The midterm elections are heating up. With the 2018 congressional elections generating more attention than past midterms, the stakes are high for advertisers. 2018 is set to be a record year for political ad spending that’s forecasted to reach $8.8 billion, according to Borrell Associates.
The revelations of Russian meddling and fake ads on Facebook has brought a heightened focus on transparency in political advertising. And while both Facebook and Twitter have announced stricter guidelines to curb manipulation, these changes only address part of the issue. Social media platforms are still rampant with bots.
In an unpredictable and hyper-competitive political climate – with hundreds of congressional and gubernatorial races taking place – political advertisers must rethink their midterm media buying strategy to ensure that they are running brand-safe and effective campaigns to reach the right voters.
The rise of connected TV or OTT advertising is a new phenomenon for political advertising, as this was nascent during the 2016 elections. With nearly 200M OTT viewers in 2018, per eMarketer, connected TV is TV.
The exponential growth in streaming audiences bring an entire new medium of opportunities for political advertisers as 78% of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one OTT service, per PwC. In fact, of OTT U.S. viewers registered to vote, 96% indicated they vote in presidential elections, 86% in stateside elections and 82% in local elections, according to Nielsen Scarborough data.
So how does the connected TV environment address political advertisers’ top concerns and help them to reach the voters that matter?
With constrained budgets, candidates need to be resourceful in their media spend to achieve specific campaign goals — to sway undecided voters and attract financial supporters.
While digital media offers granular targeting capabilities, there is significant brand safety risks. Inventory sourced through a programmatic exchange is often times remnant and advertisers may not even know the placement until after the campaign delivers.
Fraud, in the form of bot traffic and phony web sites, was rampant in the 2016 elections. Viewability is another major issue: a campaign ad that appears at the bottom of a web page may never get viewed if the user never scrolls down. In a digital environment of low transparency and limited safeguards, campaign dollars can easily go to waste.
Unlike digital, in a walled-garden connected TV or OTT platform, advertising runs on trusted networks with authenticated viewers. Content on connected TV devices take up the full screen, making it unlikely an ad is not be fully viewable.
Since OTT viewers are not channel-surfers, as they’ve self-selected the programming, they represent a highly engaged audience.
Avoid getting preempted in a high stakes race
Preempted spots are TV ad spots, both broadcast and cable, that get bumped from the schedule when another advertiser pays more money for a specific time slot. In a high stakes political race, the chances are high for a campaign to be preempted as spending spikes.
When an advertiser gets preempted, they have to pony up more money or scramble to find other ways to advertise or risk derailing their campaign. And since, there’s only a short window to get a campaign message out, a ‘makegood’ (where a missed spot runs at a later date) could end up being a wasted spend.
In this instance, it’s imperative for political advertisers to have guaranteed impressions to be effective. Getting in front of voters and constituents that matter most to a campaign requires more precision in targeting.
OTT is addressable; it has the ability to serve different ads to different audience segments watching the same programming. Political advertisers can leverage richer datasets to target voters by political affiliation, congressional district, income, education level and other interests.
We make OTT Advertising Simple.
Kate Morley (NY) 703-873-6345
Premion simplifies the OTT advertising buying process by eliminating the hassle of working with multiple providers. Through our direct relationships with leading TV networks and media brands, Premion places your ads alongside premium, brand-safe, long-form on-demand and live streaming content – in just one easy transaction.
2017 saw tremendous consumer growth in streaming TV services and 2018 is set to be even bigger. This year, eMarketer estimates that 181.5 million U.S. consumers will use connected TVs at least once every month — equating to more than 55% of the U.S. population — and by 2021, that number will expand to 194.4 million, which is almost 58% of the population. Let’s begin with a basic definition of OTT video (over-the-top): OTT video is video transmitted via the Internet that bypasses traditional cable/linear distribution. While it can either be ad-supported or subscription-based, at Premion, we consider true OTT to be long-form and live streaming premium content such as network programming, TV shows and movies.
The pace of digital disruption that is transforming the TV industry is accelerating: the growth in IP-delivered TV content is reshaping distribution models, consumer viewing habits and advertising. Every major TV operator has launched or is in the midst of launching and scaling up their direct-to-consumer streaming offerings. Consumers now have more choice than ever — from DirectTV Now, FuboTV (a Premion partner), Sling TV (a Premion partner), PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV, to name just a few. Philo is another recent entrant that offers 30-plus entertainment channels. Disney has plans to launch two streaming services and may develop even more following its 21st Century Fox deal.
With many media and content companies jumping on the streaming TV bandwagon, the marketplace is becoming increasingly fragmented, and it’s creating even more competition for high-quality content to keep viewers hooked: Already there are over 200 OTT services in the U.S. market, according to Parks Associates.
What can we expect in 2018 with the rise in streaming services and OTT advertising growth?
The transformation of TV is happening faster than many anticipated. OTT (over-the-top) viewing is growing exponentially. It’s now the dominant platform for premium video viewing. While advertisers know they must be there, many are still asking: Is it a broadcast or a digital buy?
It’s time we look at OTT advertising differently.
