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How to unlock the potential that CTV brings to the media landscape

by robert blake

February 10, 2022

There was a time when CTV as an acronym did not mean much, when we had to ask ourselves what the ‘C’ stood for. But, as we now forge ahead into 2022, with a decade of digital transformation and the global pandemic behind us, that ‘C’ and the value of connectivity is becoming abundantly clear. It’s fair to say that connected television (CTV) is set to come into its own, allowing creators and brands to reach their audiences and engage with consumers in a new and exciting way.

Recent research shows that linear TV is plateauing, giving rise to the unsurprising exponential growth in CTV, which - alongside legislative updates to the EU Digital Markets Act, and wider industry changes like Facebook’s increasing costs for advertisers - has presented a huge opportunity for advertising right now. Brands have cottoned onto this, and marketers are scrambling to figure out how to unlock the potential that CTV brings to the media landscape.

Yet, the answer is right in front of us: YouTube. Already winning CTV market share, YouTube is the biggest provider of funded advertising on CTV globally. It has the highest reach and viewing hours amongst all ad-supported streaming services and as such, offers the greatest opportunity for advertising on CTV right now. If brands want to tap into the potential that CTV can bring to their media strategies, they need to prioritise spending on YouTube first and foremost.

Contextual is the key ingredient to CTV advertising

Widely covered already - from what the video market holds for 2022 and how to deliver ROI for CTV to fragmentation, measurement and emerging new CTV services - there is no shortage of information on the opportunities and challenges for the CTV market. Conversely, what has not been as openly discussed is the safety, transparency and privacy standard/measures needed as we adopt CTV as a bona fide channel that will not only offer revenue generating opportunities, but also protect brands and viewers alike.

Our industry is at a tipping point of sorts - most advertisers know they want - and will need to - incorporate CTV into their ad strategy; however, there are still many unknowns when it comes to omnichannel measurement, risk of fraud, and the growing concern over appropriate, safe, and suitable audience targeting. This is not surprising when research shows that 28% of campaigns run against unsuitable content that is not targeted to the right person or audience.

Contextual, semantic-based audience targeting will be the key to advertising across cookieless channels such as CTV with its ability to target advertising to very specific, nuanced groups and audiences. The fact remains that cookie-based targeting is not adept for today’s world - advertisers need to explore alternative solutions in order to compete.

YouTube started to scale back its use of cookies and pixel tracking in 2017 in favour of user and subscriber log in details instead. Driven by increased mobile usage, this was an industry-rocking decision that immediately questioned the benefits of cookie targeting when it came to measuring impact and gaining insights for advertising campaign performance across multiple devices.

Today, this is magnified with increased concerns around transparency and relevancy. This is why contextual targeting is poised to become the driving force behind CTV - with its ability to arm advertisers with an unrivalled, safe and effective way to reach the right audiences, while also serving adverts that are relevant, suitable and safe to the content they are viewing at that time.

Safe, relevant and suitable - from blocklists to inclusion lists

Thankfully, with sophisticated platforms like YouTube, marketers have the right tools to help curate their YouTube content experience, enabling them to proactively select the type of channels and videos they want to surround their advertising content - of course, this is what we refer to as inclusion lists in the industry.

Recently, we’ve started to see inclusion lists become more prevalent on marketers’ radars as it becomes abundantly clear that surrounding the right context can generate the best ROI. In fact, a recent study Channel Factory ran with GroupM showed that there was a 17% lift in ROI for contextually aligned content versus when brands ran against a random assortment of YouTube creators and channels.

Inclusion lists are meant to dictate what is brand safe, as well as what type of content is relevant and suitable for ads to appear alongside. It takes consideration and thoughtful planning to ensure you are selecting from a diverse group of creators, and that you're not inadvertently leaving out creators by overly blocking certain things.

With viewers still madly riding the CTV wave, and advertisers following in their footsteps as they cotton onto the massive opportunity, the proper use of inclusion lists and the ability to align inventory to brand safe and contextual suitable content becomes extremely important.

CTV allows advertisers to connect interactively with consumers through video, but this can still be susceptible to fraud, brand risk and out-of-view content. As advertising across this medium continues to grow, inclusion lists and being aware of where your content is appearing within the video ecosystem is crucial. Advertisers will need to rely heavily on these tools to ensure their advertising is seen and heard across the right audiences and in the right manner.

The creative component to CTV

It's not just the placement of the ad that needs to be considered in the wake of the CTV era - it's the format and creative too. Dynamic content needs to work across a myriad of devices, not just the television set. Laptops, tablets, mobile devices and games consoles all have different screen sizes so this must be taken into account to ensure ads are consistent regardless of the device used.

But it’s the variety offered by CTV that makes it such an exciting channel with huge potential for advertisers to reach and truly engage with their audiences in new, more creative and interactive ways than previously possible. According to a study by Innovid, Interactive CTV ads (iCTV) have proved to keep viewers engaged for 83 seconds longer than traditional in-stream formats. Moreover, their engagement rate is 3.5% higher.

CTV formats also bring space for innovation in creative with the ability to bring interactive elements and calls-to-action to adverts. One example is that of Burger King with their QR Whopper giveaway, which consisted of three TV commercials with an on-screen QR code that would score the viewer a free Whopper if scanned. I wouldn’t like to imagine the logistics, delivery and GPS planning involved here, but this is certainly a good marketing tactic and opens up numerous creative ideas on platforms like YouTube - from in-UI and in-video banners to pausing ads on screen and sponsoring free movies, the opportunities to step outside the box could be endless.

YouTube is the safe bet for CTV

Not only is YouTube a safe and creatively-native platform for advertising, offering brand marketers and advertisers a straightforward way to reach and engage with their audiences globally, at scale, and across specific demographics, but it also offers brand safety and suitability tools that many other platforms currently do not.

According to Comscore, only two of the top five streaming platforms sell ads. And, amongst these two ad-supported platforms, YouTube is number one in reach and watch time, representing almost half (41%) of all ad-supported streaming watch time.

YouTube has spent the last decade working incredibly hard to perfect its platform for all players - from creators and publishers to advertisers and viewers. And the reality of this hit home at the onset of the global pandemic. According to YouTube internal data, in December of 2020, more than 120 million people in the US had streamed YouTube content on their TV screens.

Why? Because CTV presents a new way for people to experience and consume content on TV - it takes the best in digital capability and the scale and reach of linear TV to create incredibly immersive, interactive and precisely relevant content.

For advertisers, the advent and growth of CTV certainly presents opportunities - but, one thing is for sure: if you’re not on YouTube, you’re not in the game. CTV has opened up a significant new chapter in advertising - particularly on YouTube, where the future of TV no doubt starts.


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