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Why B2B marketers are plugging into connected TV

Expect more B2B marketers to be coming to a screen near you.

B2B marketers recently represented just a small portion of CTV ad dollars. But the ability to target homebound business decision makers via this rapidly growing platform is now proving more alluring. Here’s what the experts are saying about the shift of B2B ad dollars shift to streaming.

Business decision makers are not going to be returning to their offices any time soon. Nor will they be attending live events, previously a cornerstone of business-to-business (B2B) marketing. This has made connected TV, which had been very low within the consideration set, a much more attractive option for B2B marketers looking for a captive audience.

Connected TV (CTV) ad spend is expected to grow 40.1% $11.36 billion in 2021, per eMarketer. B2B marketers had initially been slow to embrace this now-massive platform. But this is changing.

Media buyers have noted the increase in B2B interest. “B2B and CTV is a match made in heaven,” says Brad Stockton, vice-president of video innovation at Dentsu. “We are now seeing CTV show up on B2B clients’ media plans more often than not because we are able to take clients’ first party audiences and match them at a high level of fidelity in the streaming space, and of course measure on top of it. That’s the beautiful part of CTV. You get the ability to target, reach and measure. Those three things, in the B2B world, are very impactful.”

Supply-side platform SpotX works with B2B brands to identify inventory in its marketplace. While it picked up a small number of new B2B advertisers in 2020, it anticipates more on the horizon. B2B marketers “are taking a measured approach to evaluating the medium,” says Kyle Benn, vp, mid market, demand facilitation at SpotX. “We've got a handful of clients this year from healthcare to IT to farm equipment. It kind of runs the gamut of trying to get a hold of the right decision-makers or users of those products. We had more and more conversations happening in 2020. It’s really about setting the stage for 2021.”

Jacob Beck, programmatic director at Merkle’s B2B media agency agrees that the momentum is building. In the beginning of 2020, there was a lot of interest in CTV from B2B clients. But investment and execution? Not so much, he says. That began to change in the second half of 2020. “Now, decision-makers are home all day. There is an opportunity to serve them throughout the day on this large format medium.”

Still growth expectations should be tempered. “Because of the pandemic circumstances, budgets are coalescing to drive more and more B2B advertisers to connected TV,” says Jillian Ryan, eMarketer’s principal B2B analyst. That being said, Ryan views the current moment as “a toe in the water. The main reason for that is this just isn’t a channel that they’ve played in before. So before throwing all of their dollars into it they definitely want to take to experiment with how to make it work for them.”

B2B marketers have already done all the hard work

While TV is generally viewed as a mass market awareness vehicle, CTV offers the targeting that many B2B marketers are drawn to given the specificity of their customer bases. In fact, many B2B companies have already done the heavy lifting building customer databases, a significant asset when it comes to leveraging CTV’s targeting capabilities.

“Many B2Bs are using account-based marketing. They’ve done that work internally. They know who their target accounts are, and they have an ideal customer profile. They have all that data internally,” says Ryan. “So, whether it’s like a look alike or targeting by an email address, they’re able to give that data — be it first party or third party — to whoever they’re working with to facilitate the advertising and really try to reach specific buyers and specific audiences.”

This allows B2B marketers to run video ads in premium environments where they’d ordinarily have to accept enormous waste, says Greg Pomaro, executive vice-president of media at independent media agency Mediasmith. “We can take those lists and create customized audiences, and then bump those up against delivery systems like CTV. So, we'll buy video ads through one of our buying platforms like The Trade Desk, and the targeting filters are very restricted and very specific to these ABM lists or custom lists that we've created.”

Dentsu’s Stockton adds: “If you know your audience because you have enough information whether it’s lookalikes or first-party data, CTV is the perfect place to activate because you can be so targeted and still at scale.”

Omnichannel might, millennial allure and other benefits

Creating a B2B campaign used to be so much simpler. Vertical trade publications, e-mail and events offered significant reach. But even before the pandemic, taking an omni-channel approach had become increasingly essential.

“There are multiple touchpoints that you’re using to reach your buyers, and especially as B2Bs really get down into the weeds with ABM, building customer journeys, tracking the touch points and understanding the different facets of the journey,” says eMarketer’s Ryan. ”Plotting CTV into that makes it more robust where it's not just like a singular channel like, ‘Oh, I‘m relying on email or I’m relying on my events.’ It’s really about thinking in a well-rounded way of where buyers are spending their time, and how to reach them. CTV is becoming a more prevalent part of the equation.”

This is especially true when it comes to reaching millennials who are now a major stakeholder in B2B decision-making. “They have a lot of clout, and this generation has a different way of consuming TV a different way of interacting with media than older buyer cohorts… This is another reason B2B advertisers need to think of new and different ways to reach their audience,” Ryan says.

Roku, which eclipsed 50 millions users last week, is on pace with Amazon to be the top CTV platform. Roku is seeing a ‘strong mix‘ of B2B marketers using CTV for both branding and direct response. Dan Robbins, Roku’s vice-president of ad marketing and partner solutions says there’s a big opportunity for B2B marketers to capitalize on streamers’ openness to a value exchange for their personal entertainment, in the form of a free movie night or coupon. “That’s where we’ve seen B2B marketers really lean in.”

Sizing up CTV’s measurement

Sophisticated digital B2B marketers expect stout measurement capabilities. This can be one of the shortfalls of the burgeoning CTV space overall.

“There isn‘t a single currency, or a single agreed upon measurement system like you have with TV and Nielsen. So different providers use different systems and not everyone is accredited in the other system. The standards are still are being developed,” says Ross Benes, senior analyst at eMarketer who specializes in CTV. “It's kind of a mess right now I would say measurement is the biggest challenge and potential roadblock for CTV attracting more ad dollars in the next few years.”

This has proven to be a turnoff for some clients. “It's a tricky thing to tie B2B clients into CTV because of the concrete results that are needed,” said Meghan Lynch, a strategist at The Media Kitchen whose past experience testing CTV for a B2B client didn’t yield the desired scale or tracking insights.

CTV by its nature offers a targeting challenge, says Ryan. “It’s a platform that's meant to target consumers and households and you're trying to reach business decision makers. You are not reaching them in an office where they're sitting with all of their colleagues. You might be reaching their kids or partners.”

Still, there are a number of key tactics marketers can take to measure, says Stockton. “It starts with what are you trying to measure right. What is main KPI? Are you to trying to drive awareness or are you trying to drive an action like sending them to a website? If you‘re working with the right partners who are able to understand the exposure level and can match that back to when a customer goes to a website visitation, which is really just applying the right pixel, it is something that can be very trackable and measurable.”

Good B2B marketers will treat CTV like anything else, says Ryan. “It goes back to the tenants of B2B marketing like did your CTV ad not work because CTV didn't work or because your branding isn't great, or your messaging wasn't good and you didn't have a good call to action. There are other factors, indiscriminate of channel, that impact whether a B2B marketing strategy is going to work.”

Additional reporting by Kenneth Hein.

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