With 75% of U.S. households now connected to OTT devices, your biggest risk with CTV is not buying in.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Millennial Joe and all his friends are cancelling their cable subscriptions. They prefer video streaming to live programming, as the term “broadcast” becomes obsolete. They expect to easily access on-demand content online. They have six-second attention spans and live on their mobile devices.
We are all aware of the cord-cutting, cord-shaving, cord-never narrative. Many of us live the narrative.
But to riff on an old saying, the rumors of the death of television have been greatly exaggerated. The fact is more people are watching more TV than ever before. The evolution of television is the same, but different. And better for marketers.
Enter the Connected TV
The traditional cable bundle remains viable for marketers, at least for now. Nearly 80% of the U.S. still has cable. But its penetration peaked in 2010, and the secular trendline now points down, to the right, and is accelerating fast. Cable is the Weekend at Bernie’s of content – dead already but dressed and propped up to give the appearance that the status quo is intact.
The all-important 18-34 age demographic has experienced a nearly 50% decline in hours spent watching traditional broadcast television per month. Yet at the same time, more people are watching more content, just in new places.
Hardware has obviously come a long way since, once upon a time, older Millennials and Gen Xers watched channels 3, 5, and fuzzy 8 on immobile boulders wearing unreliable rabbit ears. But at its core, the content itself has not intrinsically changed. Instrumentally, it’s better than ever before. We’re living in a golden age of television.
“There’s already an existing opportunity ripe for marketers to take advantage of before the competition catches a whiff of the scent. The time is now for brands to stand out in CTV.”
What has changed is our point of access to that content. Now instead of color and sound transmitted through coaxial cables, it’s distributed via ethernet instead.
By 2021, current projections call for two in five hours spent viewing content to occur on streaming devices. China, and most of emerging Asian markets, already spends three in five hours.
The current advertising solution is not binary, OTT-only or cable-only. It’s a fragmented mix for marketers to maneuver. But what is clear is not buying on CTV today is equivalent to not buying on all three major network channels in 1978.
Demand Follows New Supply
The Connected TV is no longer a cool gadget for early adopters. Streaming players, such as Rokus, Apple TVs, Google Chromecasts, and Amazon Fire Sticks have gone mainstream. Eighty-two-percent of Americans have broadband Internet and three in four U.S. broadband households connect OTT devices.
CTV now represents a critical mass deserving of a larger marketing investment alongside traditional linear TV. According to The Trade Desk, CTV inventory and spend increased 10x in 2017 due to supply balancing demand for the first time, aided considerably by the growth of OTT skinny bundles like Sling and DirecTV Now, as well as services like Hulu and a growing host of others. This increase in supply is the catalyst for CTV buyers.
CTV provides programmatic opportunities in the same way as display, video, or mobile. Because every OTT device – Roku, Apple TV, etc. – is connected to the Internet and has a unique device identifier, these devices simply become additional identifiers in a device graph that creates a more comprehensive picture of a user’s engagement with a brand. The additional data yielded from this more robust device graph feeds a more strategic and actionable marketing plan for reaching users with the right message at the right time on the right device.
Just as marketers bridge cookies and device IDs between desktop and mobile and vice-versa, that same data is linked with CTV, providing the ability to take first-party data and leverage third-party data to target users with specific promotions, or suppress other users who have already been converted.
Because users have to be logged into the device to be able to consume the content, CTV has one of the highest authentication rates of any digital platform.
Let’s say a show being watched over-the-top has five ad blocks. Sadly, four of the five ads might currently be the exact same or even a blank screen, which speaks to a shortage of creative. It also speaks to the fact that marketers are not currently filling up available supply. Think about that – there’s already an existing opportunity ripe for marketers to take advantage of before the competition catches a whiff of the scent. The time is now for brands to stand out in CTV.
The data infrastructure exists to deliver unique ad experiences. The creative does not. And if marketers rely on the same mass creative, that’s obviously not a custom user experience. The jury is still out on whether or not enough engineering resources will ever be deployed to attempt serving a custom ad for every user, but that’s what CTV requires to match creative with audience.
Repurposing traditional linear TV ad campaigns for CTV won’t cut the mustard. Too many differences exist in quality and user state of mind, so marketers must come up with different creative. And those messages should inspire interactivity in the living room and lead to purchases without having to leave the environment.
Overall, the industry must do a better job with the customer experience. Otherwise, we risk losing users of ad-supported CTV to subscription-only models.
Brands tie CTV investments back to sales results much easier than in traditional TV. For example, those brands with an ecommerce presence can look at what they served on television and stitch it together with desktop or in-app purchases in the same household to get a sense of whether or not the TV ad led to the viewer taking an action.
The Best of All Worlds
Audiences have returned to the television for long-form content. Ten years ago, 100% of streaming viewership was consumed on a computer screen. Today, it’s 9%. That’s a huge win for marketers.
CTV offers the best of all worlds – the perk of mobile-related insights, the opportunity to layer on third-party data for more contextual targeting, the ability to buy impressions in real-time, and connections to elusive, younger audiences on the larger screen of a premium TV environment.
Brands should not eliminate linear TV budgets but must find a seat at the table for CTV, especially this time of the year when holiday campaigns are strategized.
Historically, consumers move faster than advertisers, and the migration to CTV is no different. Are you keeping up?
Is your brand exploring the benefits of a Connected TV strategy? Email Kristina at firstname.lastname@example.org.