To Capitalize on CTV’s Big Moment, the Industry Must Maintain Trust as Its North Star

By Matthew Deets, GM, CTV Platform at Verve Group

Surges in streaming and OTT viewership — accelerated within the pandemic — have prompted a corresponding surge in advertiser interest when it comes to connected TV inventory, particularly through programmatic channels. Growth in this area will prove beneficial to advertisers and media owners alike, but this moment in time also serves as an important opportunity to hone the trajectory of the CTV space as a whole.

The promise of CTV has always been evident in the enhanced capabilities inherent within the space. It combines the best of the TV format, where consumers are highly engaged and focused, with mainstays of the digital ecosystem including targeting, measurement and efficiency. That said, as the larger digital advertising landscape finds itself in a state of upheaval, it’s important that all growth and progress within CTV be framed and harnessed with today’s broader industry challenges in mind. To realize its true potential in this time of growth, CTV must glean lessons from the journeys of other digital channels as we head into a privacy-first future.

In other words, we must continue to put trust — consumer and advertiser trust alike — at the heart of CTV’s growth, and we must embrace transparency in all that we do. The future of CTV depends on it.

Early Steps in the Right Direction

According to eMarketer, spending on programmatic CTV video ads grew 36.3% in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2021, that growth rate is expected to jump to 54.4% — a $2.37 billion year-over-year increase that will take total programmatic CTV video ad spend up to $6.73 billion this year.

eMarketer cites CTV’s targeting, efficiency, and incremental reach as primary drivers of this growth, but it also notes that measurement challenges and comparative lack of addressability (when compared to other programmatic channels) as challenges that are inhibiting even greater growth. No doubt, these are both areas of significant focus for the industry right now, as it looks to unlock spending growth on par with continued astronomical viewership growth.

That said, what’s most important is not that the CTV space just provides new solutions in measurement and addressability. What’s most important is that they be the right solutions — ones devised with an eye on long-term sustainability rather than quick-fix workarounds designed to make a grab for short-term revenue.

Fortunately, we’ve already seen evidence of CTV embracing transparency as a means to sustainable growth. Take, for example, the industry’s progress in working with IAB Tech Lab to enhance CTV standards for app-ads.txt.

App-ads.txt is an extension of the original ads.txt standard that has successfully curbed a great deal of digital ad fraud by creating a public record of digital sellers authorized to sell certain digital inventory. App-ads.txt extended this initiative into the mobile and CTV environments; however, the complexity of CTV monetization relationships has called for special consideration when it comes to this extension.

Inventory sharing in the CTV environment (i.e., when multiple parties wield rights over a given piece of ad space) has required IAB to work closely with the industry to roll out updates to app-ads.txt to account for the complicated issue of inventory sharing. The commitment we’ve seen to solving these complex challenges — with the overriding goal of improving transparency and ensuring the safety of ad spend within the growing CTV space — has been heartening, to say the least.

We need to keep going.

Continuing to Prioritize Trust

As the CTV space moves forward to address challenges in measurability and addressability, we must continue to learn from the challenges that have plagued other digital channels and chart our course accordingly. CTV offers the ability to drive marketing outcomes from the top to the bottom of the funnel — awareness all the way through to conversion. But as we refine how we target individuals and layer advanced attribution on top of CTV inventory, we must do so with consumer privacy and current industry shifts in mind.

The move to a cookieless world and Apple’s recent deprecation of IDFA might seem like headlines with little bearing on the future shape of CTV, given the channel’s lack of reliance on cookie technology and its existence outside of the mobile realm. But these threads all tie together to create a bigger picture of how consumer identity is evolving and the privacy expectations under which the entire advertising industry will operate going into the future.

As CTV evolves and we pursue advances in cross-channel targeting and measurement, we must do so in a way that preserves the trust and transparency that has already been established at our core. The CTV advertising opportunity has never been greater. We must now prove that our commitment to a sustainable future is stronger than our desire to take advantage of this moment in time.

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