No, not a 14 day purchase return on that “As Seen On TV Hat”, but return path data, RPD for short. RPD is the data going back to the TV provider about your TV set’s habits. This data can back from your satellite, optical fiber, or cable line. Your TV provider–assuming you have digital and approximately 50 million HH’s do–is tracking your every viewing move. They know second by second what is being ‘displayed’ on the sets in your household and whether you’re switching when commercials appear. They’re also using your viewing habits to build look-alike models on similar households to send you/them specific tune-in messages.

I’m sure you’ve seen banners/buttons asking you to press “A” for more information or to request a sample. Your TV monitor and remote now become an interactive mechanism just like your PC/mobile device or tablet. Ordering up a pizza (extra anchovies for me, please) when the Papa John’s commercial airs is easy and has just truncated the purchase funnel. That pizza can be at your door without you calling, getting online or walking/driving to the restaurant. OK, so maybe ordering pizza is not the killer app for RPD, but as someone who manages a lot of pharma and financial services marketing I can see value in trying to capture names to remarket to, names and email addresses to add to my database and online communication streams.

With the new technology and data capture there is so much more we can do with TV to make it more than just a medium to push messages out to demographic groups. Some smart CPG companies are marrying the hundred of thousands of HHs available with retailer loyalty card data to better understand the cadence of purchasing behaviors and whether ads are driving new buyers or just reminding those with an empty box to buy again. Why would anyone only ever use Nielsen ratings alone anymore? Welcome to the 21st Century when aggregating audiences of low common denominator demographic populations isn’t enough—if it ever really was. We can finally shift from an audience metric and the awareness stage of the old purchase funnel to tracking business metrics, transactions and engagements.