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Future of TV OTT CTV

Measure of a medium: why you should evaluate CTV through a TV – not digital – lens

By Andrew Rosenman, Global product marketing lead of CTV and video

November 2, 2021 | 6 min read

Marketers and publishers need to stop thinking about connected television (CTV) advertising in the same vein as digital, and instead revamp the frameworks by which we target and measure CTV campaigns for an evolving world, writes Andrew Rosenman, global product marketing lead of CTV and video at Smart.

Glowing blue and purple TV play button

Smart’s Andrew Rosenman says it’s time to push play on new CTV ad measurement and optimization frameworks

With so much opportunity, the biggest mistake a connected television (CTV) advertiser can make is to apply typical digital KPIs to CTV. They’re simply not relevant.

Like traditional linear TV, the purpose of CTV is efficient, methodical pursuit of reach and frequency objectives, specifically as a powerful incremental reach tool to augment broadcast TV, which, despite all claims of its demise, is not going away anytime soon. CTV can’t be looked at in the same tactical terms in the way that typical digital ad success metrics are framed. It is incumbent on agencies and brands to alleviate the friction between traditional TV and digital teams over control of CTV. One of the benefits of a more coherent approach will be the proper framing of what constitutes tangible, measurable success.

The chief marketing officer of a major home decor retailer remarked recently in a somewhat exasperated tone: “What’s going on with CTV? One group is telling me to be always on and another is telling me to concentrate my spend!” Whether chief marketers fall into either the ‘CTV is a great substitute for traditional TV’ camp or the ‘CTV augments traditional TV’ camp, one thing unites them: a desire to sustain consumer reach in a time of great media fragmentation. Either way, this will require the merging of digital planning techniques.

This is the tension in the room today: do we bring forward all of our learnings from digital tests and apply them to CTV just because it’s delivered via IP? Or do we take a TV-centric approach and build an awareness campaign based on reach and frequency models and then layer in those other-channel strategies afterward? The answer isn’t simple. Nor should it be the same for every advertiser. However, there are some guiding principles to follow.

“Measurement is about marking, but evaluation is about improving” – Barry Leggetter

Digital media has always required a degree of suspended disbelief when it comes to measurement. Despite the discrepancies between ad servers and downstream systems regarding the number of ads served, or the hygiene and timeliness of the cookie-based targeting data, the myth of precision is still being perpetuated by buyers and sellers alike.

However, any digital marketer will tell you that results vary wildly depending on a host of variables often too complex to isolate and adjust. At this early juncture, it is vital to streamline the process of measurement and most importantly optimization.

Legacy digital measurements such as click-through rate and viewability offer little in the way of usefulness when virtually all ads can be seen and heard with nominal opportunities for user interaction. Even the much touted conversion rate has limited real value, since it’s really compared to skippable online video on mobile apps or YouTube.

Instead, it is incumbent upon over-the-top publishers and CTV platforms to provide metrics and responsive actions that will allow advertisers to achieve business outcomes that matter. For example, metrics that assess in real time the consistency of audience segments within a content series over time will allow marketers to better recognize the value of those placements. If the size or composition of the audience is trending toward or away from the strategic target, marketers can better evaluate the value of adjacency to that content over time.

“If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery” – Enrico Fermi

It’s important also to recognize that the presumptions and expectations around CTV are likely flawed. When the aforementioned chief marketer questioned what was happening with CTV, the implication was that there were promises made and ultimately not kept. So let’s remember while CTV ad spending is projected to double in 2022, it remains a fraction of broadcast and national cable ad spending.

The total reach of the medium cannot today replace the scale of broadcast advertising. It can, however, amplify brand messaging to core constituencies and be used more surgically to deliver sequenced and derivative messages based on deeper segmentation targeting. This is no small matter and is worth pursuing in an environment of declining cable subscribers and an even greater falloff in ad-supported viewing overall.

As overall broadcast reach is declining, a savvy brand marketer can measure – albeit with substantial delay – the audience composition of broadcast programming and affirmatively project the required CTV investment to satisfy frequency models to drive sales. So, while we’re not splitting atoms, we are – like all great pioneers – finding ourselves building new hypotheses that generate new discoveries.

“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rules of the game, as dictated by large platforms and industry associations, were invented to protect the market power of those who wrote them and not to promote a fair and equitable playing field for all. This is worth remembering as the industry transitions further into a future where all media is addressable to some degree, and the methods for addressing ads are being defined by those who currently have substantial influence over the standards and practices.

As CTV advertising matures, the danger is to accept the methods of the past built for display ads on browsers running on a 56k modem, and not to reinvent the way we can plan, measure and optimize CTV advertising to meet the needs of marketers in a radically different time.

Andrew Rosenman is global product marketing lead of CTV and video at Smart.

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