Sometimes, it takes darkness to find the light.
The same can certainly be said of television. In recent years, the medium has seen declining traditional viewership and a migration of viewers to paid digital entertainment.
But a difficult 2020 did not only provide a welcome boost to linear viewer numbers, it also served to underscore the emergence and viability of new connected TV (CTV) channels – for viewers, broadcasters and advertisers alike.
Switched on to CTV
Viewers of over-the-top (OTT) TV services are forecast to swell from 1.8 billion in 2017 to 2.9 billion by 2025, according to a Statista forecast, as viewers flock to choice and control.
Advertisers are following suit. Some 86% of ad buyers planned to increase CTV investment within the next 18 to 24 months, according to a June 2020 Xandr/IAB Europe survey. No wonder eMarketer thinks US CTV spend, for example, will grow by 46% to $10.81 billion in 2021, as new waves of ad-supported video (AVOD) services rise alongside subscription operators and major networks.
It is easy to see the appeal. In connected TV, marketers can enjoy the best of both platforms – television and the internet. That includes refined targeting down to local, household or even individual level, data-driven ad targeting, frequency-capping and exposure attribution that can measure real business outcomes, coupled with the benefits of the largest screen in the house – ad tolerance, attention on by default, high-impact viewability and brand safety.
When GroupM’s Xaxis executed a connected TV campaign for the bank BBVA in Latin America, it saw video completion rates of 90% on OTT – almost twice the set KPI of 50%. That is why connected TV ad interest is burgeoning, including amongst new and smaller brands that, previously, had not been able to access TV audiences.
Recipe for success
But knowing how to execute in this new channel can be challenging. Points of inertia, as CTV grows, are well documented – a historic lack of inventory supply may be changing, but the fragmented routes to access it, divergence from traditional TV currencies and a lack of effective cross-platform measurement pose problems.
Worse, only 52% of ad buyers report having very good or excellent knowledge of CTV in the first place. So, how can brands best embrace the connected TV opportunity?
1. Test the water
When they return, the canaries in the CTV mineshaft invariably report the same advice – get in early and educate yourself.
Rome was not built in a day, so brands should not expect to launch executions embracing and succeeding in the full spectrum of CTV capabilities from the get-go.
Instead, adopt a technologist’s mindset – start small, test and learn as you go. Begin modestly, with a campaign focused on a single aspect – for example, one that aims to reach only consumers within a mile of your brand’s nearest retail outlet. That capability and others are on offer – but seeing success can be difficult when you are trying multiple things at once for the first time, so focus on discovering where effectiveness can be found before over-complicating.
2. Reach the right audience
Although connected TV can make the buying of mass audiences more efficient, too, it can excel at helping brands find needles in haystacks, going beyond age and gender targeting. But honing in on the right audience takes know-how.
Seek out platforms through which you can leverage your own customer or prospect data, and examine identity solutions that allow you to overlay this, in a privacy-compliant way, with other datasets, so as to create even more granular audience segments.
Broadcast and video platforms, through their own services, offer targeting against the audience profile signals they have gathered. But, in a survey for our Relevance 2020 report, nearly all advertisers said their own data is more effective than that of third-parties.
3. Seek out your scale
When you’ve identified your target, where is it at its largest? CTV publishers come in all shapes and sizes, each of which differs from market to market.
In many countries, main TV broadcasters’ video-on-demand (BVOD) services are accruing targetable data points on millions of viewers and are tipping the capability over into linear, whilst AVOD services allow more open programmatic buying but often at smaller scale.
To make the best impact, pick your partners and your target channels wisely, and understand their unique capabilities.
4. Creative considerations
Since CTV is often a programmatic environment, ensure to demand features like competitive separation and frequency-capping from your technology suppliers – ensuring your ad is not located in a pod with rivals and does not get shown to a viewer too often.
CTV must meet a TV quality threshold, so maintain presentation quality by using all the correct file formats and resolutions. Failure to do so often means either a shoddy viewing experience or being rejected altogether by publishers’ sales platforms.
Prepare your campaigns as though they were a Lego set, which has a clear vision for a finished product but which can be assembled in multiple ways. Not only does the dynamic ad creative process, which can make an ad tailored to individual viewers, demand these constituent parts – the new normal demands exactly this kind of creative agility.
5. Optimise the campaign
While advertisers need accurate and reliable data inputs to reach the right audience, they also need outputs that can be leveraged to improve the ad experience for consumers. Advertisers should seek out persistent data collection that can connect ad exposures to campaign outcomes, ensuring that campaigns can be based on accurate, compliant, reliable insights.
To do that, deploy technology that is focused on driving defined outcomes. Whether it is website traffic, social media follows or in-store footfall, KPIs that are resolvable to TV ad exposure and which can be reported on quickly can provide near real-time insight, so as to calibrate campaigns in-flight if needed or, otherwise, after completion.
But brands would be minded to employ KPIs that do not rely on waning identifiers. Third-party cookie deprecation and new limits on mobile device IDs that can form a vital part in cross-channel attribution pose a challenge, so buyer beware.
6. Measure effectiveness, effectively
How do you uncover the effectiveness of a medium that looks like TV but can function as digital? Many buyers say, until cross-channel measurement is truly solved, the best approach is to treat CTV like a familiar friend – that is, use your TV currencies.
Brands from a digital heritage, which may be looking for more than that, should hold their tech partners accountable for cross-channel measurement standards.
Be sure to capture attribution across the whole marketing funnel, in order to prove out ROI.
Toward the future
Connected TV is an upgrade to a medium that has delighted advertisers for decades.
The benefits of the opportunity are clear to see, but sometimes more difficult to realise.
As we move forward in 2021, I am confident that brands – many of which have already been switched on to the value of the combination of high-impact creative and clear outcomes that CTV represents – will deploy more and more campaigns, glean more and more knowledge and find greater and greater success.
The light is getting brighter.