Breathing new life into TV advertising

Advanced TV platforms provide opportunities to deliver targeted ads amid a rapidly changing landscape.

TV viewers have increasingly cut the cord on cable in favor of advanced TV services that are delivered over the internet, such as over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned to streaming services for original content in even greater numbers while staying at home—up 9.5% year over year in April 2020, when it reached a plateau that has remained since then, according to Comscore’s 2020 State of OTT report.

While the pandemic temporarily boosted OTT consumption, the transition away from live TV appears to be a long-term trend. Streaming accounts for one-quarter of consumers’ collective time spent with television, according to a Nielsen study. “Streaming has also taken hold among consumers 55 and older, often a technological sign of ubiquity and resolve,” the research firm reports.

Advanced TV: This is an umbrella term for all types of technology beyond traditional, linear TV delivery models. It includes OTT, connected TV and addressable TV.

OTT: Standing for “over the top,” this refers to streaming content delivered via an internet connection rather than a traditional cable or broadcast provider.

Connected TV: This refers specifically to devices that deliver TV via the internet, either as a smart TV or by using devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

With the shifts toward OTT and connected TV, data has become central in a traditionally demographic-driven advertising environment. Brian Katz, senior vice president and head of sales at 605, a television and cross-platform measurement firm, shares his insights on the data-driven future of TV advertising.

What challenges do advertisers face in reaching consumers across devices, channels and platforms? How do more advanced TV solutions solve some of these issues?

Brian Katz (BK): TV is still in its platinum days. There’s more content now than ever. But the fragmentation of that content has made it more difficult to measure across all screens. What advanced TV has done for advertisers across all ad-supportive channels is to bring data to the equation for better insights and performance. The idea of leveraging scalable data was only available in the digital video space for some time, but now TV has caught up and taken on these capabilities. With advanced TV, there are much more robust ways to find the right consumers in a TV advertising environment and target them to drive marketing performance.

There is a certain level of give and take across advanced TV solutions. Between linear, addressable and OTT, what are the pros and cons of each approach?

BK: Linear TV may not be specifically household-targeted, but the data makes it more important—we call this data-driven linear. Addressable and OTT are more household or person enabled, so it’s easier to get to those specific audiences to drive performance. A big advantage is driving return on ad spend and understanding how to be more efficient with media buys across screens.

A disadvantage, which may not exist as much in linear television, is fraud. There have been a lot of fraud and brand safety issues in the digital space, but they are improving.

Linear TV: The “classic” system of television, when a viewer watches a scheduled program when it airs or on a DVR recording.

Addressable TV: A method to deliver targeted ads on digital TVs to different viewers while they’re watching the same program.

Many people are still watching linear TV, or supplementing linear TV with OTT. How can advertisers better understand their linear versus OTT advertising mix to get the most value out of each investment?

BK: Measurement solutions have greatly evolved beyond what legacy providers in the market have historically offered. These legacy providers are now playing catch-up. Some companies, like 605, have filled the gaps created by flawed TV measurement and attribution. They’re able to map data sets together in scale across TV and digital channels, etc., to really understand campaign delivery measurement and attribution—really what is working and not working in advertising.

How has the industry shifted to meet a growing demand to reach consumers at home through TV viewing?

BK: It used to be very hard to scale these solutions across providers. You’d have to go to Comcast or to Charter individually to get media on an addressable basis. These multichannel video programming distributors are now working directly with the programmers to light up more addressable inventory that benefits the marketers in scale. Now there’s an initiative, for example, that spans Charter, Comcast and Cox addressable media on behalf of the programmers to activate for marketers. A lot of these players in the marketplace that may once have been considered competitors are coming together to make things easier for marketers and agencies to activate addressable across screens.

Now that TV advertising data is more accessible and connected, how does that comingle with other digital marketing efforts?

BK: TV is still the biggest opportunity as a reach vehicle, whether it’s data-driven linear or addressable. But digital really helps to reinforce messaging, so if people are exposed to certain ads or storylines on TV, you can then tailor the story more to the individual on digital screens.

In a digital environment, there could be additional digital retargeting that speaks to specific creative that can help drive that consumer to action. It can be more tailored to that need state versus the broader emotional pull of TV. But because these mediums are coming together now and we have data to connect them, you can think about it as storytelling across screens and delivering messaging and frequency across that mix. It’s definitely a journey, and the good news is that the different channels are coming together so the story can be better told synergistically.

How has the swift adoption of OTT by consumers during the pandemic affected advertisers?

BK: The pandemic certainly helped streaming companies with adoption. As far as advertising goes, several verticals were hurt during the pandemic—travel, for example. The addressable medium became more effective for many of the verticals that were still in play. The pandemic expedited our ability to be efficient in understanding consumer behavior. Data is very helpful in understanding the likelihood of behavior shifts over time, how campaigns or advertising can help drive that behavior and how those behavior shifts may have occurred.

We’re able to see through data on the connection of advertising exposures to actual behavior, whether it’s transactional behavior like foot traffic or sales, or whether it’s self-reported behavior like surveys. The pandemic has shown us that data is playing a more important role than ever before in guiding the best and most effective media plans.

What do you see as the future of data-driven TV advertising?

BK: There’ll be a time in the future when all advertising is addressable. We know that there’s a demand for this. Advertising will always be important, but more relevant targeted advertising that consumers will opt into and enjoy will really be in the forefront. In the digital space, we see a lot of things like ad blockers coming into play and time-shifting ads in TV. What we know for certain, however, is that when ads are relevant and targeted, and the creative maps to the need state, then ads become a very important informational vehicle.

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