Counting Ads Delivered When TV Is Turned Off

  • by , Featured Contributor, February 3, 2022

Ever since companies started using TV set-top-box data to help better measure TV viewership and ad delivery, companies in the business have had to develop techniques to deal with what to do when the TV is turned off and the set-top box is still running.

The process has not been without controversy: Do you just exclude all viewing events when the channel didn’t change at all in three hours? Works for most viewing, but not when Rafael Nadal plays a five-hour Australian Open final.

Fortunately, we learned that the best way to “check and balance” the massive viewing datasets generated from tens of millions of set-top boxes was to “hybridize” them with gold-standard panel viewing data like Nielsen’s respondent data. We knew that set-top box data would overcount some viewing where the box was on and the TV was off, but it was easy to exclude when your systems factored in against the panel data.

So, it wasn’t surprising to learn this morning that ad verification firm DoubleVerify has discovered that a number of CTV ad deliveries are being counted on TVs where the screen is off.



How could this happen? The default settings of most smart TVs today turn the display off to conserve power,  yet leave the computer on to avoid boot-up time when viewers press the power button to turn it on again. Thus, an app can be remotely triggered to view a feed  -- and no one will know that the screen isn’t on to watch it.

Fortunately, DoubleVerify is on the case with a solution, as are some of the other verification folks as well, I suspect.

I raise the issue today -- at a time when our industry is finally taking some really big steps to move decades-old linear TV measurements into the digital age of cross-platform TV and CTV streaming -- to make sure we don’t forget how important it is not only to have lots of machine- generated data coming from TVs and set-top boxes and apps, but also to maintain significant, independent and verified panels with real people.

It’s the only way to have proper checks and balances on the data, and the only way to truly make it projectable as a currency that will drive more than $100 billion of ad spend annually in the U.S. in a few years.

Just as a tree that falls in the woods without anyone to hear it generates no sound, an ad delivered to a TV screen that is turned off should generate no fee.

13 comments about "Counting Ads Delivered When TV Is Turned Off".
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  1. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc., February 3, 2022 at 4:57 p.m.

    Amen.  We've mixed up OTS (opporunity to see) with WLTSBC (would love to see but can't).  When a tree fall in a forest, it creates the conditions for sound.  But as any physicist will tell you, "the transition form the possible to the actual take place during the act of observation."  Heisenberg said that.  We mistake actual for observational all the time.

  2. Max Kalehoff from MAK, February 3, 2022 at 5:47 p.m.

    - when the TV is on and the ad is delivered but NOBODY is paying attention 
    - when the ads creative suck so bad that nobody pays attention after two seconds 

    Advertisers should care about all the above.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, February 4, 2022 at 6:06 a.m.

    Thanks Jim Meskauskas, love WLTSBC, and to offer it with a Heiesenberg quote, totally makes my week!

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, February 4, 2022 at 6:07 a.m.

    Totally agree Max, which is why I'm hoping that we see innovators like TVInsights have success, where they can watch the viewers watch (or not) the ad creatives.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 4, 2022 at 8:18 a.m.

    Max, rest assured, most national TV advertisers do pay attention to how effective their commercials are likely to be via pretesting them with actual people to see how well they capture attention, hold it and sell the message. When a message fails such tests it is rejected and its back to the drawing boards.  The fact that so many commercials we see on TV seem silly to folks like us is misleading. It is often found that the use of humor, celebrities, various gimmicks ,etc. are effective for consumers with certain mindsets that the brands are trying to communicate with.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 4, 2022 at 8:22 a.m.

    Dave, don't forget to tell them how important it is for the new, "ideal", TV audience measurement service to be seriously funded by advertisers not just by the sellers as is now the case. Without that we are dreaming as the sellers---who are less and less relaint on ad revenues---will find excuses to deny the application of attentiveness metrics and focus only on getting the largest number of "impressions".

  7. Max Kalehoff from MAK replied, February 4, 2022 at 9:32 a.m.

    Ed: you'd be surprised how much video creative goes untested prior to launch. Sure, a tentpole campaign or big linear campaign, where there are a handful of creative assets, tend to deploy pre-launch creative testing. But that is not yet the norm with the growing diversity of assets for various digital channels and targeted audience segments. AI and agile creative scoring methods is making it more feasible to score every video creative, tested on actual humans and AI predicted response.

    On a related note, there are interesting things you can do by combining (pre-market) creative test quality scores with living-room attention data. Realeyes and TVision released a new analysis showing how different creative performs in various environments, and the results sometimes counter conventional wisdom. You can find that report publicly on our respective websites.

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 4, 2022 at 9:54 a.m.

