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Roku CTV Media Planning and Buying

GroupM on streaming standardization push: ‘We’re not limited to what works in TV’


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

January 9, 2024 | 7 min read

Experts say lack of standardization has held CTV investment back, but a new initiative from GroupM could alter that.

A consumer using a smart television to stream entertainment

GroupM hopes standardized formats can accelerate investment in streaming and CTV ads / Adobe Stock

Ahead of this year’s upfronts season, GroupM plans to test new video advertising formats across a range of streaming and CTV platforms with a number of clients.

The WPP media network has created a working group, dubbed the Ad Innovation Accelerator, alongside Disney, NBCUniversal, Roku and YouTube with the aim of enhancing streaming ad formats on those platforms and making them interoperable.

Currently, GroupM and its fellow WPP creative agencies might have to produce different versions of the same ad to suit a number of streaming platforms – something that costs time and money. If media agencies are able to use more standardized formats (like they can with ‘traditional’ TV), they can make efficiencies during the creative and media stages of a campaign and encourage higher overall investment.

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Kieren Mills, head of broadcast at indie media agency Total Media, tells The Drum that a lack of standardization in streaming ad formats has been a brake on client investment to date.

Standardization of formats makes the business of measurement easier and more accurate, too. According to Mills, the current state of affairs means that “you can make an educated guess” – but, he adds, you “can’t live in that world forever.“

He says: “Disney+ has a fantastic environment and we can see the stats from it… but I can’t say what that adds to Netflix or ITV because we don’t have that kind of cross-measurement.“

Being able to compare standard formats, he explains, would make measurements of campaign effectiveness much more accurate. “You want to know what you’re getting… and to be able to make sure you’re investing the right amount of money into each of those platforms to maximize reach. We can’t do that effectively at the moment.”

GroupM forecasts that CTV advertising will increase 14.9% in North America in 2024, up from 9.4% in 2023. That isn’t growing fast enough for the media network’s liking. “It’s time to centralize a strategy around this and be more proactive and more strategic to drive that growth,” says Fisher.

Though the basic format of a TV or video ad hasn’t really changed much since the introduction of TV advertising in the 50s, GroupM executive director of investment innovation Mike Fisher says that agencies and advertisers needn’t restrict themselves to the old parameters of telly.

“Interactivity and dynamic personalization in the living room have historically been nice-to-haves,” he says. ”We want to make sure we’re not limiting ourselves to what works in a traditional TV environment.”

Collaborating with media partners isn’t exactly new for GroupM, but Fisher says that it doesn’t usually stage conversations around ad formats until late in a campaign.

“This is the next logical step of [those relationships],” he says. The working group should allow media owners to have a say earlier in the media buying process. “Within the last year, we’ve run over 100 interactive, dynamic living room ad campaigns across multiple publishers. But a lot of those come to fruition during the final process of a media buy.

“We’ll go to a media partner, it’ll sell in all of its advanced and dynamic ad formats, and sometimes it’s a fit, sometimes it’s not and there are no rules or centralized standards,” he adds.

Fisher says the initial focus will be on standardizing ad formats across different platforms. Once CES is out of the way, GroupM plans on bringing in further media owners in the first quarter of this year, he adds, ahead of upfronts week in May.

“Our goal is to have clients meeting with publishers fairly fast, to share their needs and give publishers and media sellers and tech partners a chance to come back with solutions fairly quickly. We want to get campaigns live prior to upfronts so that we’re able to take the learnings out of this and apply it to upfront thinking.”

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In the past, a lack of standardization has been one of the obstacles holding up client investment in CTV and streaming inventory. “We don’t want to have to build four or five different versions of the same piece of creativity in order to run it at scale,” he explains.

Fisher says that ensuring common formats is the natural next step in the company’s use of the channel. “The 30-second ad unit is interoperable between every media seller we work with; we want to make sure there’s at least some consistency and commonality around how we go about enhancing these ads for formats. This is designed to speed up scaling [of streaming ads] and put more rigor around why it works.”

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