Connected TV Advertising: Q&A with The Trade Desk’s Shawn Sharifan

Consumers are shifting to connected TV (CTV) and streaming services in bigger numbers than ever before. The global pandemic only accelerated this trend. According to data by The Trade Desk, connected TV reached over 80 million US households for the first time in 2020. This shift has implications for marketers and the way ad campaigns are deployed. 

For further insight, we talked to Shawn Sharifan, a senior account executive at The Trade Desk, where he helps clients achieve their growth potential by helping them navigate through what he calls “an evolving media buying ecosystem”, especially within CTV. With 7 years prior experience working between ESPN and The Walt Disney Company in their Advertising and Sales Marketing group, Shawn has a wealth of knowledge about the digital programmatic advertising world and more specifically, CTV. 

Can you break down the differences between OTT & CTV?

Today, consumers access TV content anytime, anywhere thanks to networks increasingly delivering OTT content. It is delivered over the standard, closed TV system or “Over The Top.” OTT is simply the delivery of TV content via the internet as opposed to a cable or broadcast provider. Examples of OTT services or content are Hulu, NBCU’s Peacock, or ESPN+. 

CTV, or connected TV,  connects your TV screen to the internet, whether by a “stick”, dongle, gaming console, or even a connection built into the TV itself. Examples of CTV are Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecasts, or smart TVs themselves. Essentially, it’s what enables your TV to connect to the internet to access video content.  

Connecting the two together, for example, you can watch Modern Family on Hulu (OTT) via an Amazon Fire TV Stick (CTV).

How does CTV advertising work programmatically, from the brand’s perspective?

CTV programmatic advertising on The Trade Desk works in a similar way to any other channel. We give clients access to a rich marketplace of various CTV inventory sources, with optionality, allowing advertisers to select the audience they want to reach. We have been investing in CTV for more than six years and, since we don’t compete with our inventory partners, we have the most direct access to this premium supply for our clients. We have first look access with NBCUniversal & Sling, we are leading with first access to Comcast’s Unified Decisioning, or header bidding for CTV, and perhaps the most significant development is the access to direct network avails from Fox and Discovery through Hulu, for example. Historically, the networks themselves would monetize roughly 80 percent of their CTV inventory while the content distributor, Hulu in this case, could monetize the remaining 20 percent. Now, through the TTD, you access the full 100 percent of direct avails programmatically.

Why do you think advertisers should consider advertising on CTV?

Advertising on CTV really combines the best benefits of traditional TV advertising with programmatic. Like linear TV, programmatic CTV ad buys offer proximity to premium content at scale. When you add programmatic to the equation, you now can layer on precise audience buying, media consolidation, frequency management, and enhanced measurement to your buy. 

We have reached a tipping point in 2020, where the way that people watch television has completely changed—that has only been escalated by COVID-19. Consumers are cutting the cord, which is no surprise given the amount of streaming platforms that are now available. For the first time ever there are more households that can be reached on CTV than on traditional linear TV. According to eMarketer, CTV will reach 4 out of 5 of US households in 2020. With 206.2 million people viewing CTV content, the domain is no longer a marginal one for marketers. Of course when eyeballs shift away from linear TV that means marketers need to follow that audience — a perfect example of why marketers are using platforms like The Trade Desk to lean in and be more deliberate about their buys. We have seen a 100% growth this year in connected TV. By 2022 programmatic CTV spend will reach around $8 billion dollars, which is around 11% of all TV spend. Advertisers will go where the viewership is, and that’s CTV.

Where do CTV campaigns fit into the customer journey/buyer’s funnel? Top/Middle/Bottom of the funnel? 

CTV will undoubtedly continue to be one of the best channels for top of the funnel tactics. Now, because of our cross device and enhanced measurement capabilities, CTV is also a major player in both mid and lower funnel tactics. The precise audience targeting, real time optimizations, frequency management, measurement of both online and offline sales, increases CTV efficacy in tying back ad spend to real business results.”

How does CTV advertising differ from traditional TV advertising and other programmatic channels? 

There are several differences between CTV and traditional TV advertising. First is the ability for true frequency management, ensuring you’re not serving too many ads to a single user and instead reaching net new customers. Next is the measurement capabilities that CTV affords. We can tie commercials to offline sales and in-store visits with our robust marketplace of offline measurement partners. Just one example, we’re able to measure the impact of a CPG client’s CTV campaign on the actual sales driven within a national grocery chain. Linear TV, while a great reach machine, still struggles with these types of insights. 

What kind of targeting options exist when advertising on CTV?

Through The Trade Desk, brands can apply virtually all targeting capabilities they are typically accustomed to in programmatic on CTV as well. That includes 1st party, 3rd party and look-a-like audience targeting, frequency capping, geography, time and day, and retargeting. 

On what types of devices and networks will CTV ads appear?

As we mentioned earlier, CTV means that you are accessing content on your TV that’s connected to the internet. How your TV connects to the internet to access that content comes in a few different ways (Smart TV, consoles, CTV sticks), but what remains constant for CTV is that the content is being consumed on a TV. 

CTV through The Trade Desk has access to all the networks that people love to watch, whether that is accessed directly with the publishers themselves, or through the content distributors like Hulu or Sling. Examples include, but not limited to, ABC, ESPN, FOX, NBC.

How much personalization is available for CTV ads? 

Through our CTV audience targeting capabilities and partnership with Dynamic Creative Optimization vendors, we have increased our ability to deliver relevant creative to various audiences at scale on CTV. 

How do you measure the success of a CTV advertising campaign?

This should always be on a case by case basis. It’s important to have an upfront conversation with the brand about its business goal, and the measurement metrics it wants to apply to each campaign. Will it be incremental reach, driving offline sales, or just efficient cpm and reach? Once we have that alignment, we can start defining how to measure success of the CTV impact on a brand’s campaign. 

What’s in store for the future of CTV? 

Sometime in the future, each household will be able to receive targeted, relevant commercials (on a “1 to 1” basis), even as we all watch the same event, such as the Superbowl. Upfront media buying will move into the era of “Connected Upfronts”, which would allow for more targeted buying tactics that go beyond a traditional metric based on demographics, for example, and instead allows for measurable reach and frequency capping, plus the ability to tie this data back to business outcomes. 

Get Started with CTV Advertising

Interested in learning more about connected TV? Fill out the form below to download our helpful guide or contact us to connect with a campaign strategist who will help set up your CTV campaigns.