As evidenced at the recent Simulmedia PeopleFront, several major media and brand companies are busy executing data driven solutions into their sales efforts. Panels of brand leaders, enablers (research companies) and media sellers all spoke of using data to measure outcomes as well as go beyond GRPs and proxy demographics to target and measure actual consumers at the household level.

According to Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan, his company has “moved from digital into television … with people-based measurement tools. [The business is] on steroids [and now] companies can deliver tens of millions of points of data.” And yet, he admitted that the industry is a couple of years away from a meaningful percentage [20%] of the media buying and selling business adopting this method. But the momentum is there as it continues to evolve, capitalizing on better technology, cloud based solutions and learnings from past measurement experiences.

Media veteran Jack Myers remarked that he was interested in knowing “the obstacles, the issues preventing a move forward. Where it is today and where we are going next. The currencies models are shifting and changing. Look at points a year from now to evaluate actual performance. Evaluate success on behalf of marketers and for audience based measurement.”

There were plenty of issues discussed:

Big Announcements

Major media conglomerates are taking big steps to move their companies into the new data age. Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s Chairman Ad Sales and Client Partnerships, announced that after a three year investment in infrastructure, NBCU has just launched a system that links their entire ecosystem of “proposals and contracts that include linear and digital inventory as well as other data. It was developed to match different data sets across our entire portfolio, all on same system.” She added, “This is what we can do to activate at scale and to merge datasets that find customers who buy our advertisers products and services. We will close the loop with TV performance and purchase data.”

Making TV More Efficient

There is certainly a lot of enthusiasm for making television more data driven. Liza Landsman, EVP and Chief Customer Officer for jet.com said that, “TV is not efficient in targeting a niche audience.”

Karna Crawford, SVP Marketing Strategy and Digital for JP Morgan Chase agreed, noting that “We want scale and precision. Every decision as to how we invest needs to show return. You get massive scale of very targeted things in digital. When I try in TV it is not at scale.” So the implementation of big data sets that can more efficiently target niche audiences and segments can be a boon to television, bringing it on par in targeting efficiency with digital.

Where’s the Talent?

The biggest challenge in the market today has to be in finding the right talent to help in a company’s data development. Robert McDowell, SVP Marketing and Distribution for Choice Hotels, announced that they are “seeking analytics experts. We are investing in talent and keeping them engaged.” Crawford added, “We seek people who are more integrated in the way they think and explain things in a simple way. We need to connect the dots. We need a holistic view of the data. It is hard to find that type of talent.”

Metrics vs Movement

Such talent is being developed as Research Departments move into the realm of Consumer Insights and we see data and analytics play a much bigger role in business decision-making. Dan Aversano, SVP Client and Consumer Insights for Turner, loves “the momentum and the conversation around data. Our clients want to hear more about what we do with that data and how to interact with our inventory. We want to hit a CPM but also sell product.”

Sharon O’Sullivan, EVP Ad Sales for Discovery Communications added, “It is an exciting time when we have the opportunity to re-create metrics and speak in more effective way.”

Legacy metrics have their value too. Aversano noted that demo CPMs offer “historical and in-market comparison across networks. The challenge now is that there are a thousand different metrics with data pieces thrown on top. It is important to be data agnostic. We might be measuring the wrong thing.”

People-targeting initiatives like those implemented by Simulmedia have changed the television conversation and have made the prospect of buying TV akin to a treasure hunt for consumers that can result in a verifiable sales ROI pot of gold. TV is not dead. Thanks to data, it is just getting started.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com management or associated bloggers. MediaVillage is an open thought leadership platform.