Consumer Experience Must Come First In OTT Advertising


Have you ever seen the same ad over and over while streaming television or on demand content? I know that I have. Last week, I was watching one of my favorite shows (Attack on Titan) over an ad supported OTT (over the top) app and received over ten 30-second ads for the same insurance provider during one episode. The creative varied a bit from ad to ad, which helped with my sanity, but it was not an enjoyable consumer experience. And it has stuck with me since.

The question is, why would something like this happen?

In the world of OTT and digital advertising, there are two main drivers for this unfortunate consumer experience. One is a technical challenge and the other is more fundamental to the nature of TV advertising.

Challenge 1: Frequency Capping Is Technically Difficult In OTT And Connected Television

In the digital and mobile world, we have things like cookies and mobile ad IDs (MAIDs) that allow us to detect if we have already shown an ad to a certain device. In the OTT world, we have only recently begun to see similar identifiers sent by connected TV devices such as Roku and Chromecast. When using an automated buying technology like a DSP, it is totally possible to frequency cap across publishers at the device level by those IDs or by more advanced features like household detection.

This technical challenge can be solved. However, I suspect that even if frequency can be controlled, our market may still create poor experiences on this buying mode due to the second primary challenge facing OTT.

Challenge 2: Transitioning Traditional Television Ratings Into Digital

To understand this challenge, it is important to first understand how TV is traditionally measured through “ratings.” Ads are bought on traditional television based on impressions delivered to a specific audience demographic.

For example, a marketer wants to reach an audience of people, aged 18-34, in New York. They purchase ad time on networks or shows that are likely to be watched by that target audience. When the show airs, or is later viewed through DVR, a 3rd party firm like Nielsen measures how many 18-34-year-olds tuned into that specific programming and generates a “rating” for the overall show or network purchased by the marketer. The rating calculation looks like this:

((Unique Reach * Frequency)/Universe Size)*100.

In this example, the universe size is all people ages 18-34 in New York. The calculation may also substitute impressions for unique reach and frequency, which is where the challenge begins. To make it “easy” to buy ad time on digital video and OTT, methods have been developed to “estimate” TV ratings on digital. While the metric still works, marketers also need to consider frequency as an input to the overall rating number. If an OTT campaign is only reporting back impressions, not unique viewers or frequency, within a demographic, then the frequency is being lost in the shuffle.

Knowing this, I bet that in my poor consumer experience during Attack on Titan the advertiser was focused on increasing the “digital ratings points” of the campaign. The advertiser was achieving more overall digital audience ratings by showing me more impressions vs. showing more people like me impressions. Thus creating a poor consumer experience for a small set of people and limiting the unique reach of the overall campaign.

Consumer experience must come first in the world of OTT advertising if this new model of TV is going to work. This is a case where it’s the right thing to do for both the marketer and the consumer.

So what is a marketer to do?

Following the four tips below will help ensure a more enjoyable consumer experience for your target audience:

  • Work with partners that handle a frequency cap, not average. Average frequency can lead to bad experiences for the consumer.
  • Try to ensure the frequency cap is across publishers, since many OTT consumers use multiple apps to view TV and video content.
  • Work with a technology provider that can optimize frequency caps and other campaign parameters to meet budget requirements.
  • Optimize frequency across channels (mobile, desktop and native) along with CTV to maximize your unique reach and target frequency levels.

Interested in learning more about advertising and advanced TV (or OTT)? Keep an eye out in the next week for tips on how to maximize reach to a target audience on advanced TV all while staying within your budget.


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