Streaming is rapidly becoming a go-to mode of viewing many TV watchers. Audiences across generations are increasingly “cutting the cord” and canceling their linear cable subscriptions in favor of streaming. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. households are now streamers, and some audiences have never subscribed to cable to begin with — “cord nevers.”
One of the most popular — and fastest-growing ways — to stream video content is through connected TV (CTV). Comcast data, for example, shows viewers spent 21 percent more time watching CTV in May 2023 compared with May 2022.
And advertising spend reflects the popularity of streaming video and, more specifically, CTV. In 2020, eMarketer estimated that CTV spend would hit $18.29 billion by 2024. By 2022, eMarketer began revising estimates; they now expect more than $30 billion ad dollars will go to CTV by 2025. eMarketer also predicts more than half of marketers will shift at least 40 percent of their ad budgets to CTV across all global regions.
If you want to reach new and existing audiences and compete in the market, it’s essential to include CTV in your media buy. But CTV is not without its challenges. Although the channel presents tremendous opportunities to connect with audiences, persistent myths and misconceptions about CTV environments can pose obstacles for ROI.
Below, we’ll take a look at four key concepts advertisers should know to maximize the effectiveness of CTV buys. For a more comprehensive overview of the most prevalent media quality challenges in CTV — and what you can do about them — you can also explore The Ultimate Guide to CTV Measurement.
1. The difference between OTT & CTV — yes, they are different
Although the terms OTT and CTV are sometimes used interchangeably, it’s important for advertisers to understand the difference between the two. CTV has a unique set of technical features — and industry-level limitations — which require unique solutions to measure and protect inventory.
OTT stands for “over-the-top” and is a general term used to describe digital video, or streaming, more broadly. OTT content can play on a variety of devices, including desktops, laptops, TVs, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
CTV stands for connected TV and is a subset of OTT, defined as a TV screen that is connected to the internet. CTVs can be powered by various devices, including smart TVs, streaming sticks, gaming consoles, set-top boxes and more.
2. How CTV engages consumers
Another factor distinguishing CTV from other forms of OTT (and other forms of streaming) is that CTVs are often the largest screens in the room. Because of this, CTV presents the opportunity to reach audiences with high-impact creative.
Recent research shows consumers are open to advertising on CTV. Sixty-four percent of consumers, in fact, say they would rather watch ads than pay for content.
Findings from Magnite, the world’s largest independent sell-side platform (SSP), go a step further. Magnite discovered that CTV audiences are also more willing to share information in exchange for relevant advertising. And CTV consumers are twice as likely to make a purchase after seeing an ad than linear TV viewers.
3. The importance of CTV ad measurement
CTV is a premium channel, but that does not make it immune from quality concerns. Quality is the foundation of performance, so it’s important advertisers monitor and protect campaigns from quality challenges. An ad cannot drive impact if it is not viewed by a real human in a brand suitable environment or in the intended geography.
Unfortunately, though, many advertisers hold several misconceptions about CTV inventory quality. These misconceptions include:
- “CTV is fraud free.“
- “Ads are viewable by default.”
- “CTV is a naturally brand safe environment.”
- “CTV ads are always in the intended geo.”
This, however, is far from the reality. In fact, DoubleVerify (DV) found that for CTV:
Bot fraud incident rates grew 69% in 2022 among CTV impressions.
More than 1 in 3 impressions serve in environments that fire ads when the TV is turned off.
In a sample of 2022 upfront campaigns, one-half of advertisers ran on properties outside of their buying parameters, including low-quality sites and apps.
Another common misconception is that only programmatic CTV inventory can pose media quality challenges. In reality, direct buys can come with their own set of challenges — particularly when it comes to extension networks.
Extension networks are commonly used as part of Upfronts and Newfronts. These networks allow publishers and distributors to run campaigns outside of their owned and operated inventory so that they can increase scale and potentially include lower-price inventory.
But these networks can also pose quality concerns. Although using extension networks is a common industry practice, some advertisers may contractually stipulate that their impressions do not run on extension network inventory. Despite these stipulations, unfortunately, DV discovered that extension networks may be used regardless.
