CBS Launches Major Campaign To Keep TV Ad Dollars From Moving To Digital

The effort, called the Campaign Performance Audit (CPA), is CBS’ biggest research investment yet to support TV advertising as broadcasters gird for an upfront season struggle to keep dollars from shifting to less expensive digital platforms. CBS says that it will pay to help buyers produce effective ads, find the right shows on which they should air, and then measure the results using data from Nielsen and others.

“You have [companies] cutting television budgets and prime time with less people seeing their ads, and it’s not producing the same results — they left a lot of money on the table,” CBS Chief Research Officer David Poltrack tells me. “We’re going to do everything in our power to show it’s a mistake.”

The process can begin at CBS’ Television City research facility in Las Vegas: It has state-of-the-art editing equipment to help advertisers craft their messages, and then test them in front of live audiences using tools including biometric feedback and neurotesting. CBS will propose a campaign, and then gather data to see whether it worked. For example, Nielsen Catalina Solutions can identify what viewers buy.

Poltrack won’t say how much CBS is investing to seed the CPA effort, but calls the amount “substantial” — and adds that it could grow if advertisers embrace it. “If you’re doing things that we think are hurting you, we’re willing to challenge you,” he says. Network Sales President Jo Ann Ross says that CPA will put the company “at the forefront of offering clients tangible and proven tools to ensure dollars spent on CBS are the most effective and powerful of their overall ad spend.”

The effort could be important: Although results vary by company, the ad market was surprisingly weak in Q4 — and some execs say that they haven’t seen a big improvement in Q1. Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger said last week that “TV advertising [is] undergoing a deflationary secular trend. CBS is positioned better than some peers, but is not immune.”

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