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Opportunities and Challenges of CTV Advertising

Televisions all over America are cutting their cords and fleeing the restrictions of linear television in pursuit of the wide open expanses of the internet. Connected TV (CTV) use has been increasing each year, and in 2020, eMarketer anticipates 58.6% of the US population will watch video streamed over the internet to their TVs. The amount of time users spend watching advanced TV content is also increasing, which is great news for advertisers who are able to access more inventory than ever before.

While CTV advertising is certainly a fast-growing opportunity, it’s not without its speed bumps. Whether it’s the lack of standardized metrics or continuing issues with ad fraud, those of us in the media industry who are ready to dive into these advanced TV options are forced to take a more cautious approach. Of course, it’s not all bad. For example, with the inventory opening up more and more, CPMs (cost per a thousand impressions) have begun to drop. This will help more brands feel comfortable taking a risk with this ad channel.

Before you move forward with your own CTV advertising plan, here’s a crash course on the opportunities and challenges you’ll face along the way.

Challenge: Inventory Fragmentation

When media buyers are looking to buy CTV inventory, there are no shortage of sellers they can turn to: streaming device manufactures (Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick), makers of smart TVs (Samsung, Vizio, LG), content aggregators (FuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV), programmatic ad exchanges (Adelphic, Centro Basis, Strategus) and broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), just to name a few. The level of scale advertisers are accustomed to when advertising with a relatively limited number of channels over linear TV just isn’t possible in advanced TV where the inventory is spread out over so many sources and platforms.

Each option comes with its own hurdles, too. If you buy inventory over a platform, you won’t have visibility into which content your ads are being placed alongside. If you go directly to the content publisher, you’ll know which shows you end up with, but you’ll have a lot of separate vendors to navigate. The dream is to be able to buy inventory from multiple publishers over a single platform - the best of both worlds.

Opportunity: Audience-Based Buying

Advertisers can target a specific type of audience over a platform instead of buying inventory related to a network or show. It differs from the show-based approach of linear TV, where you can target ads by a specific network’s content such as basketball or comedy and align your messaging with content that your research suggests is commonly consumed by your desired audience. Instead of targeting specific content, an audience-based approach ensures you’re reaching your intended audience through the use of 3rd and 1st party targeting data. As advanced TV platforms mature, better data aggregation will improve ad buying by audience, as well.

Challenge: Inconsistent Campaign Metrics

Going hand-and-hand with the issues surrounding the fragmentation of inventory sources, metrics for measuring campaign performance vary widely across the CTV landscape. Each inventory source comes with its own set of metrics and data-sharing policies. All of this inconsistent data can come as a huge shock to advertisers who are used to running ads over linear TV with full transparency of the programs in which spots aired and the associated Nielsen ratings.

According to a survey from IAB in 2019, after cost, inadequate campaign measurement is one of the largest impediments to investing more in over-the-top (OTT) video ads. And one of the reasons that measuring success is so difficult is that tracking conversions is a tricky science over CTV.

Platforms need to measure things such as video completion rate (VCR) or cost-per-completed-view (CPCV) instead of simple impressions. Some advanced TV platforms are even offering impression-based website attribution in which seemingly organic conversions can be attributed to CTV ad impressions. Advanced TV is a constantly evolving media channel, and new methods of measurement are being introduced even as you read this. Your challenge will be learning how to interpret these metrics.

Opportunity: In-Depth Targeting

Unlike linear TV advertising, advanced TV comes with a host of digital analytics. It can go beyond household-level targeting to measure more granularly, factoring in viewing patterns, behavioral information, audience data and other contextual metrics. CTV advertising campaigns can be much more accurately targeted to an audience most likely to find your messaging relevant than the surface-level demographic targeting linear TV allows.

Challenge: Ad Fraud

The demand for advanced TV inventory is growing every day, and fraudsters have definitely taken notice of it. The supply of impressions is still relatively limited compared to other channels, though this will also grow as more streaming services come online and more users discover them. And this, combined with the lack of transparency surrounding the entire CTV ecosystem, has opened the door for bad actors to sell fake inventory.

According to DoubleVerify, the rising threat of CTV ad fraud is expected to continue through 2020. The amount of fraudulent inventory varies depending on how advertisers are buying it, but it exists across the board. A negligible amount of fake inventory may be present on some platforms while 50-60% of inventory on others could be fraudulent. The most common type of ad fraud, according to DoubleVerify, is server-side ad insertion (SSAI). This is because fraudsters can easily write software that operates on a server, run requests for ads and then claim ads have actually been delivered when they haven’t. There’s nothing stopping people with bad intentions from simply making up inventory out of thin air.

With more visibility, advertisers have a better chance of catching fraud before they fall victim to it. If we received log-level data from content owners and supply-side platforms, we would be more likely to identify discrepancies in inventory.

Opportunity: The Media Stewards

Constructing a CTV advertising campaign requires a near-bottomless supply of patience and digital savvy. Fortunately, these are two qualities the media buyers and planners of The Ward Group have in spades. We don’t just call ourselves media stewards because it looks good on a bumper sticker; it’s because we treat each brand and each ad budget as though it's our own. When our clients find success, we find success, too. By developing media strategies built on integrity and safeguarding media investments, we help clients like yourself navigate the rocky terrain of advertising.

Don’t dive into the uncertain waters of CTV advertising alone. Contact The Ward Group today!

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