How Agencies and Marketers Can Optimize Local CTV & OTT Advertising | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How Agencies and Marketers Can Optimize Local CTV & OTT Advertising

By David Buonfiglio, Jennifer Scilabro

 A Q&A with Jenn Scilabro, SVP, Digital Sales, Nexstar Digital

In this in-depth Q&A, David Buonfiglio, VP, Digital, TVB discusses local CTV and OTT advertising strategies with Jenn Scilabro, SVP, Digital Sales, Nexstar Digital. From optimizing digital and linear media mixes to measurement and fraud, Jenn shares Nexstar Digital's current and future vision.

DB: What does OTT and CTV mean at the local level for sellers and advertisers?

JS: Insider Intelligence, formerly eMarketer, says that by the end of 2025, CTV ad spending will be more than half of linear ad spending, and could exceed TV ad spending within the decade.

So, what does that mean? Sellers can leverage all those hard earned local linear client relationships to extend their buys further; OTT, specifically CTV advertising, is really a complement to linear, with the targeting and tracking to prove the ROI. It's telling the same story of connecting our loyal local audiences to our loyal local advertisers. CTV has made TV advertising really accessible for brands of any size; I think that's important for local small and medium-sized businesses.

Geographic targeting combined with audience targeting capabilities allow CTV campaigns to really cover the entire marketing funnel, from awareness to performance, in an efficient way.

DB: When your sales executives across Nexstar markets are presenting OTT to advertisers, what are they saying about OTT in the context of also selling linear TV?

JS: OTT and linear are simply video, so they are sold using the same theory on how and why video works. With OTT, advertisers get data, bringing digital insights to the TV experience. Advertisers can customize their ad campaigns based on topics, geography, demographics, etc. The second thing is efficient reach.

For advertisers, that means they can engage with a variety of consumers on a one-to-one basis at scale. More importantly, they can target so precisely that they're not wasting impressions. Advertisers only pay for actual ad views or impressions that are served. The third piece is that OTT ads are servable across multiple devices and are not skippable. They are reaching a more engaged captive audience, occupying 100 percent of the screen. Ad completion rates are super high. We actually started adding QR codes to our OTT video ads for engagement and attribution. Everybody knows the QR code is back, right?

DB: The Nexstar footprint is enormous. Nexstar probably has a digital reach comparable to many national digital platforms. How are you currently bringing your OTT platform to market?

JS: You kind of hit the nail on the head for Nexstar. Our scale is a real benefit. Nexstar represents all primary major network affiliates, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and the CW. Accessing that premium inventory along with our local news at scale is really a benefit. We take an audience-first approach, finding audiences wherever they are, and we're able to present a unified plan to an advertiser. Sometimes linear buyers will approach buying OTT similarly to how they've bought linear television. They're program focused or platform focused. But the beauty of digital video is that it's consumed whenever and wherever people want. We consider it a "video everywhere" approach.

For us, it's leveraging our OTT products, extending through our programmatic partnerships, and perhaps looking at pre-roll or livestream. Nexstar also has a national sales team representing our proprietary data platform called Stellar. Stellar layers cookie-less predictive technology, data science and machine learning to determine when and where a brand's best ad performance will be.

DB: Other big concerns for national advertisers and agencies are fraud and the inability to manage reach and frequency. How is Nexstar Digital trying to deal with those issues?

JS: First, we use third-party verification and MRC accredited measurement. I think that's important. Our owned and operated assets are brand safe. We make sure that our partners also have third-party verification before their inventory hits the marketplace.

The other part of addressing fraud is through transparency in reporting. We offer clients a detailed analytics dashboard, available 24/7. They can see real-time delivery of impressions, video completions, performance by platform, by network, by creative, by device, and day-part. We offer unique reach and frequency data for connected TV and OTT. For attribution, we can do household website visits, and foot traffic attribution, whatever their KPIs and goals are.

