Navigating Connected TV: 5 Key Questions for Mapping Your Activation Strategy

By Emily Anthony, Head of Integrated Planning at Merkle

By now, most big brands (and some small ones, too) are advertising through connected TV (CTV) – and that’s no surprise. US adults spend nearly 2 hours a day engaging with CTV, and television remains one of the most attention-grabbing advertising mediums for reaching consumers.

With the promise of attentive eyeballs and digital capabilities, CTV ad spending topped $20 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow another 21% in 2023. However, many advertisers are struggling to capitalize on CTV’s potential because they’re not treating it with the nuance and strategy it requires. Too many brands are trying to repurpose what they’re doing in other digital channels, like using the same creative and focusing on last-click measurement. But what works to connect with consumers while they are scanning a social media app on mobile isn’t the same as what’s needed to connect when they are tuning into a favorite show or sports moment on the big screen. Brands need a unique approach for CTV to succeed.

We get a lot of questions about CTV from clients. Here we’ve selected five that lay out some of the most important considerations for brands crafting their CTV strategies.

As media consumption habits change, linear TV strategies aren’t as effective as they used to be. How can I offset declining linear performance with CTV?

Many of the biggest brands in the world have long relied on linear television to reach their target audiences. At a high level, broadcast television usage is declining – but not at the same rate for each demographic. The key to successfully using CTV to offset any broadcast TV losses is understanding exactly where linear TV is declining within your customer base. Dig into viewership data for your target audience to pinpoint which subgroups you’re no longer reaching through that medium. With CTV’s targeting capabilities, you can then create a plan that prioritizes investments to reach those people. Note that this targeting comes at a premium – you’ll likely pay more for those impressions than on linear TV. But it’ll be worth it because you know exactly who you’re reaching and can better quantify the impact and ROI (more on that later).

Who owns CTV? Is it a TV or digital tactic and what does that mean for budget, strategy alignment, and responsibility?

The short answer: everyone should own CTV. Today’s marketing organizations must work holistically to make customer-first decisions across every engagement in the customer journey. It’s what your customers expect and what the current landscape demands. That means breaking down long-established siloes and investing in new types of agency partnerships to work as one team to serve your audience. We recognize that’s a challenging task, so start by getting buy-in by showing how both traditional media folks and digital teams can benefit from CTV. From there, work together toward a strategy that helps offset linear TV declines for the broadcast team while generating upper-funnel branding for the digital team.

How should CTV be measured? What is the best way to prove out performance and optimal investments?

With evolutions in technology and measurement capabilities, all media is performance media and should be held to business outcomes. CTV is no exception. Just because it’s TV doesn’t mean it needs to be measured on a cost-per basis alone. Invest in an advanced analytics foundation with closed-loop reporting, multitouch attribution, and media mix modeling to see CTV’s true impact across the customer journey. That level of analytics is a must for understanding CTV performance and shifting investment levels appropriately.

The CTV landscape is complicated and rapidly evolving. Who are the best CTV activation partners today and why?

CTV is one of the most complex advertising landscapes out there, so don’t feel bad if you’re having trouble keeping your Freevees and Sling TVs straight. Thankfully, many brands can streamline their CTV activation by going through their current programmatic partner. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) like DV360 and Trade Desk have evolved their offerings to enable sophisticated strategies for CTV. For brands looking to get started but are overwhelmed by the options, starting with their current DSP provides a lot of benefits.

What creative assets are needed to successfully activate a CTV campaign?

CTV requires its own creative assets – the video you use on Meta or YouTube isn’t necessarily appropriate because consumer expectations are different in each context. On social, users are scrolling through their feed and actively looking at their screens when an ad flashes by. With CTV, viewers tend to turn their focus elsewhere as soon as an ad starts. With this in mind, CTV creative must have high production value and it needs to command the viewer’s attention. Two best practices you can start with are (1) mentioning your brand early in the ad and (2) appealing to strong emotions in your creative. We see that, even after just 2 seconds of engagement, there’s a sales uplift when someone sees an ad – so make the most of those early seconds to get brand exposure. From there, emotional content gives you an edge: ads with the best emotional response generate a greater sales lift than average ads.

CTV can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of the best practices that make other media work hold true for CTV: a holistic customer-first approach, smart audience insights and segmentation, sophisticated reporting, and engaging creative. By following the recommendations I’ve laid out above, connected TV can be a meaningful, efficient contributor to your customers’ journeys and your business’s bottom line.