The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the industry leader in advertising research among brand advertisers, agencies, research firms, and media, today announced a collaborative research initiative designed to establish methods for applying randomized control testing (RCT) to cross-platform advertising impact analysis.
The proof-of-concept study, named RCT21, will apply experimentation methods to measure incremental ROI of large ad campaigns run across multiple media channels at once, including addressable linear TV and multiple major digital media platforms.
The ARF is conducting the research in collaboration with 605, Central Control and Bill Harvey Consulting. A select number of national advertisers are also being recruited to join in the project.
Randomized control testing is a scientific method that looks to eliminate sources of bias in analysis by comparing outcomes for a pre-determined exposed group to a pre-determined non-exposed group.
While RCT techniques are already used within the “walled gardens” of large digital platforms, this study will demonstrate their application to the more complex environment of cross-platform campaigns involving both digital and TV.
The study aims to demonstrate how such methods can complement and enhance current observational approaches such as marketing mix modeling and multi-touch attribution. In the process, the ARF hopes to make it possible for advertisers to better pinpoint which marketing elements across all platforms are best contributing to ROI.
“The digital platforms have championed the value of random control tests and have made them a cornerstone of their success,” said Scott McDonald, CEO of the ARF. “ARF has highlighted the scientific progress that has been made on ‘incrementality,’ but we needed to take it farther to have more extensive impact on existing marketing practice.”
Bill Harvey noted that “by leaving TV out of those tests, the risk of error in the conclusions was high,” and recommended that 605 and Central Control could close that gap.
“605 has been conducting cross-platform RCT at scale for a major consumer retailer, one of the largest ride-share companies and a variety of political consultants for years,” said Noah Levine, Chief Revenue Officer of 605. “Through our established crosswalks with all major addressable TV suppliers, we are able to execute cross-platform RCT in all major addressable TV households. To the viewer, it’s just TV, but being addressable ensures that the control group does not get exposed to the test stimuli.”
“Correlation is not causation,” said Rick Bruner, CEO of Central Control, a services and software company specialized in advertising experiments. “Observational analyses in forms such as retrospective naturalistic quasi-experiments MMM, MTA, single-source and national time series are incredibly powerful in generating hypotheses, but advertisers cannot prove the ROIs without RCT verification. The industry needs all of these methods combined, and cross-platform RCT has been mostly missing until now.”
“Horizon is excited to be part of what we believe is a groundbreaking initiative to advance the area of media measurement and optimization,” says Rick Watrall, Chief Analytics Officer, Horizon Media. “Randomized Control Testing has the potential of being the gold standard for cross-platform ROI analysis, and we’re committed to working with the ARF and RCT team to fully evaluate this approach. This work has the possibility of being a major leap forward in providing an unbiased, transparent and accurate read on understanding the true incrementality of media tactics. We’ll be contributing to the evaluation with the lens of comparing RCT with existing measurement approaches in the marketplace and how it can be used in ‘real-world’ media planning and activation. Our hope is that we can bring this innovative solution to our clients to advance the area of media measurement and help drive their businesses by improving the impact of each dollar spent.”
“Merkle is a strong supporter of this initiative,” says Andy Fisher, Head of Merkury Advanced TV. “Randomized Control Testing is a critical tool for measuring the effectiveness of advertising. While RCT is often leveraged as a stand-alone measurement approach within channels such as Addressable TV or digital walled gardens, it is far less frequently used cross-channel and at scale. This needs to change. We are looking forward to being part of this groundbreaking project that will help us further the science of advertising measurement. Ultimately, we believe this will help our clients get better results for their advertising dollars.”
The study, to commence in Q3 of 2020, is projected to be completed by Q1 2021. The ARF-led team is actively recruiting advertisers to participate in the study. For more information, or to learn how to participate, please visit https://thearf.org/RCT21.
About the Advertising Research Foundation
Founded more than 80 years ago, the ARF is dedicated to creating, curating, and sharing objective, industry-level advertising research to enable members to make a true impact on their advertising and build marketing leadership within their organizations. It has 400 members from leading brand advertisers, agencies, research firms, and media-tech companies. For more information, please visit www.thearf.org.
About Bill Harvey Consulting
Bill Harvey Consulting, Inc. has consulted for over 70 of the top 100 advertisers and many other organizations of all types, specializing in innovation, privacy, and best practices. Typically ahead of the field, Bill Harvey developed an automated RCT market matching system for General Foods in the 1980s coming out of his earlier work with ANA President Arch Knowlton, and created the first automated RCT system for digital called the Sponsorship Effectiveness Index in the late 90s ad early 00s. Bill was the inventor founder of TRA, now part of TiVo, which was the first company to show that Singlesource ROAS analytics could be executed at Big Data scale across media platforms.
605 is an independent TV measurement and analytics firm that offers advertising and content measurement, full-funnel attribution, media planning, optimization and analytical solutions on top of our deterministic TV viewership dataset covering more than 21 million households across all 210 U.S. markets. 605’s multi-source viewership dataset offers whole-home TV viewing visibility by combining the best attributes of set-top box and ACR data. 605 is unique in that its multi-source viewership dataset supports 100 percent deterministic audience data activation at the household level while being reportable second by second with currency grade national and local projections methodologies, all in a privacy compliant manner.
605 is a leader in the advertising data technology industry with respect to viewing data and its methodology and protocol development, system performance and customer support expertise. An independent audit and review performed by KPMG LLP found that 605 achieved service organization control 3 (“SOC 3”) compliance with its Audience App product, built for Charter Communications.
About Central Control
Central Control provides advertisers with software tools and services focused on advertising experiments. For advertisers who demand not mere statistical inference but scientific proof of what's having the greatest incremental ROI in their ad mix, Central Control helps advertisers plan, execute and analyze true lift from ads in multiple media, including addressable TV, search, social, display and more.
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