The Simple But Overlooked Way to Unlock Scale and Brand Safety in Programmatic CTV

A family watches content on multiple screens in their living room.
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Despite concerns over the global economic outlook, demand for quality CTV inventory has never been higher, and advertisers are eager to tap into greater flexibility when it comes to purchasing this highly coveted inventory. However, even with advertisers’ and publishers’ desire to harness the benefits and revenue inherent in programmatic CTV buying, the pace of adoption hasn’t kept pace with the levels of enthusiasm.

So what’s needed to take programmatic CTV buying and revenue to the next level? The answer is a simple one: transparency. Fortunately, the technology needed to drive greater transparency in CTV buying is already available in the form of content object data signals. Let’s talk about why these signals are so important and how they’re going to change the trajectory of programmatic CTV adoption for advertisers and publishers alike.

What Are Content Object Data Signals?

Nicole Scaglione

Guest blog author Nicole Scaglione is global VP of OTT and CTV at PubMatic. (Image credit: PubMatic)

When advertisers buy inventory on linear TV, they know precisely where it will appear -- the network, show, ad slot, genre and rating of the content, you name it. This transparency enables complete confidence in the brand safety of content, and it’s one of the primary reasons linear TV spend has remained so strong, despite heavy shifts in viewership to streaming channels.

So what about programmatic CTV? How do we bring this level of transparency into this fast-growing space? That’s where content object data signals come in. Content objects are information that publishers can pass through the bidstream to give advertisers valuable information on the inventory they’re buying. These signals can include network, show, genre, ratings and other key pieces of information that allow advertisers to know precisely where their ads will be running.

Content objects are a vital tool that publishers and advertisers can use to enhance contextual targeting, and buyers are able to leverage the information gleaned from content object signals for better attribution and optimization. In other words, they’re the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to bringing the incredibly desirable transparency of linear into the programmatic CTV space. So why isn’t the use of content objects ubiquitous?

Barriers to Content Object Data Signal Adoption

One of the main reasons content object signals aren’t pervasive in programmatic CTV buying today is a simple lack of awareness. In fact, a recent study found only about half of U.S. and U.K. advertisers are familiar with content object signals and use them to purchase CTV and OTT video ad inventory. 

In terms of inventory, there are also simply not enough publishers passing these valuable insights into the bidstream yet. This is more than a lack of awareness of the option to do so. Rather, some publishers harbor the misconception that passing content object signals into the bidstream will lead to too much advertiser cherry-picking on inventory and, thus, a lack of scale. But indeed, research shows quite the opposite: 62% of U.S. brands and 82% of UK brands say they would increase their spend with partners that provide data such as content object signals, and a majority of advertisers say they are willing to pay a premium for the transparency that content object signals afford them.

Benefits of Greater Transparency in Programmatic CTV

Overall, there’s a tremendous amount of value to be unlocked within the programmatic CTV space, for buyers and publishers alike, and content object data signals hold the key. These include the following:

Scale. Many of today’s advertisers feel that they need to buy with big-name publishers if they want to get brand-safe inventory in the CTV space, but that’s simply not the case. By passing inventory details via content object signals, small and mid-size publishers will open up a tremendous amount of inventory to advertisers that wouldn’t have otherwise considered such purchases (and instead favored direct, hard-to-scale deals with publishers).

Flexibility. Programmatic CTV buying enables advertisers to buy the inventory they want, when they want it, and at the price they want. At present, a lot of brands and agencies that desire this flexibility are abstaining from programmatic CTV due to a perceived lack of transparency and brand safety. By removing these perceived dangers, publishers will be able to welcome a whole slew of new, eager brands into the CTV buying fold.

Continuity across buys. Content object signals enable CTV buys to harness the strengths of both the linear and digital worlds -- rich content information on one side and strong impression-level data on the other. In doing so, programmatic CTV can help campaigns that span linear TV and digital video become more cohesive across channels.

With greater transparency comes greater adoption. In this regard, content object signals hold the key to unlocking the tremendous advertising value and revenue potential from programmatic CTV that advertisers and publishers have been long awaiting. ■

Nicole Scaglione

Nicole Scaglione is global VP of OTT and CTV at PubMatic, where she heads up a rapidly growing segment of the company’s business. She joined PubMatic in 2021 from Hulu/Disney where she was the head of Hulu’s programmatic and addressable TV sales team in the western U.S., focusing on demand generation and revenue growth from DSP, agency and brand customers.