DB: What strategies are ideal for local advertisers?

JS: We've decided to focus almost exclusively on the large screen, CTV. However, we've tried to come up with a strategy to offer levels of entry for local advertisers. We have a product that's 100 percent CTV so it's a really solid premium product. We do offer a 90-10 mix: 90 percent CTV and up to 10 percent OTT, then a 6535 mix. This enables flexible investments, yet fully transparent options for buyers; they're very clear about what they're getting.

DB: For people buying OTT right now, do you have any recommendations for best practices?

JS: I'd love to say prioritize local broadcast providers. We have video, we're brand safe, and we're premium local news. I think it does come down to being very clear on what you're buying. If you're asking for that full episode player, make sure that's what you're getting. You have to know what KPIs to look for and how to access them.

Are you accessing an analytics dashboard? Are you allowing tracking pixels so that we can expose measurement for exposed vs. non-exposed lift? Marketing plans incorporating both linear and OTT are more than twice as successful than one tactic alone. The best path forward is a blended approach. It improves brand favorability. And it's really about the extension of that same premium, engaging, 100 percent verifiable brand-safe content.

DB: What are your goals in the next 18 months?

JS: I'd like a more unified selling and buying environment, making it easier to transact video advertising. There are so many walled gardens and fragmented systems, it makes it difficult to identify unique targets and hard to measure effectiveness cross-platform. Standardization of video metrics would be a huge improvement. And we need to get better at harnessing our first party data. At Nexstar, we're working very hard to grow our first party data so that we support a cookie-less future.

DB: I've been a big proponent for broadcasters getting smarter and more aggressive with first party data, but it's not their normal business. Is Nexstar getting more tuned into this opportunity?

JS: Absolutely, we have a roadmap to get there. We're not a subscription business, so we have to build our database of users, find those signals, tie them together, and leverage that data as best we can. We have a linear leadership team and a digital leadership team, and we're working together to make sure that we are building that path together, because we do need to leverage both to help us gather that data at scale.

DB: Data is one of the areas where news marketing and sales can benefit. There's a real convergence of value when you can leverage all of the data. Any closing thoughts?

JS: At Nexstar Digital, we have a bold new vision for the future. I think there's still a lot to learn and a lot of opportunity to propel our industry forward with data for audience growth and revenue at a much faster rate than before the pandemic. We can take advantage of the opportunity moving toward a cookie-less future digitally, which means we will be amplifying data collection to better understand our audiences. And, at the end of the day, this will help us deliver the business outcomes that matter most to our advertising clients.

DB: I couldn't agree more. I hope that the industry listens to that kind of thinking because it's going to be part of what the successful future of broadcast looks like.

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

Jennifer Scilabro has more than 25 years of experience in sales and marketing leading media organizations with digital strategy and revenue development. In the recent decade, Jenn has scaled the development of proprietary sales training programs with a specific focus on digital sales skills and leadership development. Currently, as SVP digital sales at Nexstar Digital, Jenn leads revenue development and sales enablement for the Local Digital Sales division including digital sales strategy, product, training, and sales activation. Her team empowers the country's largest local broadcast group, Nexstar Media Group with 199 TV Stations in 116 DMA's. Prior to that, Jenn was a VP of digital sales for Advance Local, Tribune Broadcasting, and Local TV LLC. Jenn holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from The Ohio State University is married and has 5 kids.

David Buonfiglio is VP of digital at TVB, the national trade association representing America's local
broadcast television industry. As both a vendor and a broadcast corporate leader, he has structured and trained digital sales teams with a focus on profitability and client success. David is in his second year as VP of digital for the TVB and is the first to hold this newly created position. David began his work in digital sales for TV broadcasters in 2000 at Hearst-owned WCVB-TV in Boston, MA. And he's been driving digital revenue for the broadcast television industry ever since. He holds a B.A. from Amherst College and a master's degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Wendy, a chocolate lab and an English bulldog.