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Navigating the new frontier of CTV ad fraud

Alongside growth in spending, the risk of ad fraud in CTV environments is spiking

As brands adjust to the new normal and calibrate their marketing strategies and spend, every dollar counts. Many are taking the opportunity to shift more dollars into the emerging frontier of connected television (CTV). And while there are a range of valuable opportunities available to marketers in the space, there are also a slew of unique challenges and risks. Integral Ad Science chief marketer Tony Marlow explains.

With a large and rapidly growing audience, CTV has become a compelling platform for marketers in 2021. Over the last year, consumers spent significantly more time streaming content on CTV devices during lockdown, and the trend is likely to continue.

And ad dollars are following audiences. As advertisers allocate more of their budgets to these platforms, they are eager to optimize their investments. There’s a huge appetite for CTV education and awareness in the market. Furthermore, marketers are seeking insights into how to hone the effectiveness and measurability of ad campaigns so they can continue to invest with confidence.

Rising CTV viewership spells bigger opportunities for advertisers

Recent research from eMarketer reveals that more than 6 million US households have cut the cord with traditional TV providers since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total to 31.2 million nationwide. Meanwhile, consumers are less willing to sell out for streaming subscriptions, and are instead adopting free, ad-supported services.

Our research indicates that nearly two-thirds of consumers prefer CTV to other streaming devices, and 78% of US consumers are willing to see ads in exchange for free streaming content. This trend suggests that CTV, and particularly ad-supported streaming, is set for unprecedented growth in the year ahead, with an expanding audience that is no longer reachable on cable TV. The jaw-dropping variety of CTV apps and programming available is another major contributing factor in the growth of CTV viewership.

CTV platforms provide unique benefits for consumers and advertisers alike. For consumers, it’s all about flexibility. Plus, in an uncertain economy, many see an opportunity to trim their monthly expenses by choosing ad-supported CTV experiences that still deliver the content they want on-demand, along with fewer, more targeted ads than traditional TV. We can expect to see this trend persist heading into Q2, as work-from-home policies remain in place.

With this boost in CTV viewership comes bigger opportunities for brands to connect with their target audiences. And as economic recovery continues, it’s critical that brands identify and tap into these opportunities. Here are four things every marketer should know about advertising on CTV this year:

Expanded reach: CTV is in more homes than ever before. eMarketer estimates that there are nearly 200 million CTV users in the US. Their activity accounts for over 44% of digital video impressions, as consumers increasingly invest in cheaper and more flexible ad-supported, on-demand streaming services. With more users watching ad-supported content comes more ad inventory.

Superior quality: CTV offers higher-quality ad placements for brands, according to a SpotX report. It supports full-screen, targeted, personalized, HD ads with stereo sound and, as a result, positively promotes brand exposure.

Engaged audiences: the always-on nature of CTV can deliver marked benefits for brands. Consider this: consumers can watch a wide range of premium programming on CTV, day or night. Unlike the broadcast TV model of higher ad rates for prime-time positioning, CTV advertisers have access to expanded, high-quality inventory that’s not time-bound. CTV has become a go-to platform for premium content streaming, including documentaries and live concerts, building massive, engaged audiences and creating a new canvas for advertisers.

More options and control: CTV is all about options. It provides viewers with a diverse selection of programming, whenever they want to watch. By giving consumers more control, a powerful thing happens – consumers actually experience a higher level of satisfaction from the viewing experience. This can have a positive ‘halo effect’ on consumers’ perceptions of the brands serving these ads. Brands have growing potential for more positive brand perception and engagement.

Combating ad fraud in CTV campaigns

Ad spending on CTV jumped 25.2% in 2020 and it’s expected to surpass $10bn later this year, according to eMarketer data. What’s more, US programmatic CTV ad spend is projected to reach $6.73bn this year. Alongside this growth in spending, the risk of ad fraud in CTV environments is also spiking.

Increased fragmentation across the different CTV platforms and devices – paired with a lack of industry standards for measurement and the draw of high CPMs – has made the CTV ecosystem ripe for ad fraud. For example, in many cases, fraudsters have found an entry point via server-side ad insertion (SSAI) software. SSAI is responsible for stitching ads within the content stream to make the viewing experience seamless. However, the nature of this method can make it more challenging to identify ad fraud in CTV.

As CTV becomes even more mainstream this year, brands need to ensure return on their investments. For marketers, this means considering the right technology and partner that can help them to mitigate the risks of ad fraud in CTV environments. Brands can think of this as a three-part strategy. Always start with the data. It’s essential to measure CTV inventory for viewability and completion rates to make sure campaigns are driving the expected impact.

Contextual targeting also presents new opportunities in CTV to engage the right audiences. Finally, with the growth of programmatic buying in CTV, advertisers have an opportunity to capitalize on new inventory and greater efficiency alongside their wider programmatic buys to maximize the opportunity.

Finally, as the CTV ad market grows, collaboration between marketers, publishers, CTV device-makers and independent measurement providers will be critical to accountability, measurability and strong results for campaigns. Many publishers have already been working to incorporate ad verification for their CTV inventory to make sure it’s free from invalid traffic (IVT) and viewable. Marketers should look for these measurement capabilities to ensure their campaigns are hitting the mark. With the rapid growth of CTV, whether you’re already navigating this space or just jumping in, there are countless opportunities ahead for brands and publishers.

Tony Marlow is chief marketing officer at Integral Ad Science.