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Cross-Device: The Key to Unleashing OTT’s Value

Remember when the whole family would sit down on the couch after dinner to catch the latest episode of Friends, Cheers or M*A*S*H? Today, TV looks very different — and I’m not just talking about the special effects in Game of Thrones or the unusual narration of House of Cards. I’m talking about the way we watch it.

Instead of buying hefty cable packages, consumers are starting to choose cheaper “skinny” bundles, watching shows on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. And instead of just sitting on the couch, they’re streaming content across our devices from the subway, the kitchen or in bed. This shift is so significant that a recent study from Level 3 Communications suggests that over-the-top (OTT) video will overtake traditional TV within five years.

Fortunately, today’s viewers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the OTT boom. Advertisers also have much to gain from the move to streaming: FreeWheel reports that OTT has now surpassed desktop as the largest platform for ad views.

When brands embrace these changes — and adopt technology and strategies to capitalize on them — they can deliver effective, one-to-one advertising campaigns like never before. Here are three high-level strategies to bring the precision of digital advertising to television.

Power TV With Your Own Data: Today, companies aren’t short on data. In fact, with data production set to increase by more than 4,000% by 2020, according to an IDC forecast, most organizations will need to figure out how to deal with it all.

With data analytics, brands can collect, analyze and activate data across devices to personalize ads, including OTT ads. How? Brands can harness data from devices found within the household on any channel (including their own websites, mobile apps and CRM data) to craft and deliver targeted ads to the household’s TV viewers.

One of my favorite possibilities here is that a music-streaming company can serve TV ads to customers suggesting they upgrade because they are frequent users of their free service. Brands can not only activate that data for creating segments, but they can also use it to help with measurement and optimization after an ad is served.

Close the Loop and Optimize Every Day: When brands serve digital ads across devices, they can take an in-depth look at how their viewers interact with them. By looking at consumer behavior across devices, advertisers can measure the effectiveness of campaigns and gain a better understanding of how individuals are converting.

A music-streaming service, for instance, can use information about how and when users upgrade their accounts to further optimize a campaign while it is running. Perhaps the company will notice that users are more likely to upgrade on their laptops than on mobile phones, or that OTT ads are most effective when delivered in combination with mobile banner ads.

Control the Customer Journey: Traditionally, TV advertising enabled widespread brand awareness, while digital advertising gave brands the ability to deliver ads at specific moments along the customer journey. With OTT, brands can do both. When advertisers have detailed knowledge about how their customers are behaving and converting across all the devices they use, they can deliver tailored messages at specific times and frequencies based on where individuals and households are in the sales funnel.

What might this look like for that music-streaming service I mentioned? Advertisers can serve different relevant messages to individuals based on how and when they stream music, or whether or not they have paid subscriptions. For example, individuals who have not yet downloaded the app can be invited to try it out. Those who already use the app frequently can receive an ad for a free trial upgrade. Once these consumers have seen the respective ads on TV, advertisers can continue to engage them across various channels. All this can happen on the same OTT buy.

With the rise of OTT and the troves of data it is bringing with it, TV ad buying is no longer about demographic segments. Instead, it’s about a brand’s specific audience and where they are along their unique customer journey. With the right technology and strategies, brands can gain a competitive edge in digital advertising by making the most of OTT.

Adam Markey is senior director of TV solutions at DataXu, a provider of programmatic marketing software.