In this golden age of TV, where consumers have more quality content options than ever, they’re embracing the speed at which TV is moving to the Internet, especially if it’s ad-funded and free.
eMarketer estimates there are 193.3 million OTT users in 2017, with 168.1 million U.S. connected TV users. The rise of OTT comes at a time when cable is seeing continuing declines as another million consumers cut the TV cord last quarter, per a DSL Report.
Audience fragmentation across devices and screens is accelerating; according to comScore, the average household has 10 connected devices, and that figure rises to 19 devices among households with at least four people. Every major TV player is adjusting to this phenomenon by moving quickly to launch or announce plans for standalone Internet TV services.
How should marketers navigate the rapidly evolving and fragmented OTT space and reap its full potential?
By any measure, media transparency remains the hot-button issue for advertisers today. Beyond voicing their concerns, we’ve seen two of the world’s largest advertisers pull back their digital ad spending. Both P&G and Unilever are putting their money where their mouths are, with P&G cutting spending by 41% year over year and Unilever doing the same by a whopping 59%.
At this year’s Cannes Lions, media industry leaders convened to address the ways they are working to improve transparency, and we saw Ebiquity launch its Media Transparency Score at the event in the hopes of becoming one of the standard benchmarks for the industry.
At this year’s NAB, I hosted a panel session with fellow panelists Raoul Marinescu, Head of Sales at Pluto TV; Adam Helfgott, CEO of MadHive; Giancarlo Maniaci, CEO at ColorTV and David Haynie, CEO at CitySpark. Stacy Huggins, CMO of MadHive moderated the panel.
The session explored the future of over-the-top (OTT) advertising and what it takes to shift more ad dollars to OTT, how to monetize content, how to meet customer expectations and the importance of data in AdvancedTV experiences.
Here are the five key takeaways from our thought-provoking discussion:
Education is the biggest barrier right now for OTT
Some refer to OTT as only video that is delivered by a streaming device through a television rather than content that is streamed through a tablet or a smartphone. Some agencies refer to OTT video as AdvancedTV, whether it’s short form or long form. Some even lump OTT into Cable VOD, which are clearly two different offerings targeting different audiences. Although OTT viewership is growing rapidly, there are differences of opinion about it. At Premion, we define it as premium, long-form episodic streaming video outside of a cable subscription. We also access our inventory through direct partnerships while others source from exchanges.
Furthermore, a number of agencies are still grappling to figure out where OTT lives within their own internal structures. In some instances, we see the buying coming out of TV while others treat it as digital. With greater education and investment in OTT digital capabilities, we hope to see it own its own place inside of agencies.
Improve content discovery and curate local experiences for consumers
The good news for consumers is that with streaming OTT apps, you can pretty much watch whatever content you want, whenever you want. The bad news is the experience in trying to find it. We are seeing the rollout of enhanced content discovery features such as voice-activated search that’s helping to improve the consumer experience.
Giancarlo Maniaci at ColorTV pointed out that aside from making sure that you are driving traffic to content properties, customer retention is key and it requires constantly curating content to deliver a more personalized experience for the consumer.
For CitySpark, David Haynie highlighted the opportunities to curate highly relevant, local experiences for OTT audiences. CitySpark can match up content based on what users are watching. For example, if someone is watching a rock-climbing show, they can be served up hyper-local rock-climbing events in the area.
Frequency capping is the industry’s dirty little secret
Our panelists agree that cross-network frequency capping is an important issue that needs fixing, as it remains one of the biggest annoyances for OTT viewers today.
MadHive’s Adam Helfgott says that, “frequency capping is an inventory problem as the same inventory is being made available across multiple providers. While it may be frequency capped on one platform, it’s difficult to know if the same ad is capped on a second platform.” MadHive is working on a meta-data open data management platform to better track and solve this issue.
Need to standardize OTT media buying
To shift more ad dollars and to simplify the OTT media-buying experience requires our industry to come up with and agree on new standards. Raoul Marinescu shared that for Pluto TV, standardization is a top-of-mind issue and right now transactions could be device specific or on Pluto TV’s platform.
To address this issue, we need to build standard audience segments that are portable across the ‘walled gardens’ of OTT providers, but this is a huge undertaking and it will take the cooperation of many to solve this.
Data is the lifeblood for OTT’s future
For OTT advertising to scale, we need to invest more in data, advanced targeting and measurement solutions.
Our panelists shared excitement for the future of OTT, in which there would be a centralized way to target and marry data sources together to have proper attribution back to each data source. Programmatic, data-driven IP-delivered advertising is another way to achieve the long-tail scale needed.
At Premion, targeting is the lifeblood of our business. We deal with local and regional advertisers and they depend on having quality data so they can spend their ad dollars wisely. And they need lots of inventory to scale a campaign that moves the needle.
While it’s still early days for OTT advertising, we are collaborating with our partners to find new ways to address frequency capping across networks, improve standardization and deliver enhanced targeting and engagement vehicles.
By leveraging what we’ve learned from our past and collective experiences, we are helping the industry make sense of it all and drive OTT forward.