New platforms, new technologies, and new models are radically transforming the advertising industry. But it’s worth remembering what hasn’t changed. Despite the latest innovations, at the end of the day, the only metric that matters is sales.

And yet, in recent years, with the advent of social networks and short-form video platforms, people around the advertising industry got lured away from the essentials of what really works by the promise of something new. Some agencies and marketers were so worried about getting left behind that they over-indexed on “shiny new toys.” Now, companies that were once eager to shift to new platforms are rethinking their “shiny first” strategy.

So, what happened? Why—and how—did so many marketers and agencies get distracted?

Digital platforms attempted to tip the scales by making two bold claims. The first was that their advanced metrics could prove attribution or provide actual sales. The second was that their targeting capabilities set them apart from the media industry.

Unfortunately for those platforms—and the marketers and agencies who believed in the promise—those claims haven’t panned out.

Start with the metrics. Social networks and short-form video sites invented their own form of measurement: views. But “views”—which are calculated by cumulatively counting the number of people (or bots) that consume at least a second of a piece of content over its entire lifespan—are clearly not the same as “viewers.” In fact, if NBCUniversal used this home-grown metric, television’s most-watched primetime show, Sunday Night Football, would have nearly 10 billion views—which is impressive, considering that there are only 325 million people living in the United States.

A “view” is simply a ridiculous metric—not just because the math doesn’t add up, but also because it doesn’t account for context. If the sound is off on a pre-roll video, that’s a view. If just one pixel is showing, that’s a view. And if a marketer’s spot is put next to a piece of offensive content, the platform will still charge them for it. “Views” don’t work. They can’t buy a product and they certainly don’t correlate with sales.

But we know what does correlate with sales: the premium content audiences love. Last year, ABC and Accenture released a study that found multiplatform TV has a large halo effect on digital advertising—and that a significant portion of digital’s claimed-ROI can and should be credited to television. At NBCUniversal, we wanted to know more, so this year we partnered with Accenture to take the investigation a few steps further. The results, while not surprising, speak volumes.

For example, Accenture found that over one-quarter of paid search advertising’s brand impact—specifically, ad awareness and purchase intent—should be attributed directly to linear TV.

Does this mean that marketers should shift all of their dollars to premium content? I certainly wouldn’t turn it down…but we know for a fact that over-indexing doesn’t work. At the end of the day, effective marketing strategies are built on smart media mixes, as well as an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each medium.

For instance, when it comes to building a brand, Accenture’s research shows that premium video clearly has the edge. The study found that, at the top of the purchase funnel, premium content delivers four times as much brand awareness for every dollar spent as paid social media, and more than eleven times as much as short-form digital video.

And at the bottom of the funnel—purchase intent—premium video wins out again, delivering two times more purchase intent than paid social media, and two-and-a-half times more than short-form digital video.

Even if television laps digital in terms of ROI, the social platforms still claim they have more advanced data and optimization capabilities. That may have been the case years ago, but not anymore. Television has caught up with digital, and is offering marketers the data solutions they crave.

In fact, we’re taking them a step further. This Upfront, NBCUniversal is committing up to $1 billion of inventory to audience-based guarantees that tie marketing campaigns to driving sales. These are scaled campaigns (which other platforms can’t match), attached to premium content (which other platforms don’t have), and guaranteed by audience data (not by legacy measurement). The fact is, when it comes to targeting at scale, TV is the new digital.

It’s easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles. But as marketers sort through the media industry’s incredible transformation, it’s important that they stay focused on what works, so they can deliver what matters: sales.

Linda Yaccarino is the Chairman of Advertising Sales and Client Partnerships at NBCUniversal

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