source application for planning, allowing brands to match TV programs to consumers based on a holistic view of the consumer.

Marketers can apply the insights derived from these key elements in various ways. A brand may uncover an opportunity to increase the buy rate among its medium and light users. A brand may see that it is losing share to a competitor. This information helps brands know where they need to focus their efforts. 

Advertisers already know the efficiencies that data-based advertising provide across digital channels. But, being able to link what a consumer buys with what they view across more traditional media channels means that marketers can finally use data-driven planning to improve the outcome of their linear TV strategy.

As the industry inches towards a true cross-screen, data-driven experience for each and every individual consumer, purchase data will continue to be an important component of media planning and targeting. We can all expect that more granular and integrated data that marketers can access and act on quickly will inform the video landscape as well, as traditional and digital channels more fully converge over the next few years.

Stay tuned, the channels are changing.

IRI TV Planning helps brands understand the historical viewership behavior of the consumers who matter most across networks, genres, programs and day parts. Media planners and buyers can use these insights to plan better TV allocation based on consumer targets and reach goals. Want to know more? Contact me at or visit

1The Nielsen Total Audience Report Q1 2017

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