Video Essentials

OTT Advertising: How Brands Can Reach Consumers Where They Live

“If you’re a marketer, you need to pay attention to OTT, because that’s where the audience is moving,” said Anna Bager, senior vice president and general manager for the mobile and video centers of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Bager delivered opening remarks at today’s IAB video symposium on OTT advertising and the connected consumer, where the best and the brightest in New York City’s ad world talked about how over-the-top video is evolving, the opportunities it offers, and the challenges that still remain.

Adam Schlachter on OTT advertising

Adam Schlachter of Group Nine Media

While everyone at the event would breath a sigh of relief if Netflix started serving ads, that hasn’t happened yet. Still, the OTT world offers plenty of ways for brands to speak to viewers. Ad-supported video is growing 32 percent month-over-month, said Sophie Kelly, senior vice president of North American whiskeys portfolio at Diageo, delivering a keynote address with a brand perspective.

Streaming is rapidly changing the TV ecosystem. The average TV viewer is now 54 years old, Kelly said, while the average OTT viewer is 31 years old. When brands buy broadcast spots to reach a younger demo, they drastically over-index on older viewers.

One problem OTT advertising faces is the need to offer scale. With so many streaming options around, most lack the reach advertisers need. Kelly sees cross-platform buying solutions rising to fill that need. These will offer brands a simple way to buy the audience they want across services.

Speaking on monetizing OTT, Sarah Warner, managing partner and digital investment lead for programmatic and video at GroupM, also conveyed the need for simple solutions. “We need to make sure it’s clean and approachable for our clients and for agencies,” Warner said.

Clients look to agencies for information on OTT, so part of her job is helping them navigate this confusing space. She sees brands experimenting with new methods and learning how online campaigns work with linear. Brands are willing to take the journey, but they need some help understanding apps and infrastructure. Demonstrating value is crucial: “I think measurement is always going to be a key component of justifying investment,” Warner said.

While OTT is new and challenging, Warner thinks the industry is more than up to the task of solving its problems. “We got through it with mobile. We’ll get through it with OTT and CTV,” she said.

One hurdle is viewability. Is this really an issue, since—unlike with desktop video—there’s no fold to be below, and no way an ad could be covered by other applications? The answer was a strong yes. During a town hall discussion, one audience member spoke of the huge amount of fraud his company sees, where OTT apps make thousands of ad calls without ever serving ads to viewers. It was a problem of vetting, he said, since anyone can create and post an OTT app to a popular streaming platform.

“The consensus is we need a standard,” said Eric John, deputy director of video for the IAB, noting that OTT platforms need to support tracking across the board, and the Media Rating Council (MRC) is working on a solution.

Data and testing can get agencies and their clients to a better place with OTT advertising, said Adam Schlachter, chief marketing officer for advertising and creative services with Group Nine Media. Going viral is not a strategy, he said, since “it’s impossible to do that time and again.” However, by testing every platform, seeing what works, and seeing what works better, smart marketers can raise the floor and consistently drive better results.

To guide those in attendance, Schlachter offered these four points:

  1. Content is king
  2. The rules keep changing
  3. Test everything
  4. Listen to the data

“What we ultimately want to do is more of what’s working and less of what’s not,” Shlachter said.


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