“TV” has new meaning. No longer are audiences solely watching linear TV. Instead, they are engaged with content across devices and channels, with a growing number using over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) as a supplement or replacement to linear television.
According to eMarketer, 57.2% of the U.S. population will watch CTV in 2019, up from 51.7% in 2017. As audiences spend more time with the medium, it creates new opportunities for brands. U.S. advertisers are expected to spend $3.8 billion on OTT this year, and $5 billion in 2020.
But some brands and agencies don’t realize that you can’t serve the same TV commercial you shot six months ago and call it a day. When it comes to developing creative for advanced TV environments, you need to understand what ad formats and features will drive the most engagement and conversation, as well as where the space is heading.
The first step in producing effective creative is recognizing available technical capabilities. In the advanced TV space, advertisers should consider:
Custom video within in-stream CTV environments
These are the ads most reminiscent of traditional TV commercials. But, unlike traditional TV advertising, you can use advanced digital targeting capabilities to serve ads to a highly specific audience, as well as implement creative features like customized overlays and end cards to drive user action.
Connected TV menu banner placement
Brands can also advertise on high-trafficked parts of CTV platform screens. This is a great way to raise awareness and is especially popular with entertainment brands promoting programming. That said, other verticals can use the tactic, too – especially if they can create a clever tie-in to popular content.
Retargeted ads on second screens using automated content recognition (ACR) technology
Automatic content recognition technology allows you to target mobile device users based on what they are watching, or have watched, on the big screen. These ads can reference your brand, as well as the programming audiences are viewing in their living rooms. Use this tactic to reinforce your television advertising, or as part of a conquesting strategy.
Verticals beyond entertainment also use this tactic. Quick service restaurant (QSR) brands, for example, can target users watching a competitive television ad with mobile ads that tout their brand differentiators and promote online orders or foot traffic with exclusive coupons.
Advanced TV creative dos (and don’ts)
U.S. cord cutters will increase to 55 million in 2022, from 33 million in 2018. This makes advanced TV a necessity for a growing number of television advertisers. It is the same “lean back environment” of linear: OTT/CTV viewers are relaxed and all-in for a good story. But by combining the inherent powers of the big screen with audience targeting and emerging interactive capabilities, brands can create next-level advertising experiences.
That said, the stakes are high. Uninspired ads are jarring on the big screen, especially when audiences are watching quality, cinematic content. Here’s what you have got to do.
- Consider viewer behavior and nuances of the medium. Don’t always assume your “TV ads” will be seen on TV screens. CTV ads have the advantage of playing with the same large landscape that the original ads were shot for in the first place, but OTT connected devices can also include laptops and mobile devices – so make sure you’re adhering to best practices for all screens. Grab the viewer’s attention by front-loading your value proposition and consider more close-ups or larger text treatments.
- Think creatively and lean into entertainment trends. Consider the content that resonates with your audience as well as if and how your brand ties in. For instance, if I ran marketing for Eggo Waffles, I would take advantage of the connection to “Stranger Things.” The character Eleven is obsessed with them, and for fans, they have become an icon for the show. Eggo could align a smart TV menu takeover with the premiere of the next season. It would be a cheeky way to raise awareness for the brand while connecting with audiences in a novel way.
- Avoid user fatigue with creative refreshes. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the same ad over and over on a CTV platform. By the fifth time, I am annoyed and bored – probably not the emotions the advertiser was hoping to elicit. So, refresh your creative. In a perfect world, this means shooting a few versions of your ad. But if that is not possible, you can still tell a sequential story by breaking your video ad into smaller snippets or making simple edits, such as adding overlays or end cards that evolve over time or coincide with current events.
- New specs bode well for the future of advanced TV creative. As viewer behavior converges across devices and mediums, a growing number of brands and agencies are becoming screen agnostic. TV and digital teams are strategizing together, looking for ways to integrate mobile, desktop and CTV technology. Technically speaking, it is still the Wild West out there. But changes are imminent. The IAB recently introduced a new spec to replace video player ad-serving interface definition with Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition. This format is designed to deliver interactive ad experiences across mobile, Server-Side Ad Insertion and OTT devices, without the need for a software development kit to maintain. The IAB expects to see industry-wide scale in adoption of SIMID sometime in 2020. In doing so, it should level-set the technological challenges advanced creative producers have faced in the past so they can create customized, interactive experiences for all screens.
Advanced TV is the new frontier of brand storytelling, but many brands are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. By understanding technical possibilities and creative best practices, as well as what is on the horizon, you will create ad experiences that reflect viewer behavior and marry the best of the TV and digital worlds.
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