Behind the CTV gold rush is an ad ecosystem finding its feet
The connected TV (CTV) goldrush shows no sign of slowing, with ad-spend forecasts continuing to be revised upwards, despite a decelerating global economy. For The Drum's Future of TV initiative, John Tigg from Yieldmo provides perspective and advice for digital marketers jumping ship to CTV, including the areas of overlap with the digital ecosystem, the unique capabilities of the platform, and which essential features still have the scaffolding up.
The exponential growth of CTV as a destination for digital advertising is sure to appeal to budget-scrutinizing marketers
Despite the turbulent global economy, the CTV gold rush continues. Inflationary pressures and the cost of living crisis are squashing consumer confidence across the globe, and marketers are having to make tough decisions on their budgets in response. Adjustments are certain, and we can expect a greater focus on short-term performance outcomes and markets that can demonstrate immediate results, with CPAs likely to be the top metric of the season.
The exponential growth of CTV as a destination for digital advertising is sure to appeal to budget-scrutinizing marketers. CTV ad spend forecasts keep being revised upwards as the year goes on, attracting established players in the TV space and newcomers from elsewhere in the digital advertising ecosystem. But marketers accustomed to the digital world have high expectations for measurement, attribution, and targeting — areas where CTV has a lot of catching up to do.
To understand how CTV can fill the gaps and realize its full potential, let’s look at its similarities and differences to digital advertising, the current and future solutions on the platform, and how marketers can make the most of its unique capabilities.
CTV is closer to digital than it is to traditional TV
CTV is in a transitional phase as traditional linear television budgets are gradually reallocated to the digital sphere. Those with a background in linear often attempt to replicate their prior strategies — following the same patterns in terms of who they target, where they distribute, and how content is evaluated — in the hopes they will see similar results in CTV.
This is a remarkably similar approach to that seen in the dawn of mobile advertising when advertisers would take a digital banner from their web campaigns, squeeze it down to mobile, and consider their job done. It resulted in an awful experience for users. We’re seeing a comparative lack of imagination in TV today, with assets made for linear dropped into CTV with minimal to no changes or any utilization of the platform’s unique attributes.
Despite sharing content with linear broadcasting, CTV is more of an extension of digital than it is an extension of TV, and the marketers who treat it as such will see the best results. As a platform, CTV lives on various fully-connected digital devices — from smart TVs and streaming boxes to the laptop or phone you are likely reading this article on — which offer interactive advertising capabilities far beyond a simple screen.
Innovation in CTV is more likely to come from digital-native marketers who are familiar with creating personalized, interactive, and sales-focused adverts. Many of these marketers are entering the TV space for the first time, as the barrier to entry is significantly lower than traditional broadcasts, where ads must comply with various region-specific clearing codes. However, in CTV, they’re right at home, with campaigns measured by impressions rather than impact.
The engagement opportunities of advertising on CTV
One of the most important features CTV platforms must provide to advertisers is a method to identify whether the person viewing the ad is engaged with the display rather than simply playing content in the background, and also prevent devices from playing ads when the TV is turned off, a problem that has been estimated to affect 10% of all CTV ads.
While streaming doesn’t provide the depth of attention signals that can be gathered from web browsing or app activity, there are still interactions that can be used as indications of activity and opportunities to insert content. For example, when a user pauses what they’re watching, short-form ads can be inserted to grab their attention at that moment, while a dynamic “skip ads” button can identify periods of inactivity to revalue inventory.
There are even ways to incorporate “clicks” into CTV ads via QR codes or — if devices share a network — via “send to phone” prompts, providing insights into when, where, and on what device an interaction occurred. The ability to immediately direct a viewer to a website or app — and even automatically add an item to their cart — is ideal for direct-to-consumer brands that depend on immediate sales uplift from their marketing over the long-term and the mass media brand building for which TV is traditionally known.
Measurement, targeting, and privacy remain major concerns
The main problem with measurement in CTV is that the industry hasn’t collectively decided on what to measure. There has been progress in gauging attention, views, interactions, and so on, but the sector lacks standardization across measurement providers, and the industry has not reached a consensus on each metric’s value. This is part of the reason why CTV advertising is still primarily recycled creative from linear TV.
The TV space has never before had so much access to user data through smart TV sets, location data,, user accounts, and the various other tracking capabilities of CTV platforms and devices. Not only is CTV lacking a standard for measurement, but it is also lacking a standard for gathering consent, and how to tackle the tricky issue of guaranteeing consent in multi-user households. Exploiting this grey area can have serious consequences, as Vizio discovered when their covert smart TV data-gathering practices landed the company in a lawsuit.
In our push for CTV measurement and the personalization it enables, we must be careful not to repeat the tracking mistakes of online advertising that turned audiences off, led to masses of adblocker installs, and caused regulatory crackdowns. This is where CTV’s digital heritage comes in handy, as the talent coming over from digital advertising has learned — often the hard way — how to walk the fine line between targeting and creepiness.
Hopefully, CTV advertising can take the best parts of the digital advertising ecosystem and escape having to drag its reputation out of the mud like digital had to. By learning from digital’s missteps and implementing the advanced measurement techniques that fueled the industry’s soaring success, CTV’s unique blend of high-attention content, captive audiences, and advertising technology will be able to offer both engagement and scale to advertisers, like no other platform.