Woman waiting for application on tv to load

You’ve heard about it, talked about it, watched it, but chances are there are still some aspects of Connected TV advertising that leave you scratching your head – and with good reason. With access points ranging from smart TVs to Rokus and gaming consoles, content available through countless streaming and Video on Demand platforms, and almost every media outlet offering their own take on advertising opportunities, CTV is today’s wild west in the media landscape. But as “cord-cutting” trends continue to soar and traditional cable and satellite subscriptions decline, now is the time to get the facts straight and take advantage of the pandemic’s most pivotal media play.

The History of Connected TV (CTV)

Connected TV was already causing waves in the marketing world long before the pandemic hit, but the lockdowns of last year propelled CTV to center stage. According to eMarketer, CTV investments in 2020 increased by more than 40% in year-over-year growth. Now in 2021, Connected TVs are found in nearly 80% of households across the country and national ad spend is projected to exceed $11 billion this year alone. At this point it’s safe to say that CTV is not a fad or just a cost-cutting method for the young and tech-savvy – it’s an established part of the omnichannel media landscape. Coming to the agreement that Connected TV isn’t going anywhere is only half the battle. Next, we must face the task of becoming savvy enough to plan and buy this streaming video inventory. And where does it fit into a media strategy? Is it digital? Is it TV? Well, it turns out that the best way to think of it is somewhere in between.

The Benefits of Connected TV (CTV)

The true beauty of CTV is the way in which it marries the best, high-impact components of linear TV with the targeting, interactivity, and measurement of digital. Pulling CTV to the digital side of the world are the fantastic targeting capabilities made possible through user-registration audience data. By leveraging data to identify the viewer, brands are then able to build out cross-screen delivery and ensure multiple touchpoints. Another exciting digital targeting technique is the ability to utilize IP-based delivery options which help marketers employ 1st and 3rd party audience data. Although this can limit scale, it breaks the mold in terms of how we’re able to build out a custom audience in a TV-viewing environment. Compared to traditional TV, Connected TV is giving us better metrics like completion rate, unique device reach, impressions delivered, and best of all real-time reporting that allows marketers to optimize and pivot placements while campaigns are still in flight. And pricing for old-school TV and CTV impressions are comparable on the national scale, with the average cost for a CTV impression falling between costs for network primetime and cable primetime spots. Yes, that means all the extra targeting and measurability that comes with Connected TV is essentially free when compared to its traditional counterparts.

The Challenges of Connected TV (CTV)

With all this transparency into campaign setup and performance, Connected TV campaigns should be a piece of cake to plan and implement, right? Well, not exactly. Connected TV is still causing its fair share of confusion in the marketing world thanks to the tricky trio of devices, publishers, and platforms. With so many different platforms selling inventory, it’s difficult to draw connections between various placements for an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the true scope of a campaign and its effect on a single consumer. There are vendors like Hulu who sell their inventory directly, cable providers are selling Video on Demand inventory across cable network apps, and countless other vendors selling OTT inventory that falls everywhere in between. This complicates measurement and reporting for us data geeks because it’s tough to get a complete picture of all the impressions a single user might be exposed to. And don’t forget the fragmentation dilemma caused by secret account sharing. With multiple users of very different demographics sharing one account, it’s possible that ads meant for a yoga mom end up reaching her punk-rock-loving teenage son. But with any media tactic, there is overlap and spill among other audiences – plus I’d bet my bottom dollar that providers will begin cracking down on subscription sharing in the very near future – so it’s nothing that should cause you to pump the brakes on your CTV plans.

In reality, the most genuine challenge facing Connected TV campaigns is lack of reach. Most advertisers that are dipping their toes in the CTV pond are doing themselves a disservice by not jumping in with both feet. It’s estimated that more than 100 million impressions are necessary to reach at least 40% of available CTV viewers across the country, but 20 of the largest national brands running CTV campaigns are only spending enough to reach roughly 13% of these viewers. Spending big in the CTV space to build substantial reach also typically means partnering with several inventory partners, and that has some folks concerned about overlap and excessive frequency. However, a recent study by Innovid found that excessively high frequency (an exposure of more than 10x) is actually very rare, and moreover, there’s little risk associated with it. And when you consider all of this with the innovative creative elements that can be utilized (think personalization through dynamic overlays, and the like) plus the proven ROI, CTV is a safe bet for nearly any awareness-building campaign. The same Innovid study found that 49% of marketers reported increased brand engagement and website traffic thanks to their investments in CTV campaigns. If after all this you’re now wondering why anyone would spend their budget on traditional TV versus CTV where your dollars just seem to work harder, you’re not alone. But let’s not count out good old-fashioned TV, not yet at least. Depending on your target audience and budget, network TV and cable are still important components to a well-balanced media diet, especially in terms of reach.

Originally published by the Rochester Business Journal