While everyone talks about the way the pandemic accelerated 10 years of ecommerce growth into just 10 short months, what is less frequently mentioned is the way the global lockdowns completely upended the way marketers buy TV inventory.
TV consumption dramatically shot up since the start of the pandemic, with OTT (Over the Top) and streaming TV leading the way, per Nielsen. Rather than sit around the TV set to watch appointment TV, consumers today tune in via connected TV (i.e. premium content streamed through apps, either on a smart TV or through an over-the-top device). Episode binging is a new national pastime!
What is OTT?
As defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Over the Top is video content transported from a video provider to a connected device over the Internet outside the closed networks of telecom and cable providers.
Consumers like the freedom of watching what they want, when they watch it, and on a device of their choosing. Although at first blush this may sound like a daunting challenge for marketers keen to reach a specific audience at scale, the reality is that it’s an amazing opportunity that is opening up the medium for more brands.
With digital TV, you can reap the benefits of traditional TV — reaching a captive and engaged audience at scale — along with all the benefits that digital offers. It is truly the best of both worlds.
The Transformation of TV Buying
As the ultimate mass media, the marketer’s traditional approach to TV advertising was essentially spray-and-pray. You knew you’d reach a massive audience, you just weren’t sure how many of the consumers were your target audience, and whether they’d actually have an interest in your product. On top of that, you couldn’t connect ad views to in-store foot traffic or online purchases unless you hired a marketing research firm to organize focus groups and brand recall surveys (at an enormous cost).
TV marketers watched in envy as their digital-marketing peers leveraged great volumes of behavioral data — and programmatic technologies — to assess who their best audiences are, see who responds most often, and optimize every aspect of their campaign strategies to drive performance in real time.
With the proliferation of streaming services, smart devices, TV suddenly became “addressable.” Addressable TV means that you, as a marketer, can target specific ads to specific TV-consumption devices based on household or real-time behavioral data.
This is game-changing for marketers, because it means you can leverage data gleaned from online behaviors (e.g. page views, searches, clicks, shares) to:
- Assess interests and intent
- Create highly refined behavioral-based audience segments for TV ad targeting
- Reach these users across any channel — including desktop, mobile and CTV — via programmatic for a truly omnichannel experience
- Connect ad views to business outcomes in order to know where best to spend your media budget
It’s no surprise, therefore, that connected TV is the fastest growing area of video advertising, per the IAB.
Average Video Ad Spend Per Advertiser – 2020 vs 2019 (in millions)
The Enabler: Identity Maps
Traditional TV has always been its own island, but with identity maps (aka identity graphs), the ecosystem can link multiple devices to a single user, which in turn, enables you to send highly relevant messages to consumers, based on their interest and intent signals.
An identity map is more or less a database that links all of the device identifiers of a consumer together i.e. device ID, along with some PII data if permissioned, such as an IP address, email address, phone number, web cookies.
These maps allow marketers to know if an ad exposure on one device helped prompt a store visit, a website visit or an online sale. It also allows marketers to understand the customer journey: how many ads, and in which channels, prompt the most conversions? It’s the kind of insight that directly improves media buying and campaign results. It also allows you to match behavior targeting to households and devices at scale.
Scale is Catching Up
Speaking of scale, digital TV is catching up to traditional TV, and that too is game changing. Once upon a time, scale was traditional TV’s ultimate advantage, and the reason why it attracted the lion’s share of the advertiser’s TV budget. Marketers attended the annual Upfronts, or sneak previews of the coming season’s content, and pre-purchased massive quantities of air spots. Of course, they were wined and dined by the networks, and often met TV stars whose content they’d buy against.
What’s really exciting about CTV, streaming and digital TV is that when combined into a media plan, they get closer to the kind of massive scale associated with traditional TV.
What Digital TV Means to Marketers
Digital TV is truly a boon for marketers, many of whom are under great pressure from the c-suite to show measurable business outcomes of their ad spend. Digital TV lets you do that and more. Now you can take advantage of the sublime convergence of sight + sound and still:
- Hyper focus your messages at scale. Target the right screens with the right message at scale. Target moms and dads with different ads, even if they’re sitting side by side on the couch, consuming different content.
- Target users based on real signals. Leverage a host of real-time behavioral signals (page views, searches, clicks and shares) to understand where consumers are in the purchase journey, and tailor messages that they’ll see as they consume TV content.
- Tell compelling cross-channel stories and journeys, including CTV. People rarely make a decision based on a single ad exposure. With digital, you can pick up your brand story line on whichever device your audience has in their hands.
- Pivot your targeting strategies in real time in response to campaign performance. This is an essential lesson learned during the pandemic. TV media buyers were reluctant to place big bets at the Upfronts in 2020, and opted to experiment with programmatic TV buying instead. What they learned is that programmatic gives them the ability to pivot based on user response, as well as try smaller publishers and optimize their campaigns on a daily basis. There’s no going back!
Since the mid-1990s we’ve been living in a golden age of television, with new shows and properties breaking new ground and driving the national dialog. Fortunately, digital TV has ushered in a golden age of TV ad buys, and it’s enabling more marketers to play in the space.