The proliferation of content options across platforms, screens, and devices, and the continued splintering of audiences brings increasing fragmentation woes for marketers. If you’re a national brand, local relevance is becoming all the more important. It requires honing the ability to personalize and localize messages and consumer experiences with contextually, dynamic and relevant content.
Today, national brands face a number of challenges.
Beyond navigating the continued consumer and channel fragmentation, they need insights at a national to local level to efficiently reach the right audience. Most often, the impression distribution of national footprints is naturally skewed, leaving gaps in harder-to-reach markets.
As such, brands are seeking more effective ways to reach local audiences and drive business outcomes. BIA Advisory estimates national brands will spend $62.7 billion in 2019 to target local consumers.
At the same time, we’re witnessing a dynamic local-media marketplace flourishing with the growing adoption of addressable over-the-top (OTT), in addition to an explosion in streaming TV offerings and inventory by station operators, publishers and virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs).
For this upfront season, over-the-top (OTT) advertising is at the top of the “transformation” agenda for the TV industry. In fact, connected TV (CTV) and OTT advertising is expanding at the fastest rate of any major medium and will reach $4 billion this year and $5 billion next year, according to Magna’s latest forecast. Even with this rapid growth, OTT ad spending is still catching up with consumption — it’s just 3% of TV ad budgets.
To win over advertisers, we’re witnessing a battle brewing at the agency level — people are vying for marketers to shift budgets to CTV and OTT. Many traditional TV buyers have renamed themselves as “video investment” teams, and digital buyers are emphasizing their audience targeting, measurement and attribution prowess to stake the vast, growing CTV opportunity.
As the competition rages on between the media giants and the distribution platforms to grow their direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming offerings, the OTT ecosystem is becoming ever more complex and fragmented, which makes the buying experience even more confusing for advertisers. Compounding the market confusion is the rise of new entrants that claim to do the same thing but are executing differently. Advertisers need a checklist to truly understand what they are getting.
“For advertisers, ad-supported Connected TV (CTV) offers a highly valuable proposition: a brand-safe and fraud-free
environment to reach desired audiences across a broad or niche demo range.”
-Jim Wilson, President of Premion, Tegna
2019 is shaping up to be a monumental year for ad-supported streaming over-the-top (OTT) services with Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV, Amazon’s IMDb Freedive and NBCUniversal entering the fray. Pure-play OTT networks, such as MLB.TV, Xumo and Tubi TV, are already gaining significant traction with attracting growing audiences in the booming ad-supported OTT market. This beckons the question: how much of the streaming TV future will be ad-supported versus subscription-based?
The expansion in ad-supported streaming services comes amid concerns of subscription fatigue among consumers. In fact, research from Magid indicates that U.S. subscription streaming growth is slowing.
In contrast, consumers that watch ad-supported streaming services are largely incremental to those that watch linear TV, they represent a high-value audience, and they are highly receptive to ads, according to an IAB study. With rising subscription costs and the fact that there’s a limit to how many streaming services consumers are willing to pay for, it’s inevitable that the ad-supported model will prevail.
For advertisers, ad-supported Connected TV (CTV) offers a highly valuable proposition: a brand-safe and fraud-free environment to reach desired audiences across a broad or niche demo range. As such, brands and agencies are moving bigger budgets to this medium. A SteelHouse Survey finds that 78% of marketers plan to buy ad inventory on streaming TV within the next 12 months.
Here are key developments to watch with the growing opportunities in ad-supported streaming:
Convergence of Linear and Connected TV
Since CTV delivers the same highly engaged, lean-back and big screen experience as linear TV, savvy marketers are combining ad-supported CTV with linear TV in their media buys. In fact, a VAB report highlights that viewing an ad on both linear TV and OTT platforms resulted in a two-fold increase in brand favorability and validate that combining linear TV and ad-supported OTT inventory can deliver even stronger campaign results and increased business outcomes for marketers by extending both reach and engagement. This converged CTV and linear media strategy will accelerate as many TV advertisers now consider connected TV as a way to add incremental reach to their linear TV buy.
Furthermore, the proliferation of video experiences across different platforms and devices is triggering broadcasters to review and consider new business models for monetizing their inventory. With broadcasters embracing OTT, we can expect bigger investments in live streaming services, particularly in the world of sports and local news.
