New Video Frontiers 2020: key highlights for CTV
There are plenty of reasons why Connected TV (CTV) took top billing at this year’s New Video Frontiers conference. Combining smart digital capabilities and big-screen impact, CTV offers a powerful platform for brands to deliver highly targeted advertising at scale. From the broadcast perspective, its growing popularity provides the chance to increase revenue and capture the attention of cord cutting audiences. And that’s not to mention the recent spike in viewership — now covering 50% of homes in Europe’s biggest markets, including the UK.
Experts from across the multi-media space agree CTV has become more than just another buzzword. But while its potential is vast, there are still barriers that must be overcome before the CTV revolution can begin; especially when it comes to inventory access and the persistent issue of cross-channel measurement.
Here are the key takeaways from this snapshot into the fast-evolving world of CTV:
Every CTV market has its own story
Key to harnessing CTV successfully is recognising that the pace of progress isn’t consistent for all markets. Although there are common trends that run across regions, the shape they take in each country depends on its unique climate. For example, according to data shared by Stéphane Coruble — CEO at RTL AdConnect — the peak of lockdown brought near-universal rises in CTV consumption around the globe, but daily viewing increases saw significant variation: from an extra 30 minutes in the US to over two hours in Italy.
For buyers and sellers alike, achieving a collective view of CTV growth and moving with the latest advances will therefore mean closely monitoring every market. As noted by Emma Newman, CRO EMEA, PubMatic, the UK is the most mature market in Europe with the highest level of tech penetration, which makes it an effective “bellwether of how things will play out between traditional broadcasters and other providers.”
In contrast, Germany’s tendency to place CTV within its strong linear heritage — rather than digital — means it offers a model of how the sell-side will operate and France is gearing up for greater addressable experimentation now that restrictive TV regulations have finally been lifted. Meanwhile, developing markets also shouldn’t be underestimated. For example, Italy’s CTV infrastructure may be nascent, but industry innovators are rapidly working to boost data access and build bridges between demand-side platforms (DSPs) and agencies. Similarly, Spain’s focus on driving unification and standardisation is set to pave the way for imminent growth, despite current struggles with low cost-per-thousand impressions (CMPs).
The pros and cons of mixing two worlds
Next up is appreciating the mix of opportunities and challenges created by CTV’s hybrid nature. On the positive side, it adds digital versatility to a traditional medium with sizeable reach. Not only can audiences view increasingly varied content via internet-enabled and smart TVs, but brands also have the capacity to engage them with more targeted messages.
As pointed out by Nicola Teague, Head of TV for the7stars, this creates a valuable entry point for brands that are interested in advertising on CTV but limited to smaller budgets. With refined tailoring possibilities, affordable inventory at the lower end of the CTV funnel can fuel larger-scale impact for specific audiences, including coveted younger demographics increasingly tuning into broadcast video on-demand (BVOD).
But the highly fragmented CTV landscape means leveraging that inventory effectively isn’t necessarily easy, especially from a programmatic point of view. Multiple industry experts identified one of the main barriers to driving both CTV addressability and wider growth is the lack of a unified way to buy ad space across environments. The mix of audiences across BVOD, over-the-top (OTT) platforms, and countless streaming services can make it hard to deliver cohesive real-time CTV campaigns, in addition to restricting scope. As noted by Alex Khan, International Group MD for Unruly, once buyers apply targeting filters and frequency caps to isolated pockets of inventory, target audience size for CTV ads is considerably reduced.
These problems are only exacerbated by disjointed measurement — an issue Mihir Haria-Shah, Head of Broadcast at Total Media, feels is the “biggest challenge for buyers”. To guide smart CTV planning and spending decisions, buyers need complete campaign oversight; including the incremental, de-duplicated reach and impact each channel provides on top of linear TV exposure.
But the current landscape of disparate metrics and siloed data means generating this overall picture of performance is difficult. For Patrick Zinga, Digital Strategy and Planning Lead at Starcom Worldwide, the effect of this limited measurability is often buyer hesitation. While they may be enticed by the prospect of harnessing multiple eyeballs, the inability to pinpoint “what that means in terms ad scale, views and opportunities” results in buyers seeing CTV as an unknown quantity and opting to stay firmly in the testing phase until effectiveness is proven.
Collaboration is critical to forward movement
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the general consensus on what’s needed to move CTV forward is for greater cooperation. In fact, Chief Economist for the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), Daniel Knapp, argues it’s simply not an option to collaborate; pointing out that the “CTV opportunity won’t make itself; Europe must collectively make the market.” Part of that will be reaching a shared definition of what CTV is and where it sits, which isn’t tied to the specific business models of independent platforms and vendors. But the other more crucial element is learning from current issues to build an ecosystem that works for everyone.
Liting Spalding, Head of Audience Planning and Programmatic at Havas Media Group, believes there are parallels between CTV as it stands and the beginning of automated advertising a decade ago. Just as those early days of programmatic offered valuable lessons about the importance of integrating tools to improve display ad trading, today’s stumbling blocks are showing where CTV requires better unity. As an example, Spalding cites moves made by Havas to increase internal collaboration by linking its CTV and programmatic team from the planning stage.
But building a foundation for enhanced CTV scale will take more than just removing internal divisions; there must be a collective effort across tech companies, media owners, agencies and brands. For instance, Haria-Shah, sees ITV’s new self-serve ad platform, Planet V, as an encouraging glimpse of the buying Utopia that could come into being if its granular behavioural targeting options and clear visibility into pricing were available for wider pools of inventory. And for Coruble, initiatives such as Project Origin — launched by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) last year — provide a positive sign that progress towards practical, privacy-safe and consistent cross-media measurement are already underway.
However, Rory Sutherland, industry pundit and Vice Chairman at Ogilvy, also has some parting words of advice for those keen to maximise CTV efficiency. For all the precision and insight increased measurability delivers, Sutherland contends that a large part of advertising works in ways that can’t be attributed; meaning that making indisputable effectiveness a condition for adoption could set “the bar for action too high.”
In other words, while establishing better systems for streamlined CTV advertising is crucial, we must be careful not to let data obsession eclipse the power of creative TV advertising and restrict adoption.