2020 Vision: Getting Back to the Fundamentals of Connected TV Advertising

"With the influx of new streaming TV options, advertisers have many options to buy inventory to reach audiences that are potentially watching the same shows in different ways. Today, advertisers can go direct, work with aggregators or buy programmatically." -John Vilade, Premion

As we close out the decade and reflect upon 2019, the transition to Connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) viewing is transforming the TV industry faster than ever. There’s one universal truth — shift happens. The dramatic shift in viewership to streaming shows no signs of abating with eMarketer revising its 2019 US CTV forecast from 190.0 million monthly viewers to 195.1 million.

Moreover, the IAB reports 73% of streamers are now watching ad-supported OTT as more advertisers embrace the medium. eMarketer estimates CTV ad spend will top $10 billion by 2021 and reach $14 billion by 2023. Amid this growth, there’s still significant opportunity to close the gap between CTV/OTT viewership and advertising spend.

For advertisers, reaching target audiences has never been more complicated. Managing and reporting on traditional metrics, like reach and frequency, are anything but simple and straightforward as a constellation of media owners, ad tech companies, and hardware vendors have yet to align on uniform currencies.

As the saying goes: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” In an environment rich with competitors and new entrants, it’s easy for advertisers to get distracted by shiny objects. As such, marketers must do their homework and get back to the fundamentals in an ever-crowded, fast-changing and fragmented marketplace.

As we head into 2020, let’s talk ‘the fundamentals’ to best equip advertisers with the insights to navigate, buy and measure the true value of CTV/OTT advertising:

Demanding Quality Content & Known Inventory Sourcing

While many providers claim to offer premium inventory, it’s essential for advertisers to understand the structural differences in media buying models and the interpretations of quality and sources of inventory offered, such as: what exactly are you buying and where are you buying from?

With the influx of new streaming TV options, advertisers have many options to buy inventory to reach audiences that are potentially watching the same shows in different ways. Today, advertisers can go direct, work with aggregators or buy programmatically. If an advertiser opts for a walled garden approach, they potentially cede control on unique reach and frequency and likely need to carefully calculate geographic impression distribution. With open exchanges, there is little control over where ads may run and remains fraught with persistent brand safety, transparency and algorithmic “control” concerns. Buyer beware.

Choosing a partner with directly sourced inventory with upfront and secured deals in quality premium content gives advertisers the assurance to understand the exact destination and quality of content of ad delivery. This control and transparency is the best safeguard to eliminate unnecessary risk in investment.

Leveraging New Audience Targeting Innovations

Addressability in CTV/OTT allows marketers to leverage richer datasets to target audiences by location, income, education level and many other interest categories at scale. However, it’s important to dig deeper to understand the technology capabilities used by providers to connect data for audience targeting, such as: where is the data coming from, how accurate is the viewer profile, and how often is the data refreshed?

New targeting innovations allow advertisers to analyze content and match it to channel, program and ad placement data to better understand what types of viewers are watching each type of programming and what is triggering their purchase decisions.

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are also bringing new decisioning capabilities to the table, which allows CTV advertisers to connect rich data sets with CTV device graphs for precision targeting. For instance, some providers have the ability to map households to multiple premium data and platform partners in order to enrich and augment a device profile with corresponding household profiles. This allows for granular targeting across first, second, and third-party data.

Bringing Transparency to Measurement & Attribution

While our industry has yet to bring standardization to CTV/OTT buying and measurement, advertisers expect accountability and transparency. As such, it’s important to ask: What standards are in place for ad delivery and reporting? What types of conversion attribution do you offer?

For advertisers to shift greater budgets to CTV/OTT, providers must prove measurable outcomes by offering granular insights into where their ads ran — beyond offering white lists or block lists — to inform campaign optimizations and drive performance.

Today, with CTV/OTT attribution, we can provide the insights to prove the efficacy of campaign performance in driving outcomes, whether its website or in-store footfall traffic. For instance, website attribution measurement can be done through placing a pixel in campaign creative to analyze the IP address correlation of viewers that were served an ad with website visitors who took action after seeing the ad. For footfall attribution, there are third-party vendors that measure the impact of ad exposure to store visits.

As we embark on a new decade, advertisers are quickly becoming more sophisticated in planning, buying and measuring CTV/OTT advertising. The winners will be those that bring transparency, performance and innovation in audience targeting, verification and simplification in buying for advertisers. And as a great sales manager had once said to me, “Johnny V, no matter where we go in this business … it always comes down to ‘the fundamentals’!”

Premion, part of Tegna Inc, is the leading premium CTV/OTT advertising platform for regional and local advertisers.