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What’s the Outcome of Outcomes-Based Sales?

Outcome imageAside from “attribution,” the “outcomes-based sales guarantee” seems to be the emerging hot phrase in TV sales this winter. With the upfronts only a scant two months away, we are likely to hear more about this. But do we really know what these sales teams mean?

Outcomes-based sales has been thrown around by the likes of A+E Networks, NBCU, and Hulu in recent months. Just by stint of competition, other network groups are certain to want to get in on the conversation. And let’s face it – in an ideal world, the accomplishment of intended outcomes is the best way to measure the value of a media buy.

Those Devilish Details

But the devil is in the details, and of these we know very little from the few deals that have been discussed in public. One of the things a true measure of outcomes requires is some way to assign the different elements of a campaign to a specific outcome. This leads back to our other buzzword, attribution, a nascent science that has its share of opaque blackboxes and blindspots.

But data aside, there is perhaps something more important to consider. As I note in my book The Genius Box, a full-scale outcomes-based measure of advertising should be considered a partnership between the media company, advertising brand, and its agency. There are so many elements at play that are out of the hands of the media company, it is hard to see how it, by itself, can guarantee an outcome.

Let’s quickly look at a few elements. A TV network (or AVOD service) can guarantee that it will put so many eyes of a particular target audience on an ad, in a safe brand environment, and perhaps in context relative to content. But at that point, many factors emerge that the network has no control over:

  • is the creative and the brand message of the ad interesting and compelling?
  • how well is the product priced in the marketplace?
  • do people perceive the brand well in the real world?
  • if pushing to a website or app, how well does that interface work for consumers? Is it easy to find the product online and to buy it?
  • if pushing to a retail location, are they conveniently located? Are the stores organized well so it’s easy to find the product? Are the stores clean? Is the staff welcoming and knowledgeable?

A Whopper of an Example

Let’s take a concrete example. I really like the recent Burger King ads with the (somewhat creepy) King. I see them quite often, and I used to eat at BK quite often. But in my area of the country, most BKs have closed; the ones that remain are often in run-down shape, with few customers, and workers who just go through the motions. It’s a sad place, and one I don’t really care to go to anymore. So should the TV network that put those BK ads in front of me be punished on an “outcomes” basis, when it’s really an issue with BK and its franchisees that comes between me and buying a Whopper?

Few of us are – or will be – on the inside of these deals, so it will be interesting to see how outcomes plays out in this and future upfronts, and how much detail can be gleaned. Perhaps they start with simple measures like ticket sales or digital/foot traffic. But as the requests get more complex, with a focus on actual sales, I think there will have to be a recognition that media can only guarantee part of the sales outcome equation.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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– Read my new book about TV, “The Genius Box”. Details here . 

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