When Roku started selling commercials on its ad-supported channels, it approached the digital teams at brands and agencies. Now it sells to the TV teams, in a sign that connected TV advertising is being treated more like linear TV than digital video.
But these don’t look like standard pitch meetings, said Youssef Ben-Youssef, head of ad platform for Roku. They’re more like education sessions. Roku’s sales teams need to educate their prospects so they’ve learned to take the terms TV buyers are used to and map them to the over-the-top (OTT) ad landscape. TV buyers are still learning how to work with this new beast, CTV.
At the end of the day, Ben-Youssef says, it’s the same screen, the same content, and the same quality. The only difference is how campaigns are executed. For buyers, reach is more important than impressions. Buyers want to find the best platform to reach their desired audience with ease.
Viewers, on the other hand, aren’t conflicted about it at all: “Most people literally want to see the free stuff. They don’t mind the ads if they are relevant to them,” Ben-Youssef said.
Ben-Youssef spoke this evening at an industry panel on connected TV advertising hosted by Dailymotion. One thing he’s had to educate buyers on is how unnecessary it is to worry about viewability for CTV. The ads take up the whole screen, he points out, so viewability is not an issue. Spoofing is also not a significant problem as most sales take place within curated marketplaces. Frequency capping is still a concern—and a source of annoyance for many viewers—but it will take some time to get ad servers working together to implement an industry-wide solution.
While OTT and CTV ads use the same pipes, the way buyers and sellers need to negotiate the area is different. Platforms like Roku have a responsibility to make buying and selling as easy as possible, using whatever currency the participants prefer, Ben-Youssef said.
ComScore was also on the panel and, not surprisingly, stressed the importance of providing trusted third-party measurements to move the industry forward.
“Audiences aren’t really platform loyalists as much as they’re content loyalists,” stressed Carol Hinnant, senior vice president of business development for ComScore. They’ll search out the shows and movies they want to see, and they don’t care which platform they’re on. That shows the importance of third-party measurement, as platforms need to show they’re able to attract those audiences.
Any digital space has risk from bad actors, Hinnant noted, and online spaces aren’t as tightly controlled as brands would like them to be. Offering third-party verification on where ads are shown helps brands feel more secure.
Like Ben-Youssef, Hinnant sees connected TV as more like linear TV than desktop video, and its ad landscape is more like that of linear TV. The only difference is that connected TV advertising can do more digitally to target households for a given demographic.
Looking ahead to the future (and that’s what this panel was about), Hinnant sees TV and CTV blending into one. Whoever is producing the most interesting content will win, and consumers won’t care how they receive it. What’s important is to group broadcast, cable, and online audiences together and measure them with the same metrics.
Asked about the future of CTV, Ben-Youssef said, “I think the future is CTV, actually.” Don’t assume other countries will follow the same path, he advised, but in the U.S. we’re going to see a lot of viewers moving from linear to OTT. Traditional buyers are just getting comfortable with OTT, but there’s going to be a lot of budget-shifting in the near future.