More US homes watch CTV over cable and satellite, and 90% of CTV viewers watch ad-supported content. With its powerful reach, CTV has now become a staple of advertisers’ marketing mix. Yet, to capture the full value of CTV, the viewing experience on streaming platforms has room to grow. To bridge this gap, buyers, sellers, and technology partners must work cohesively to increase campaign efficiency, ad experience management, and proper utilization of data to deliver a better user experience.
Joseph Hirsch, general manager at SpringServe, joined Magnite’s Matt McLeggon, SVP, advanced solutions and Travis Hockersmith, VP of platform+ at VIZIO, during this year’s AdExchanger Programmatic I/O Event to discuss how innovations to the CTV user experience can enhance content discovery and advertising receptiveness. Here are four key takeaways.
1. Monetization and user experience aren’t competing goals.
In the early days of CTV, publishers often had to choose between revenue and ad quality. However, the two have a correlated relationship. The best way to maximize long-term monetization is to drive user experience.
With ad exposure, “watch minutes” are less important than driving engagement and campaign outcomes. Given 90 seconds of ad time, a publisher might ask, “How can I maximize value while not duplicating ads and respecting competitive separation? What outcomes am I driving for the brand?”
Unfortunately, sometimes a perceived revenue boost is chosen at the expense of quality. For example, ad operators often focus on fulfilling all ads. They may remove frequency caps to meet KPIs or revenue targets. But in doing so, they’re doing a disservice to advertisers and the streaming service. It’s all about striking the right balance.
Given the level of fragmentation in the CTV ecosystem, managing pacing, frequency, fill, and price efficiency can be a daunting task. Adopting technology to streamline ad delivery helps improve performance and monetization.
2. Personalize ad content to create a “lean back” experience.
For many streaming platforms, content recommendation is a primary driver of viewer engagement. But the industry can do more to improve personalization overall.
Unlike social formats where audiences can swipe past undesirable content, creating a “lean back” experience with multiple hours of content requires a different approach. On CTV, audiences interact with content (and ads) in a more engaged, focused way. It’s all the more important to ensure the ad content is relevant and seamlessly delivered.
Leveraging the right data makes media work better — for every impression, a campaign is more likely to drive an outcome. In CTV, user profiles play a pivotal role. User profiles supply first-party data that helps build a holistic picture of the viewer: their interests, hobbies, and content preferences.
OEMs are also playing a vital role in personalization. From where an OEM sits as a touchpoint between the audience and screen, they get an intimate look into viewing behavior, be it by genre or selection habits, which can inform ad delivery. For example, if someone loves romcoms, a brand can pair romantically-themed ad creatives that complement that genre and programming.
Overall, personalization is data-driven and requires a human touch and common-sense practices. For example, paid placements are becoming more popular on CTV home screens. It’s essential to hit the right ratio. Selling out the home screen won’t drive the best user experience.
3. Creative review is key.
Understanding the underlying asset is fundamental to constructing a final ad break that meets user expectations when delivering an ad. Using tools to understand an ad’s associated metadata can help identify attributes such as volume, image quality, and even language to improve performance. Without a unified view of your advertising creatives, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a seamless viewing experience.
It’s important to have tools to monitor creative placements. However, creative review can be time-consuming. Traditionally, the creative audit process has involved manually approving each piece of creative before the ad server processes it.
To help with this, automating certain parts of ad approval and ad queues can make the process more efficient. For example, SpringServe’s BingeWatcher streamlines the creative review workflow by providing a fully-automated, easily scalable, and highly flexible technological alternative to manual review.
4. Learn something from linear.
Linear TV ads are often so seamless that they disappear into the background of the user experience. What linear lacks in 1:1 targeting capacity and data-driven audience insights, it makes up for in reach and quality. This is perhaps why linear is still a mainstay of video marketing budgets, even as marketers invest in CTV for incremental reach.
One issue still facing CTV as opposed to linear is ad fill. Sometimes, a publisher can’t fill their ad pod due to various tech and demand issues and end up with content gaps. This usually happens while streaming live events like sports games, political speeches, or concerts where programming lasts longer than the publisher anticipated. In this case, the end-user can end up with a dreaded “we’ll be back” static slate between ad breaks. A way to solve this is to add more diversity and depth to ad inventory. Ideally, if one ad isn’t pacing well because of its budget, a publisher would have enough depth to fill that slot with something else.
As more communication, collaboration, and transparent practices are adopted across digital video, issues such as ad fill and performance quality will become easier to tackle. The next step will be to get ad experiences in the two environments — linear and CTV — to work together more congruously. Closing the gap between audience expectations and ad performance is key to unlocking CTV’s full value. As competition heats up to win over audiences and reduce churn, CTV media owners would do well to focus more on providing an impeccable experience rather than maximizing ad revenue in the short term.