Future of TV

Are we going about connected TV all wrong?

By Richard Brant | Director of advanced TV

September 15, 2022 | 8 min read

The TV ad industry is still overcomplicating connected TV (CTV). Rich Brant, former AV product director at Dentsu and now director of advanced TV at Vevo, calls for a fresh approach and offers his guide to a simpler implementation.

The approach to CTV needs to be rethought

Does the approach to CTV need to be rethought?

To a viewer, the term ‘CTV’ doesn’t matter. Content on television is simply ‘TV.’ It’s really us as an industry that complicates things.

We complicate it because the buying routes are often siloed, with long-established ways of doing business. We also have an impractical obsession with one-point access, unified IDs and the application of data. The latter three, though incredibly important to attempt to solve, are usually the mental block that stops progress for most.

Just because CTV is digitally activated doesn’t mean advertisers should take a digital approach, and just because it’s on a TV screen doesn’t mean they should take a TV approach.

CTV is actually neither of the above – but perhaps this blend of mediums demands us to look with fresh eyes and structure a specific practice by which we activate, otherwise we can’t make the most of it.

The activation possibilities for CTV far surpass traditional TV, but don’t expect to throw your targeting into a demand-side platform (DSP) and yield the results you’d expect from a traditional digital standpoint. If we can appreciate how far TV has come, rather than why it isn’t like digital yet, then we can start to approach it practically, instead of taking unsuccessful moon shots.

Build a launchpad

CTV platforms are all different, with different technical set-ups and different data points available, so we need to be realistic when it comes to activation and measurement. Impractically trying to apply individual data solutions across a mosaic of different publishers/platforms right now and in the short term is unrealistic. It’ll tie up progress in red tape and destroy any campaigns of meaningful scale.

Being realistic affords us a moment to appreciate the parity of TV becoming better measured and more sophisticated in activation, while digital “loses” some of its targeting ability with the removal (... at some point) of the cookie. This moment of parity opens up a more realistic common denominator by which to activate (beyond the obvious incremental reach) and measure a fragmented buy in the short- to mid-term while the tech catches up.

Through certain automated content recognition (ACR) providers, we can understand the natural delivery of traditional TV way beyond UK measurement body Barb’s 15 regions. As long as Barb is still your reference point for calibration, 124 postcode regions and ultimately beyond are well within the realms of possibility. Knowing this can start to truly justify additional addressable/targeted TV activations through the TV screen in order to supplement main campaigns.

Most DSPs can deliver at district level, and this gives us approximately 3,000 areas in the UK by which we can target and assess delivery through a TV screen. Of course, there are some suppliers that will still struggle with this, but most can at least supply postcode area data. This goes for broadcasters or emerging TV suppliers when it comes to their IP-delivered services.

Geography is your friend

Even if you got a D in your GCSEs – reacquaint yourself, as it’s the one thing all impressions and impacts have in common. You can activate it, you can report by it and, of course, you can apply rich data on the audience that resides in those locations. As you can’t – now or possibly ever – activate all through one platform, it can be the thread by which you push activations out, but also pull back out the other side.

A whole system devised by first-party data, third-party data and proprietary methodologies can go some way to unifying what is otherwise a series of fragments. It means one can willingly access all pots of available CTV inventory and have some guiding principles to the way they are accessed and the type of inventory depending on the strategy employed. If this is achieved there is scale, lots of scale, even when we choose publishers – no matter which platform they choose to distribute their content to the TV – that uphold the editorial and production values one would expect from a TV campaign.

Impression location is universal, so it doesn’t have to stop purely at CTV. Application of attention metrics, for example, quality of content and other principles on top can define what impressions are more important than others when a wider campaign’s channels/mediums are taken into account.

This is not the silver bullet

These are some baseline principles we as an industry need to get to in order to develop long-term, more accurate measurement solutions. There is a sliding scale of targeting opportunity, from those CTV suppliers with an abundance of login data, to those that just have the ability to deliver according to the data that buyers can supply them about where the audience resides. You can have a broad, scalable, unified strategy dictated by geography, or a more accurate, but ultimately smaller fragmented campaign if you lock in with publisher data. Both can be the right way to go depending on campaign goals, but it’s essential to test, compare and learn to progress.

It’s a marathon... not a sprint

The data is telling us that the viewer is watching TV in a very different way to how our traditional approaches facilitate TV screen spend. A change is needed, but it requires us to approach this from a viewer’s perspective. After all, our success as marketers relies on us reaching audiences where they are, uninhibited by the compatibility of tech. Just running ‘CTV’ as an addition of a few new apps, and not appreciating that all TV-quality content suppliers, regardless of the way it got on to the TV screen, are part of the ecosystem will limit the scale of opportunity.

A prime example of this is Channel 4 now distributing shows via YouTube. Why? Because they need to be in front of audiences at the viewer’s convenience, not limited by owned and operated platforms. It’s still the same content, same show, on a TV screen. It just got there via a different route. The job of the marketer is to take into account the full TV viewing opportunity, but importantly – in this world, at least – they must be the filter of quality, ensuring the source of that content lives up to the legacy expected of the TV screen.

There are ways and means to take advantage of new behaviors through the TV screen, but be practical. Over-targeting and over-applying data – or worse, trying to use incompatible data – will kill campaigns fast and create a false understanding of what’s actually achievable. The future is bright, though, and there is some incredible work being done in this area right now by those that are using all the practical signals, new and old, to create a base-level cohesion to launch towards the more challenging precision-led data story, as new tech makes this more realistic.

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