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Advertisers Don’t Need to Choose Between CTV and Linear

Despite the huge amount of attention given to connected TV, realistically, we’re still years away from the true year of CTV. While CTV has seen record growth over the last two-plus years, there’s still a very sizable viewership on linear television; only 2% of respondents (opens in new tab) to TiVo’s Q4 2021 Video Trends Report reported canceling their pay TV service in the last six months, down considerably from the last survey. 

So, if cable and streaming will continue to coexist for the long term, advertisers shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between the two mediums. Bridging the linear and digital ecosystems can bring tremendous benefits to how advertisers tap into quality inventory, reach audiences across screens and measure and attribute their outcomes. 

Upfront buying vs. RTB trading 

Just as linear and CTV are converging, upfront buying and real-time bidding  (RTB) don’t exist in silos. Advertisers securing upfront inventory can still make future ad buys via real-time bidding and retain control over when they buy and how much they pay. For example, a small direct-to-consumer company seeking to drive sales of a specific product will have different goals and budget constraints than an established pharmaceutical business looking to increase brand awareness. Accordingly, each advertiser’s media mix will be reliant on these factors and more.   

This strategy is central to the future of TV buying, as advertisers will require the flexibility to reach their digital audiences with more transparency into how TV ads perform. 

Like-for-like inventory in CTV

Linear TV is still bought the way it historically has been — via Nielsen demographics and network/daypart. How do advertisers find the same like-for-like network inventory in CTV while tapping into the mass audience linear offers?

Matching technology now exists that identifies a unique identifier and then maps it to the CTV app owner or publisher to give advertisers advantages in both pre-bid and in reporting. When the impression can be confirmed as having served on a cable network publisher in a CTV/OTT environment, the unique identifier is matched to its corresponding cable network. Advertisers can then avoid bidding on an impression if this match wasn’t made and can access the combined impressions delivered at the network level. For example, if an impression is delivered on linear cable network "Discovery" and a CTV impression is delivered on a unique identifier determined to also be Discovery, these impressions are reported together. 

There are also capabilities available that allow advertisers to essentially bring together connected devices and households using cookie-less graphs. Using these graphs, advertisers can build audiences with data from across both linear and CTV to create single, anonymized, targetable IDs. The result is audiences that are curated for cross-screen TV. In this way, advertisers can connect with both TV viewers and cord-cutters and cord-nevers by adding CTV to linear TV media plans, boosting efficiency and minimizing ad spend waste.

CTV reporting to match linear results in cross-screen campaigns

The new way advertisers can think about CTV is as an extension of traditional TV supply, so their advertising remains fluid regardless of where, how and when their audience is watching. While media reports of ratings declines and finite supply in linear might scare advertisers away, these are mostly exaggerated scenarios. The reality is, many viewers are consuming TV across a variety of formats and will continue to do so. 

To get an understanding of how to measure both traditional and digital TV advertising in a streamlined way, advertisers can apply post-log data showing when TV ads are running to CTV. Centralizing ad performance data, including channel, daypart, network and more, from across all TV formats in one place allows advertisers to use and then apply data and insights from one TV channel to another. The ability to monitor performance and audience trends in near-real-time can help in optimizing campaigns across every screen and channel. Retaining ownership of this data is vital for use in other marketing activations via third-party applications.

CTV advertisers can also align GRP with CTV through indexed audiences, enhancing demo-based ad buys with behavioral and purchase data for advanced targeting. Data-driven audience technology can unearth the networks and dayparts that best apply to high-value audiences, helping advertisers optimize frequency, cut media waste and boost the reach of linear campaigns.

Linear television isn’t going anywhere and the digital-only ecosystem isn’t quite ready for primetime. Bringing together these ecosystems so they can work in harmony is how advertisers can reach and engage their audiences everywhere they are watching without sacrificing viewer experience. ■

Marcy Pentoney is the VP of product management at Cadent.