AI in CTV- How do we Manage the Double-edged Sword of Innovation vs Risk?

By Matt Wasserlauf, CEO, Blockboard

Connected TV may finally be pushing linear off the stage for good. The cascade of news coming out of the Newfronts and Upfronts certainly paints that picture, whether it’s about Netflix’s plans to stream the first NFL game or the continued bundlings and partnerships of the giants across the space. (Jimmy Kimmel even commented on the unprecedented level of partnerships, hilariously comparing Disney’s latest bundle with Max to a scenario where ‘you’re freezing to death and have to crawl in a sleeping bag with your uncle so you don’t die.’”) There is no doubt that the pace is picking up.

But with all this growth and potential, fragmentation, measurement and currency challenges, lack of transparency, and increasing fraud remain the elephants in the room. (Peer39’s latest report shows a 28% increase in fake CTV content in the last 6+ months alone)

And then, of course, there’s AI.

Some industry insiders have been sounding the alarm that AI will worsen digital advertising fraud problems. ANA has already uncovered $22 billion of fraud waste. If left unchecked, that number could easily balloon to $22 trillion as fraudsters use AI to stay ahead of detection.

Here’s where the adage, “You can only fight fire with fire,” comes into play. Only AI can detect and stand up to this hyper-speed of fraudulent activity and ensure ads are reaching real, engaged viewers. In doing so, it can also deliver real-time performance tracking to help advertisers adjust on the fly to optimize outcomes.

However, AI alone won’t be enough. Rishad Tobaccawala makes the important point that “AI will need blockchain to ensure the auditing that will be critical for data security, the provenance of materials (is the product, the logistics, the ad itself genuine), and most importantly trust, which is key to everything, including brands.”

While many advertisers may not care about the technology behind a platform (understandably, they just want the outcomes), it’s worth putting a pin in this particular point. When you’re dealing with this level and scale of data that AI enables, it is absolutely critical that you deliver 100% transparency. This is where blockchain comes in. With its unchangeable ledger, blockchain ensures data integrity and trust, paramount in combating fraud and maintaining credibility.

AI will level up the entire industry

AI in CTV isn’t just about speed and transparency and staying ahead of fraud. AI’s generative abilities mean it can transform these vast amounts of data into insights that marketers can use to actually make decisions. We talk a lot about how senior leaders end up removed from the issues plaguing the industry since it’s junior media buyers who are making these campaign decisions on a daily basis. Coined FOFO by some (fear of finding out) – it’s a widening knowledge gap that we need to address.

Part of the issue is the inability of traditional programmatic platforms to keep up with the pace and complexity of CTV. Milliseconds can make the difference between securing a valuable impression and losing it. Currently, so much of this mass of data remains untouched and unsynthesized because it’s simply too much to deal with. By making it understandable and actionable, it takes the strategic value of this critical data to another level, making it accessible to all levels of the media buying spectrum.

AI-driven platforms can also synthesize data from diverse sources to give advertisers a comprehensive view of both the viewer and the marketplace. This holistic understanding allows for more precise targeting and better ad spend allocation to drive more effective and impactful campaigns.

Another area where AI can deliver value is its ability to enhance the contextual relevance of ads. We’re entering (eventually) a post-cookie age, and contextuality will arguably be king. AI can “read the room” and ensure ads resonate with target viewers by understanding video content’s emotional tone and context in real time.

Imagine watching a heartwarming scene in a popular TV show and then seeing an ad that matches the emotional tone of that moment. Or a break in a high stakes or overtime NFL game delivers an ad that humorously cuts the tension. Talk about brand suitability and memorability. We may not be there yet, but that’s the kind of value and relevance secure AI can bring to CTV.

The road ahead

The future of CTV advertising is rich with opportunity. With AI and blockchain at the helm, advertisers can expect more sophisticated targeting, enhanced fraud prevention, and greater contextual relevance.

Of course, full integration and many of these scenarios are in their early infancy. We’re still making our way through AI’s hype stage, but it’s maturing fast, and the true value plays are at the forefront. A year from now, the winners will be the ones who leveraged their first-mover advantage to combine AI with blockchain.

Tags: AI