With the heightened focus on consumer privacy in the current GDPR era, advertisers come to expect greater transparency across the advertising supply chain. Given the increasing sophistication of brand safety, ad fraud and viewability issues, marketers are moving from the use of third-party data in favor of first-and-second party partnerships.
Trust and transparency are now considered a competitive advantage. Brands and marketers demand accountability in their partnerships and verifiable transparency has become table stakes for doing business. Companies must be held accountable and choosing ethical, trustworthy people aligned with your core values is mission-critical when considering any business relationship.
When it comes to CTV advertising, given the increasing fragmentation and wide disparity in capabilities among advertising providers and video content, it’s imperative that marketers thoroughly vet their partners to ensure that they are buying the highest quality premium video inventory. Defining and setting clear metrics from the onset and having transparent and detailed reporting on campaign results is key for a successful partnership.
Furthermore, the advancement in blockchain and cryptography technologies offers opportunities to bring independently verifiable transparency to the media supply chain, which in turn drives greater trust, as advertisers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for. The AdLedger Consortium is paving the way in driving and implementing global standards to build greater advertising transparency in this area.
The last year has seen connected TV proving its long-term value. Skyrocketing growth of streaming audiences has spurred an insatiable desire for advertising on these platforms. Having spent most of the year on the front lines meeting with hundreds of local agencies and ad buyers, here’s my assessment on the lessons learned in the connected TV (CTV) advertising market for 2018.
The fourth quarter saw the largest spike in the cord-cutting trend as more than 1 million consumers canceled their cable TV or satellite subscriptions. CTV has emerged as the fastest-growing video segment this year, with marketers planning to dramatically increase their CTV budget commitments, according to an Advertiser Perceptions study. At the same time, the fragmentation of the streaming TV ecosystem is only getting worse as direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming services are popping up on a weekly basis.
For many agencies and brand marketers, the perception of CTV is that it’s still an emerging market made up of a highly complex network of players, which makes the buying experience confusing. There’s still a lack of understanding of the differentiation in inventory quality and execution among providers as each platform has its own set of targeting parameters and measurement approaches. More importantly, when it comes to budget, marketers are still figuring out whether CTV should be part of the TV or digital budget or whether it stands on its own.
Best practices for OTT success
By every measure, OTT (aka Connected TV or CTV) viewing is the new normal. With three in four U.S. households now consuming content on streaming services, advertisers and brand marketers are shifting bigger budgets into this rapidly growing channel. In fact, 78 percent of marketers plan to buy ad inventory on streaming TV within the next 12 months, according to a SteelHouse survey.
But for some marketers, the complexity and fragmentation of the OTT ecosystem remain hurdles to widespread adoption. To reap the benefits of OTT, you’ll need a deeper understanding of the solutions available.
What are the key considerations for developing an effective OTT buying strategy? Here’s our playbook to simplify the media-buying process to reach the vast and highly engaged streaming audience.
Data is king for OTT targeting
Data is fueling the OTT landscape but targeting and execution capabilities vary significantly among OTT providers. When planning their media buy, marketers need to consider whether they’re buying audience or content. Or maybe both. And when you’re doing data-driven targeting, where is the data coming from and how accurate is the viewer profile?
The latest OTT advancements allow marketers to use audiences instead of content to plan their campaigns. Audience segmentation can be truly deterministic and addressable down to an individual level. Data can be collected based on viewership and matched back to the individual within a household. Using non-personally identifiable viewer data, marketers can 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.
In addition, first-party data collection on some OTT platforms offers the capability for online and offline attribution. This can give marketers richer insights on desired actions taken by a viewer that has been served an ad.
Inventory quality matters
Brand safety remains a paramount concern and advertisers need to understand what they’re buying. Since not all OTT quality is the same, determining inventory quality is imperative for marketers. Many providers claim they have directly sourced inventory, but it is important for marketers to know exactly where the inventory is coming from to ensure that their ads are running in a brand-safe and fraud-free environment.
What questions should you ask? Is it a direct buy with a network or ad solution platform, or through programmatic channels that source inventory from open exchanges and non-guaranteed PMP deals? Which is the right combination to give marketers what they need to ensure brand safety and provide the greatest reach?