OTT Advertising: Frequently Asked Questions

OTT, or Over the Top advertising, and CTV advertising have both been gaining traction in the past few months as consumers are stuck at home and are watching more TV at all hours of the day. With so much interest from marketers across all industries, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about OTT to help you get started.

What is OTT and how is it different from Connected TV? 

OTT is a subset of Advanced TV that includes Digital TV and Connected TV (CTV).  OTT, or over the top, devices connect users to the internet to facilitate the viewing of video inventory in a TV like environment. This is typically done through some type of app or website, such as hulu.com, and includes a much wider spectrum than just something that shows up on a connected TV. CTV refers to digital video content that’s being viewed on a TV that is connected to the internet.

Benefits of Over the Top Advertising

As more and more television watchers migrate to streaming platforms, OTT is estimated to increase from 45% to 60% within the next decade. As nearly 98% of all OTT video ads are streamed in full, they are much more likely to increase your brand awareness than traditional television. With the OTT advertising market continuing to grow, here are some of the reasons to get in on OTT advertising now:

  • Growing platform: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are at home and watching OTT streaming services than ever. That means you’re tapping into a powerful emerging market — one that’s now ready to see your content at any hour of the day.
  • Increased brand recognition: Recent research has shown that more than 70% of all OTT viewers have paused their streaming in the past to learn more about the product or service being advertised. With OTT advertising, you can target demographics that aren’t reached by traditional ads to increase brand recognition.
  • Unskippable ads: When you invest in OTT ads, you’re investing in an unskippable ad that watchers can’t block or ignore. This improves ad streaming completion rates and allows you to build brand recognition in ways that formats with skippable ads like YouTube can’t achieve.
  • Reach younger demographics: A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 61% of 18-29-year-olds watch television primarily through streaming services. The shorter length of OTT ads also makes them more favorable with young audiences who dislike traditional advertising.

Challenges of OTT Advertising

While more versatile than traditional television or connected tv advertising, OTT advertising suffers from some of the same problems common to other advertising avenues:

  • Difficulty tracking results and impressions: Like with television, it can be difficult to know exactly who your advertisement is reaching. Additionally, and unlike in traditional television advertising, it is also difficult to track any real-time impressions and impact of your ads. Thankfully, increases in viewership data and the ability to track “upstream” results assist in mitigating this tracking problem.
  • Functionality: OTT advertising lacks the in-depth and versatile functionality you typically get with browsers. OTTs have less viewership tracking ability and cannot use interactive advertisements the same way that browsers can.

How Is OTT Advertising Delivered?

OTT advertising is delivered into programming through two separate methods — client-side ad insertion (CSAI) and server-side ad insertion (SSAI). In the CSAI method, the advertiser is able to place the ad into the platform before it is seen by the viewer, but it comes with the drawback of possibly being caught by an ad blocker. The SSAI method is performed by the OTT service themselves and allows ads to be placed in the core content of a video without interruptions, making it much harder to block or detect.

Why Is OTT Popular Now?

In short, many consumers are finding they can get more entertainment for their money by opting for OTT services instead of cable or dish packages. This has caused a growing number of adult consumers to cut the cord with their cable providers due to increased cost and diminishing satisfaction. As more young consumers begin paying for their own media, they are opting for OTT services entirely due to the lower price point and flexibility of streaming platforms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the number of individuals with access to OTT services as more adults and children have constant access to entertainment. Today, the audience you’ve always wanted to reach is right in front of their devices at almost every hour of the day.

What metric do you use to measure an OTT campaign?

Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, and what your consumer funnel or journey looks like, your KPI may vary, but the most common is video completion rate, or VCR. While that is the most common metric, there are additional performance metric options out there. Through unique methods, you can develop “upstream” tactics that allow you to measure how effective a campaign is even without the use of click-through rates or impressions. Before measuring the “upstream” impressions and results you’re receiving, you must have a control group.

When creating a method for determining “upstream” impressions, focus on the specific call to action in your campaign and examine how well your OTT campaign is working. For example, some campaigns are focused on promoting the download of an app, and with OTT and digital TV it is possible to measure impressions to app download or app install. This is just one of the reasons why OTT is far superior to linear TV, where you have no shot at measuring app downloads based on impressions.

Some other metrics you can use to determine the success of an OTT campaign for your business may include:

  • How much has my business’s web traffic increased since the beginning of the campaign?
  • How much more inventory have I been able to move since starting the OTT campaign?
  • Have more people searched for directions or visited my business since I launched the campaign?

How can I shift my traditional linear TV advertising clients into a strategic mix of TV tactics that include OTT?

The difficulty here is that many traditional marketers really are holding on to TV because that’s what they know, so encouraging them to make the switch is difficult. So one way to start this conversation is to talk about the benefits of CTV and OTT. One such benefit of OTT advertising compared to linear TV that makes the sell easier is not only the additional targeting capabilities, but also the direct measurement of your advertising impact that linear TV doesn’t offer.

