By Erica Atkins: Partner, Associate Director Digital Investment, Mindshare North America
These days, you probably don’t think twice about watching your favorite TV content on the big screen in your living room and then continuing on your mobile phone. You’re probably more focused on not crying while watching This Is Us during your commute. While this practice has become more and more common from a consumer standpoint, the convergence of linear and digital video is still a hot topic for advertisers, agencies, and content suppliers, which led to a lively discussion during the “A Bird’s Eye View into OTT” session on Wednesday morning. Representatives from multiple perspectives on this space – agency/buying, content providers, and demand-side platforms – laid out the current state of OTT, how advertisers should leverage this platform, and where OTT will fit into the future of video advertising.
It may seem like most people you know (especially those 18-34) watch video content via some kind of OTT platform. But when it comes to advertising, there’s still a common perception that OTT is in an “early adopters” phase, when in reality it’s close to being used in 3 out of 4 homes in the U.S. Because of the lag time for OTT to become mainstream media, in addition to technology and monetization challenges on the supplier side, some advertisers have struggled to see where OTT fits into their traditional TV strategy. Sarah Warner, Managing, Partner, Digital Investment Lead at GroupM, said it still requires a bit of education with clients to get them away from the habit of bucketing OTT as either Digital or TV rather than thinking of it part of both.
Advertisers should consider OTT as a valuable platform to extend digital and linear TV reach, and one that’s becoming more and more necessary to reach a younger demo. Jon Alleva, SVP Digital Monetization and Planning at NBCUniversal, said for example that 20% of the This Is Us audience is unique to OTT, so if you’re only buying TV, then you’re missing out. Also, since OTT is inherently 100% viewable and often has less ad clutter (compared to VOD and linear TV), it’s a premium space to get your message in front of a young and affluent audience. The growth of available inventory means there’s now enough scale to buy OTT programmatically, so advertisers have the option to either buy contextually or buy a specific audience. Perhaps the final challenge to hook clients on OTT is proving out the value of the platform via attribution and measurement, which aren’t quite as advanced as the capabilities on digital yet.
So what does the future of OTT advertising look like? The panelists agreed that this platform provides an opportunity to make the consumer experience better and learn from user pushback seen on ad supported video platforms so far. This includes testing out shorter video formats, creative sequencing, and the ability to frequency cap and retarget users effectively. The continued growth of OTT may also lead to a change in the structure of TV upfront commitments, giving buyers more decision power when it comes to where and when commitment dollars are spent. In order for OTT to truly take off though, content providers and agencies alike will need to change as quickly as the technology does. The merging of digital and linear platforms will also require converging the currently segmented teams that buy and sell digital and linear video.