Tricky Tracking: Inside CTV’s Metric Room
"You have only one chance to make a first impression," conventional wisdom says. The advertising industry is scripted to craft a specific brand image in consumers' minds. Therefore, to facilitate business promotion. there are dozens of options for advertisers to choose from.
Articulating with all the pros and cons, brands pick those advertising channels which make the best sense for their business. This is when digital TV comes on to the scene. According to eMarketer, the investment of demand-side in CTV advertising is steadily swelling and will not show any signs of stopping. CTV ad spend in the U.S. alone is expected to hit $10.81 billion by 2021, against the $7 billion bottom line of 2019.
Brands use diverse touchpoints to impact their target audience, and online interaction via CTV is the standard bearer. Yet, ad message delivery is a delicate art. It’s not just about declaring brands’ solutions that are designed to meet prospects’ needs and wants. It’s about resonating with the context of an ad slot, and staying on the same page with the audience. It’s about advertisers’ values (working alongside the company’s mission), their attempts to run a business in a socially responsible manner, and making a go of it.
Businesses of all sizes are constantly finding ways to optimize ad budget allocations, and CTV/OTT advertising seems to be a reasonable option here. The flowering of advanced television (ATV—an umbrella term that embraces CTV, TV everywhere, etc.) is propelled by the problems related to tried-and-tested ad channels. For instance, recently, Facebook has neglected hate speech within its network and faced a backlash among blue-chip advertisers who turned an ad-dollar valve off and thus disrupted the behemoth's ad business.
On top of that, a huge number of publishers, including Tier 1 media, suffered badly due to Black Lives Matter content which was ubiquitous, especially on news platforms. Advertisers simply didn’t want to be associated with such sensitive content that was likely to seed misperceptions by the audience. Such reputational risks are inexpedient for businesses, so they considered alternatives, and CTV came in handy.
A dawning era of traditional television that can’t credit advertising flexibility and content uniqueness to itself, is also pushing marketers’ attention towards connected TV. CTV’s reach and targeting capabilities, addressability, new creative formats (pause ads, QR-code ads), cord-cutting and the co-viewing trend is another luring group here.
Still, there are bunch of barriers that are reducing brands’ adherence to CTV advertising. One of the common obstacles in this regard is the lack of advertisers’ understanding of how to measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns on connected TV. Indeed, there is homework to do to improve campaign analytics on the digital TV dimension, but measurement solutions are already available and they already meet advertisers’ requests.
CTV Campaign Metrics and Roadblocks
The ad tech industry encompasses various options to calculate advertising efficiency, and the viewability is so good to be deemed "god-like." The viewability metric provides advertisers with crucial information on whether their creative has been seen by a viewer.
According to MRC (Media Ratings Council), an ad is considered to be viewed if at least 50% of the creative remains on the screen for 1 second at the very least. To get the data, the ad tech vendors use pixels that are compatible with a vast number of CTV and OTT streaming platforms like Amazon TV, Android TV, Chromecast, etc.
To comply with the Viewable Ad Impression Measurement Guideline that has been developed by IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) and MRC in tandem, tech vendors should meet a cluster of technology requirements. Just to name a few:
- Client-side scoring
- Fraudulent activity gauze
- Cache busting approach
- Tuning of auto-refresh vs. human-initiated action
- Consideration of the impression that is out-of-focus (e.g. when a browser’s window with a video ad is rolled down)
These bullet points are just the tip of the iceberg related to CTV advertising measurement tricks and hints. One of the principal ad serving technologies on CTV/OTT is Server-side ad insertion (SSAI). The SSAI is also known as ad-stitching technology as it integrates ad video seamlessly right into the streaming content. Though SSAI provides resistance to ad-blockers, and improves the overall viewer experience by reducing the ad latency rate, it is not free of shortcomings. The core problem here concerns device identification which may lead to ad impression failure, or, some ads can even be flagged as invalid traffic.
For the time being, the key workaround is about establishing direct partnerships between demand and supply sides. The direct partnership is like gold for adtech players. And it’s a two-way street where advertisers, publishers and tech vendors should promenade in good faith to address the challenge. For instance, publishers can syndicate their data to impact campaigns’ performances and ultimate outputs. A synergy of the first- and third-party data is shifting ATV advertising to the next level.
SSAI possesses a whole gamut of benefits for market players:
- Similar recognition of ad and content by player
- Ad-block resistance
- Same QoE (Quality of experience) for content and ads
- Seamless transition experience on the player
Other core solutions available to enhance advertising campaign measurements within the digital TV ecosystem are provided by data analytics companies like Nielsen, or Comscore. Their reports help advertisers to understand users’ behavioral backgrounds, define their interests, and segment the audience accordingly, thus targeting the most valuable prospects.
There is also a room for attribution tracking, which aims to define the impact of an ad on a user’s behavior like if he installed an app, visited a website, made an online purchase on that website, or visited a brick-and-mortar store. As to the last one, marketers can use foot traffic solutions to track and improve their results.
With a Video Completion Rate that constitutes 90% to 100% on average, the list of CTV metrics goes on. It is pretty much a sure thing that the completed video doesn’t mean that viewers’ eyes were on the screen during the entire commercial clip, but if the creative is catchy and relevant, it will keep them "glued" to the end. So advertisers should pay attention not only to the ad channel, but ad creatives’ quality as well.
Hence, we can see that ad measurement on CTV is a versatile matter. It’s a sophisticated process based on cutting-edge technologies. So to tackle the challenge, brands should carefully choose their tech partners and aspire to direct partnership.
CTV is leapfrogging the competition and shows an ever developing trend of expansion. While alternative advertising channels are experiencing difficulties in a context of vulnerability, digital television is at its renaissance. State-of-the-art technologies within the CTV environment help advertisers to outsmart ad-blockers, while viewers enjoy unique content consumption. The condition of the ecosystem is more than favorable for ad tech players to master it. That said, advertisers are lingering with it, as it’s supposed that such an immature channel suffers from a lack of measurement remedies. However, campaign measurement depends on how advertisers, publishers, and ad tech providers communicate. It’s quite a challenge to achieve a desirable outcome, but the industry has sufficient capacities to overcome it.
[Editor's Note: This is a contributed byline from TheViewPoint. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]
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