TRA Takes Set-Top Data to the Store


Pop quiz: You're marketing toothpaste. Which cable TV shows are most likely to boost sales of your latest grin-whitening product?

TRA, a small New York research firm, is using set-top box data to answer just such a question.

The company aggregates data from TiVo digital video recorders and several undisclosed cable operators, representing 1.5 million households (1.2 million of which are from TiVo) in every U.S. designated market area. TRA then matches those viewing metrics with information from 54 million frequent-shopper cards issued by grocery stores and other retailers, to yield a 370,000-household sample linking consumers' purchasing behavior with TV habits.

“We're helping advertisers answer the question they've been asking for years, which is: Does my advertising drive sales?” TRA chairman and CEO Mark Lieberman said.

It's a different tack from the ratings-oriented set-top data analysis offered by the likes of Nielsen, TiVo, Rentrak and TNS Media (see “Thinking Inside the Box,” June 15, 2009).

Lieberman said TRA's tools are able to identify which shows are watched by “swing purchasers” — people who sometimes buy your competitor's product and sometimes yours. According to TRA, ads placed using its database deliver an average 70% better sales results compared with those bought using traditional sex and age demographic breakdowns.

“We call it 'halfway to addressability,'” he said.

Jim Kite, president of research of analytics for MediaVest, a subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, said his agency is beginning to engage in discussions with advertisers about using TRA's data to provide secondary guarantees that a spot will deliver at least a 20% lift in sales. TRA “is the one-stop place that has both the audience-delivery metrics and some measure of purchase outcome,” he said.

However, there are challenges in changing ingrained behaviors, Kite added. Networks and advertisers “have been doing it the same way for years,” he said, relying solely on Nielsen's research for setting rates.

TRA, which has 25 employees, has raised $20 million to date from investors including Arbitron, The WPP Group and Kodiak Venture Partners. Lieberman claimed the company has spent 35,000 person-hours building out its system.