In a sample of 2022 upfront campaigns, DV found that half of the advertisers ran on properties outside of their buying parameters, including low-quality sites and apps, some of which included adult and extremist environments. This underscores why it’s essential to measure and protect campaign quality across all types of media buys.
4. How to measure and protect the quality of your CTV campaigns
Wasting ad spend on inventory outside of your buying parameters, including fraudulent, non-viewable or unsuitable impressions, can result in inefficiencies, lower returns on your investments and harm to your brand. To drive maximum impact, advertisers should ensure that campaigns are measured and protected from media quality challenges — no matter how they purchase their media or where their ads run.
Measuring fraud on CTV
For advertising to perform, it must be seen by real people. But CTV’s rise in popularity has attracted more fraudsters to the channel than ever before. CTV inventory is currently the number one target for fraud. In fact, DV’s 2023 Global Insights Report found that fraud rates were 11.2 percent on a CTV test campaign that did not use verification services. That’s a 367 percent increase compared with CTV campaigns using verification, where fraud rates are just 0.6 percent. DV also discovered that CTV bot fraud increased by 69 percent from 2021 to 2022.
Fraud can present a costly challenge for advertisers, especially if their campaigns are unprotected. This results in wasted ad dollars and lower efficiency in media spend.
Fraud can take on many forms in CTV:
Fraudsters create servers that generate fake traffic from fraudulent devices, passing it on as premium impressions.
DV detects 1.7 million+ fraudulent devices per day.
Fraudulent apps will manipulate their environment in one or more ways:
DV has detected 4,000+ fraudulent CTV apps since 2020 that generate millions of impressions.
|Fraudsters buy low-priced inventory and resell it as premium CTV video inventory at high CPMs.|
Measuring brand safety and suitability on CTV
According to a 2019 DV-Harris Poll study, two-thirds of consumers would likely stop using a brand or product if they viewed the brand’s digital ad next to false, objectionable or inflammatory content. It is essential for advertisers to understand the quality of the inventory they are buying and leverage the proper brand safety and suitability controls to protect investments.
Some advertisers hold the misconception that all CTV impressions are safe or suitable for their brand, but this frequently isn’t the case. In reality, anyone can create a CTV app, just as anyone can create a website on the open web. As a result, there is a wide variety of potentially harmful or inappropriate content, even in top CTV apps, including inflammatory politics and news, violence and adult and sexual content. Unfortunately, this can result in ads playing in environments that damage a brand’s reputation, regardless of whether their media is purchased programmatically on the open market or directly through a publisher.
Measuring viewability on CTV
Ads are crucial for raising customer awareness of a new product or service. But if the ads are never seen, they don’t get the chance to make that impact for your business. That’s why viewability is an essential metric for advertisers to track across all digital media.
Many believe that ads on CTV are viewable by default, but this is not the case. For example, CTV ads frequently play when the TV screen is turned off. DV found more than one in three CTV ad impressions served in environments that fire ads while the TV is turned off. Viewers may also drop off and exit out of the program as an ad begins to play. And ads can play partially off screen. All of this means that ads served into these environments result in wasted ad spend and can leave advertisers paying for impressions that never had the chance to be seen.
Measuring geo relevance on CTV
Have you ever been served an ad meant for a different geographical region, knowing that the services weren’t available to you? Alternatively, have you seen an ad in an entirely different language from the one that is commonly spoken in your region?
Much like other media quality challenges, ads can appear in an unintended geography for a variety of reasons, including fraud. It’s possible that some impressions from unintended geographies are bought in error. But they may also be disguised as impressions from intended geographies by fraudsters.
In these cases, viewers are likely to ignore the ads or navigate away from the content on which it was displayed entirely. Either way, the impression would have been wasted because it didn’t reach audiences in the relevant geography. To prevent this, it’s important that advertisers are measuring and protecting their investments.
What Advertisers Can Do to Measure and Protect CTV Campaigns
The large viewership and screens of CTV offer tons of potential to connect with consumers. But to make the most out of CTV buys, advertisers need a toolkit that allows them to measure and protect their CTV investments. To take a deeper dive into CTV and learn more about the tools available for this unique channel, read The Ultimate Guide to CTV Measurement.