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How to Choose an OTT Platform to Maximize Your Marketing

September 7, 2021

By David Buonfiglio

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With its data, reporting, and targeting capabilities, over-the-top (OTT) is quickly becoming an important part of advertisers' media mix. But it's not a one-size-fits-all model, and not all platforms are created equal.

In the past year, with the growth of streaming during the pandemic, OTT options have proliferated. "The amount of inventory available in core connected TV advertising has skyrocketed," says Frost Prioleau, CEO of "Every indication is that 2021 is the year for break-out spending from local advertisers on OTT platforms."

According to eMarketer, OTT spending is expected to grow 48.6 percent in 2021 to $13.41 billion.


When It Comes to Choosing a Platform, How Do You Decide?

There are three primary factors to consider: content, data, and measurement.


Make sure the platform is really going to deliver the type of content promised. You can do this by taking a look at actual delivery from a real campaign to verify you'll get the kind of quality content you expect. This includes both live and VOD content, like network programming, sports and news, and premium offerings like movies. Think of it as the long-form, brand-safe programming you know and trust. Be sure to avoid short-form content like YouTube clips, user generated content, and anything questionable like adult content. Platforms that have direct inventory access are a safe bet to guarantee quality content, versus open exchanges, which may result in a surprise.

In addition, you'll want the content to reflect high levels of engagement. Viewer engagement, measured by the average time per viewer session, is vital; your ads should be placed in content that people watch for a long time, versus short clips.


Where is your data coming from? Platforms have hundreds of data sources available to them. The number of sources and depth of data by business category can provide a competitive advantage. First-party data is becoming invaluable as traditional third-party data sources become increasingly inefficient.

Consider, too, how deep your reported data goes. Basic metrics typically include impressions delivered, reach, frequency, viewed completion rate (VCR), network placement and impressions by geography. You'll absolutely want to make sure you get reach and frequency. Those are two of the most important KPIs for measuring OTT success when evaluating a campaign holistically — such as a combination of broadcast TV and streaming. OTT campaigns are most effective when used as an extension and complement to linear TV; added reach and frequency are demonstrable benefits. The more reporting data a platform offers beyond these basic metrics, the more competitive.

How reporting is delivered is also an important barometer for efficiency. You should expect automated, web-based access to campaign data and it should be delivered in real time or near real time. Anything remotely close to static reporting is outdated.


Attribution: the gift that keeps on giving. "The ability to know that these households were hit with ads on any device and ultimately converted or went to a website is so valuable," says MadHive's managing partner Joe Marino. "You can do a lot with that information."

In addition to added reach and frequency, web traffic and sales are the most important KPIs for measuring OTT success. The best way to tell that your dollar is working is to see tangible campaign results — and attribution makes that possible. Once just the purview of digital, now CTV and OTT advertising, as well as advances in linear capabilities, are changing the game for TV in an important way for advertisers. Lynn Leahey, a journalist at Cynopsis Media, asserts "As attribution capabilities for linear, CTV, and OTT continue to strengthen, marketers are finding that assumptions about the power of TV are proving to be right. TV is not only a branding powerhouse but can compete on an efficiency basis with performance marketing tactics like paid search and social."

It's coming at the perfect time, too. In September 2020, The Trade Desk polled North American agency and brand marketers and 84 percent said they were facing new pressure to prove the effectiveness of their ad spend since the onset of the pandemic, per eMarketer.

Many platforms now have the necessary tools to track consumers and their movements so you know what actions they took after seeing your ad. Make sure whatever platform you choose offers this invaluable information.


Other Considerations

Avoiding fraud remains a top concern for advertisers in today's digital space. Luckily the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) was formed by a few leading industry associations. The group works collaboratively with companies throughout the digital ad space to fight ad fraud and bolster trust in digital advertising. Look for their anti-fraud certification on any OTT platform you're considering for peace of mind.

With all it has to offer and its unique position bridging digital and TV, OTT is a great choice for advertisers. As we've seen, the landscape can be wide and varied, so be discerning when choosing platforms. Along with content, data, measurement, and fraud protection, consider one additional factor: is it a broadcast TV platform? Many broadcast TV groups have built their own OTT platforms employing the latest targeting technology. Others have structured tech relationships to create OTT opportunities. Either way, the advantage that broadcasters bring is the ability to pair OTT with broadcast TV — a complementary strategy.

If there are gaps in a linear buy because of cost, avails, or ratings, advertisers can supplement that or enhance it with OTT. According to Gamut's Dennis Cook, "They're like two siblings working together. That's how you're going to reach the total audience."

David Buonfiglio is VP of digital at TVB.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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