Brand awareness can be measured in a variety of ways, from ad recall to website visits, or people who visit a landing page, download a white paper, or sign up for a newsletter. All of these can be good metrics for understanding how you are reaching consumers.

The challenge here is balancing how much to assign to each tactical line item compared to the goal, and what you are trying to achieve. In terms of finding a balance, it’s really going to come down to how your clients are viewing the value of upper funnel brand awareness.

How Important Is Retargeting When You’re Doing OTT Programmatic Advertising?

The answer here will really come down to what you’re trying to accomplish with the buy. Obviously everyone would love to launch a new product with no brand awareness and jump immediately to conversions. But in reality, that’s really, really tough to do, as most video inventory is upper-funnel based.

Being able to incorporate retargeting can help move consumers from pure awareness (upper funnel) through the mid, and down to the lower funnel, and hopefully drive a conversion. Through the use of retargeting, you can pinpoint customers who are already at the heart of your core audience and reach out to them directly. Retargeting also allows your business to reach specific audiences you may not have considered marketing to, such as new age, gender, or regional demographics.

Through the use of retargeting, you can reach new potential customers based on targeting by behavior, context, demographics, geographical area, and time of day. With just a bit of refocusing your efforts, your business may find that there’s an audience for your services right under your nose already. Retargeting is just giving us more cards to play with, and helps to stay in front of consumers who may be over-indexing or seem more relevant to whatever you’re trying to market sell or promote.

Can OTT also work for direct response campaigns?

Yeah, absolutely, although direct response is a little bit trickier to find the right mix of channels and tactics. Something like display retargeting is probably going to be more effective at driving that true lower funnel conversion, but an OTT video ad is just flashier and it gets people’s attention. You might see better click through rates with display, but there are also other attention grabbing alternatives like a high impact mobile unit that has functionality and that a consumer can engage with the ad. There isn’t a real cut and dry answer to the question of which type of ad will work for all industries or campaigns. One might be effective for a certain client, while a different mix might be effective for this other client.

The best way to understand which mix works best for you is to look at any kind of historical data that you have to give you a real estimate. You can check metrics like how much organic website traffic you are seeing on a given month to understand how these ads might be impacting your brand.

Keep in mind a conversion can be anything from clicks on a specific page, starts an application, or driving lead forms. Whichever conversion you are tracking for, you’ll need a minimum of about 100 conversions a week before we can optimize towards that goal using AI. If you’re trying to drive lead form completes, but you’re only seeing about 10 of those a month, you unfortunately don’t have enough data to feed the machine learning in order for the campaign to be optimized against.

What can you do about Ad Fraud in OTT?

There has been a lot of talk about ad fraud recently in regards to OTT advertising. White Ops is one tool that marketers can use to help prevent ad fraud, and is already integrated with some of our DSP partners, such as The Trade Desk. Every impression served on The Trade Desk is run through White Ops Human Verification technology to ensure that there is a human on the other end of the device. If you are concerned about ad fraud and want to make sure that your impressions are being seen by humans, it is recommended to use a partner like this.

Using server-side ad insertion (SSAI) helps to eliminate ad fraud and ad blocking through “ad stitching,” which seamlessly incorporates the ad into the viewing experience without latency issues. This method is also preferable on the customer’s end, as it decreases the chance of resolution changes, buffering, and spinning wheels. To avoid ad fraud and blocking, try to opt for SSAI insertion rather than CSAI.

What about ad skipping? What is the percentage of consumers who opt out of OTT ads? 

For many video ads, consumers have the option to watch six seconds of a full 30 second ad  and then skip it. YouTube is the most well known platform that offers this skippable format, compared to the free version of Hulu where ads are not skippable. To answer this question, you’ll have to check with your particular inventory provider.

How Do Pricing and Spend Minimums Vary Between Addressable & Programmatic TV Advertising?

Addressable TV is going to give you a little bit more flexibility, only because you’re buying at a household level as opposed to a program level. Household level targeting also gives us more opportunity to find some combination of OTT and CTV, and the ability to optimize more effectively.

For Programmatic TV, if you want to buy live sports, which is one of the more popular, and one of the more specific targeting options on programmatic TV, there is more likely to be a higher minimum spend level because viewers have less of a chance to opt out. At the same time, you’re going to have less variety when it comes to optimizations.

Looking for More Information About OTT Advertising?

Addressable TV is going to give you a little bit more flexibility, only because you’re buying at a household level as opposed to a program level. Household level targeting also gives us more opportunity to find some combination of OTT and CTV, and the ability to optimize more effectively.

The customer journey is as varied as your audience. No matter where your customers are, AUDIENCEX offers effective omnichannel campaigns to reach and engage them— from display & video to search, social, native, and beyond. If you’d like to strategize with one of our campaign experts about how to leverage OTT in your omnichannel campaigns, contact us. We’d love to chat.