    Max, I'm not surprised about the degree of pre-testing that is done for digital video ad campaigns as that's how it was with TV in its early days. Almost everything was done in seat-of-the-pants fashion. Everything changed in the late 1950s when P&G and others began day after recall testing via Burke and many other companies soon joined in---Audits & Surveys, Hooper, Starch, Gallup & Robinson, etc. Today most of the designs use invited or forced exposure rather than real word, at-home, exposure due to rating fragmentataion and the high cost of finding viewers per telecast. Still, thecurrent crop of pre-testing services is widely used as a safety valve by many national TV advertisers. I believe that as these brands invest more into streaming they will start to tailor some commercials for specialized audinces but for now, they are mainly using the same pre-tested messages that work for them in "linear"

  9. John Grono from GAP Research, February 4, 2022 at 7:13 p.m.

    Some additional thoughts.

    1. Counting content streamed to a device when the screen is not on would be the equivalent if back in the heyday of TV that an FTA broadcaster claimed viewer in every household as their broacast signal was being picked up by the home's aerial.   In fact every broadcaster could claim at least one viewer per household with an aerial as it was the TV tuner that controlled what appeared on the screen.  The ratings total would exceed the population.   Thank goodness sense prevailed in those times.

    2. Advertising content is the responsibility of the advertiser and their agency.   Ad quality, attention, effectiveness etc. is not the responsibility of the broadcaster.   The broadcaster's responsibilty is to produce quality targeted content that accumaulates an audience, which in turn is advertising friendly.   It reminds me of when I was servicing our #1 broadcatster in the '90s, when a sports sales manager commented that an advertiser was complaining how viewers to the ad in a break declined and that therefore they wanted a reduced rate as the CPM had gone up.   His response (paraphrasing him) was that they spent millions on the rights and the actual broadcast itself, and then you put a crappy ad on that is so bad people in droves either turned-off or ignored the ad and you want a discount for being sloppy!?!?   His coup de grace was suggesting that he should put a surcharge/premium on his bad ads for losing their audience!   It was a classic confrontation between broadcaster arrogance and advertiser irrogance.

  10. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 5, 2022 at 2:49 a.m.

    John, I don't think that it's the TV seller's job to put on shows that satisfy most advertisers' targeting needs as that would be impossible---professional fare---yes, but super targeted fare---not likly except for business news, cooking or health shows, certain sports attractions, etc.  Also, the degree of ad clutter a seller crams into the breaks has a definite and negative effect on ad impact---even for very appealing and motivating commercials. That is the seller's responsibility---in my opinion.

  11. John Grono from GAP Research, February 5, 2022 at 5:47 a.m.

    I totally agree that the broadcaster's content shoul be driven by it's quality. innovation etc.   A good programme finds a good audience, from which you can derive its demographic appeal and set rate cards accordingly.

    Production budgets can be/are astronomical and a major expense centre and always a target for cost reductions.   That can be done by compromising quality and talent - less experienced writers, crew, actors etc.   But it was also done by reducing the programme duration, which is what many/most broadcasters opted to do.   This meant more ad breaks, more interruption and less engagement by the all-important audience.   Coupked with reductions in ad-production budgets and time-frames, it became the double-edged sword that we suffer from these days.

    That is partly driven by the apparently unshakable 'top and bottom of the hour' for programme scheduling.   What if a brave broacaster trialled shorter programmes with shorter ad-breaks?   Would viewers accept (say) a 20:40 programme start that finished at 21:05?   Could that possibly make for a better experience for the viewer?   Yes they would probably need new content ... or maybe just more clever scheduling of repeats which is the curent bane (at least in AU).

  12. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, February 5, 2022 at 8:24 a.m.

    Very good opints John. I do believe that as we see streaming/CTV drive more of TV's consumption to on-demand rather than scheduled on the half hour basis that we will see more creative uses of ad breaks. Even in linear, we've seen innovation ... When FOX debuted Empire, they delayed the ad breaks in the show significantly so that audiences could get deeper into the storylines, amd it made an enormous impact on viewer retention in the first half hour. I'm hoping that all the data now available second-by-second on TV content and ad viewing will help inspire more innocation.

  13. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 5, 2022 at 12:53 p.m.

    The move to on-demand TV seems to have slowed somewhat if one looks at the Nielsen trending studies. Since last May, streaming's share of total "TV" viewing has frozen at the 27-28 level when it was forecast---based on earlier Nielsen trending---that it woiuld be about 33% by this time. I assume that there will be additional gains for streaming, especially with the influx of linear programming, but one has to question whether the average viewer really knows precisely what he/she wants to watch every time the TV is used. Not only that, it's not exactly easy in streaming land to find what you might like to watch or to "surf" across the various venues, apps, etc. So until that  limitation  is resolved ----and even if it is resolved---I wouldn't be surprised if a considerable amount of TV consumption continues to be done the old fashioned way.

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