As consumers increasingly utilize streaming and connected TV services, either as a substitute for linear or as an extension of their TV viewing, connected TV advertising is proving to be a versatile channel in a brand’s overall marketing strategy. The truth is, connected TV covers a broad range of executions and it can be a very powerful tool in a media mix if properly deployed. In order to achieve proper execution, it is important to fully understand the entire versatility of the channel. In this article, we will explore the different iterations of CTV as well as the best ways to approach this emerging channel with and without traditional TV integration.
Connected TV: Making the Most of Your Advertising Dollars
Broadly speaking, CTV refers to TV programming that is streamed through an internet connected device. This includes smart TVs, Apple TV, Roku devices, gaming consoles (PlayStation, Xbox), and any video content streamed on an iPhone, tablet or desktop, commonly referred to as full episode player (FEP). In addition to device type, CTV also describes over-the-top (OTT), which refers to network provider extensions like DirecTV Now, HBO GO, and others. Additional examples of OTT include YouTube TV (lives in Google’s walled garden) and Hulu, which historically has operated from an open exchange and only recently started to break up its inventory putting more into auction.
When referring to CTV advertising, media buyers are referring to a range of executions, the nuances of which can be leveraged to drive brand awareness, lead generation and conversion as well as data and audience learnings, including attribution. The nuances that exist within CTV, including channel, programming type, and device type, can each be uniquely leveraged to reach specific users and achieve specific objectives. It is also important for brands to note that the nuances within CTV vary greatly in quality and cost. For example, a CTV ad delivered to a targeted audience using highly targeted data and delivered within premium network content during primetime hours provides a different value and experience than a CTV ad delivered to a broad demographic on mobile device in-app in off peak hours, yet on paper these can look deceptively similar. With the level of fragmentation that exists, it can be difficult to fully understand exactly what is being bought and placed, and if you are merely looking at delivery metrics to gauge performance, then dollars can be easily wasted.
Targeting and Tracking for Top Exposure
The most valuable aspect of CTV is the ability to apply granular audience targeting in order to identify high value users and bid specifically to place messaging in front them. In order to reach these highly valuable users, buyers and strategists must layer data, targeting, inventory, and bidding strategies in order to create effective and efficient buys. In addition to targeting, the ability to track and attribute your campaign to measurable actions like activity post exposure is beneficial for several reasons. Like other digital channels, CTV utilizes digital signals to track user's activity after ad exposure. Smart TV executions rely on cross device mapping in order to create a device graph for each household, and measure activity on other devices tied to that IP address. With cross device mapping in place, marketers can see if a user who was served a CTV ad on their Roku device later visited a brand’s website on another device connected to the same WiFi router. This kind of direct attribution is beneficial because an individual’s ad exposure can be tracked to a user's activity and optimized to ROI actions. Attribution is achieved by mapping the exposure of users to an advertisement to their web activity post-exposure. For example, direct actions like form fills or purchases, to indirect impact measurement like searches they conducted after being exposed. Additionally, ROI value is further enhanced when CTV is executed as part of a holistic digital campaign that includes display, social, and search.
CTV is effective for top of funnel efforts, while complementing other digital channels if the right strategies are deployed to ensure all channels work in harmony. These other strategies can include sequential message delivery, funnel modelled audience profiles, and re-engagement strategies that drive influenced actions. Beyond brand awareness and exposure, CTV can be leveraged with performance-based objectives in mind. Whether it is utilizing tracking and attribution to tie exposure to conversions, or as part of a re-engagement strategy to connect with users who have expressed interest but not yet converted, CTV is able to deliver high value messaging to specific users with specific influence in mind. CTV’s ability to be measured with high accuracy through pixels and cross device measurement means that even with view through attribution, the exposure these ads generate should be viewed as high value.
An additional benefit of a CTV campaign is its use as a testing platform to prove a creative or audience hypothesis, before rolling out to more mass reach channels like linear TV. Because CTV sits in between digital and traditional channels, it provides a platform to understand response and engagement with content and audiences with the flexibility of digital execution. Therefore, it is a great way to experiment with audiences, creative, programming, and other variables to collect data that can be used to make decisions across channels. CTV can uncover audiences that are likely to respond to your product or disprove audiences that will not respond. The campaign can identify data points for programming and interests within existing audiences; potentially preventing an expensive buy on a network that is not likely to perform, and it can deliver response metrics to different creative tests; helping direct creative teams toward more effective messaging. All of this can be accomplished with lower investments and within shorter time frames as statistical relevance can be reached quickly and cheaply if executed well.
The question becomes how should CTV be integrated into a brand’s marketing mix? Due to its flexibility, CTV can be executed in many different ways. It can be used as a testing vehicle for linear TV executions or as an integrated awareness driver with linear TV, providing an extension of reach and frequency that improves overall exposure rates and provides stronger attribution signals on the effectiveness of both channels. It can also be run as an extension of Digital buys as a way to fill the funnel with high value sight, sound, and motion touch points along with a reengagement vehicle to drive deeper influence throughout a user’s journey, and as a way to deliver video content in attention heavy inventory. However, it can also be executed as its own standalone effort with its own KPIs for success. Overall the most effective position for CTV, like with any marketing channel, is within a larger strategy where all channels work together toward a common objective with shared thinking and data between them.
The strongest teams to run CTV campaigns will bring both TV and digital experience to the table, with the teams working closely to share expertise, share data and learnings, and leverage knowledge bases to extract the best of all that CTV has to offer.