Ratings Don’t Equal Performance
25 April 2019 • tvsquared
Meg Coyle,
MarCom Director

We’re in the midst of another Upfront season – when networks promote premium content, and advertisers lock in the best rates for audience reach for the upcoming TV season.

While the Upfronts are an industry mainstay, I’ve got some serious issues with them (and have for several years!) because they haven’t kept up with TV’s evolution as a performance-marketing channel. While I think most networks have come far in terms of leveraging analytics – especially for proof of performance – the Upfronts still operate using ratings as a currency. And ratings tell you jack squat about how an ad performed. (Upfronts also provide little-to-no opportunities to optimize, but we’ll talk about that in another blog.)

For brands that use TV solely for awareness, they make sense. Not so much for those that use TV for response, because ratings don’t equal performance!  

To prove this, I asked our Head of Business Intelligence to aggregate performance data from our platform to find out what “Big 3” network shows worked best for our U.S. clients over the last few months. Did they align with the top-rated shows? The results might surprise you …


Again, these are results from various types of advertisers and industries. The best performing shows (and networks, days, dayparts, genres, etc.) for a brand will be unique to that brand. But they do illustrate the importance of thinking about TV programming beyond ratings.

Some of my favorite examples from clients are when they discover surprisingly high-performing shows. One real-estate brand found daytime kids programming led to major site traffic. A non-profit nearly doubled TV-driven donations once it found that weather-related shows worked best. A male-focused e-commerce retailer learned that female-oriented shows generated major sales. We could write a book with examples like these.

Just because pairs of eyeballs may see your spot, doesn’t mean they’ll respond to it. Ratings tell you nothing about performance. The only way to determine the best shows for your brand is through continuous measurement and optimization. With all the buzz around Upfronts, it’s important we don’t lose sight of that.