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Q&A with Spark Foundry: Ensuring successful advertising in premium digital video including connected TV

Will McMahon, Senior Video Strategy Director, Spark Foundry
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With so many new streaming services but finite consumer budgets, ‘free’ has a critical role to play in the premium digital video space – thus the rapid growth of AVOD. But free only works if media owners can make as much money from advertising in digital as in broadcast TV, and marketers can reach the audiences they need and prove their campaigns work. These challenges are being tackled at Videoscape Europe this week, and we asked Will McMahon, Senior Video Strategy Director at the global media agency Spark Foundry (part of Publicis Media) to provide the buy-side perspective ahead of the conference, and to give his broader insights on advertising around premium digital video (including connected TV).


Question: What is your advice to clients as consumption of ad-supported, premium streaming video accelerates, given that this part of the television market is characterised by a large and diverse selection of services and platforms, some of which may be unfamiliar to them?

Will: I’m going to limit myself to a single piece of advice here or I’ll go on forever. The most important thing that brands can do right now is to embrace programmatic technologies. There are lots of new and exciting video services popping up and, in time, it’ll be really hard to keep up (if it isn’t already).

This isn’t the first time a large media channel has diversified into lots of smaller, more specific channels, and I’d be surprised if it’s the last. The principal issue with share of viewing moving from large platforms to smaller ones is that it’s harder to control frequency. Fortunately, we already have tools to help us take advantage of lots of smaller channels rather than three or four big ones, and those tools come in the form of programmatic buying. So, we can take our broadcast VOD players, and our Samsungs and Rakutens and control frequency across our buy. This also means that as new suppliers pop up, we can incorporate them into our plans and use them to generate incremental reach.

As an added bonus, most of these platforms require logins, which means they’re impervious to the coming privacy changes that will shake up the rest of the market. Moving forward, we can start to look forward to some really smart uses of data on the TV screen allowing us to fuse focused targeting and impactful creative.


Question: How do we make it easier for advertisers to measure success so they can justify shifting budget from alternative digital channels to premium digital video?

Will: Typically, premium video would be measured on either ROI from econometrics or incremental reach on TV in order to show media value. Neither is easy to achieve but new measurement solutions are always coming to market allowing for new measurement options.

The one I want to talk about is broadcast VOD’s integration with InfoSum. Last October we were first to market with a partnership between Spark Foundry, InfoSum and Channel 4, where we ran a campaign using first party data targeting our brand’s customers on All4 and were able to measure sales off the back of the campaign. We saw very positive results and will be working with ITV to do the same later this month. This kind of measurement helps to show brands that their budgets are driving incremental sales and can justify a shift in budgets from other channels into premium video environments.


Question: When it comes to connected TV in particular [streamed/digital video delivered to the television set], how valuable are the audiences that are being made available to advertisers?

Will: The most valuable audience that connected TV offers is light TV viewers as they allow you to drive more reach from your TV campaign. Historically, it’s been enough just to be on CTV so that you can access light TV viewers even if you weren’t explicitly targeting. 2021 is the year when I think we’ll see targeting really start to accelerate as brands start to define more specific addressable audiences for their video campaigns.

We’re also seeing broadcasters start to integrate with first party data offerings, as mentioned above, and that’s finally bringing them in line with the rest of the digital market. They still have a long way to go but it’s a really promising first step for broadcast, which has historically been a very traditional marketplace.


Question: Among
your clients who regularly use connected TV, what purpose does it serve on the media plan – and can CTV help advertisers reach audiences who are hard to reach on traditional TV?

Will: TV has two things going for it – it reaches almost everyone in the UK on a weekly basis and can deliver a 40-inch-wide, sound-on, thirty-second story in the form of an ad. Both of these benefits are derived from the value exchange with viewers that comes from being in front of quality long-form video content. 30 seconds may not sound like the longest time, but TV has shown time and again that it’s enough to change hearts and minds.

In the last few years, the proliferation of mobile video has led to shorter and shorter video lengths and we’re at the point now where Facebook and Instagram posts are viewed for 1.7 seconds. That’s 1.7 seconds of pure user attention, so it can still be powerful but if you’re looking to persuade viewers of your core brand values, then it might be a bit harder, and that’s where 30 second ads come in.

So, connected TV offers the incremental reach that we can get from social but without the same storytelling constraints that come with social platforms. It’s just a shame that it’s not as cheap as social on an impression-to-impression level.


Question: Are there any interactive or ecommerce features within the connected TV advertising environment that could be valuable to your clients; Can the connected TV environment deliver sufficient lean-forward engagement to compete with web and mobile as a click-through medium?

Will: I don’t envision viewers doing much shopping on their connected TV devices when they have a mobile phone usually within arm’s reach. Navigating menus with a remote is a clunky user experience and people get fed up enough with having to use subscription VOD platforms with poor user interfaces, let alone navigating a website.

I also think that that people won’t click on ads because connected TV is so engaging– if you’re watching ‘Game of Thrones’, you’re not going to want to click out of content because of an ad – if you’re interested, you’ll probably finish the episode and then Google it later on your phone.

Now I have mentioned phones twice there. I think that if anyone invents a smart ecommerce format for CTV, it’ll be one that allows users to seamlessly open content on their phone. That means if anyone develops this format, it’ll likely be one of Amazon, Google, Apple or Samsung – i.e. the tech operator of the device you’re using to watch connected TV. Each of them could connect their connected TV device to either a phone operating system or app (in Amazon’s case) and link users straight through more easily. I don’t know if anyone will make that product but if we wanted to do ecommerce formats on CTVs, that’s how I’d do it.

Interested in premium digital video advertising strategies and best practice?

You can hear more on how we ensure advertising, and the ad-supported model, succeeds in premium streaming television at Videoscape Europe this week. Check out the panel:’ Making the ‘free-to-view’ model work in premium streaming’.


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