By Manik Bambha
Anyone watching Mad Men, the classic portrayal of advertising in the 60s, would be forgiven for thinking that advertising is magic created by eccentric geniuses in between martinis. While that may have been true in a certain day and age, that era is long gone. As the means to gather verifiable consumer insight become increasingly precise and data-obsessed, so are the means to measure how well advertising performs. From entire campaigns right down to a single banner, it is now possible for advertisers to demand maximum bang for their buck.
OTT platform owners are sitting up and taking notice. At stake is a vast market – out of 2022 OTT video revenue of US$316.10bn, US$205.10bn came from advertising. As Smart TVs and other connected devices rapidly supplant linear TV as primary viewing devices, OTT advertising’s share in the overall advertising pie is only increasing.
Even Netflix, the long-standing champion of the subscription-based business model, has realized that pure-play SVOD can never match the numbers that AVOD brings them. Good old-fashioned AVOD isn’t going away. The question is, how do OTT platform owners make the most of it?
The changing face of OTT advertising
Many OTT platforms struggle with monetizing their advertising potential effectively. In many cases, it’s because they have been founded by content creators and curators for whom advertising is far from second nature.
But, even seasoned linear TV broadcasters have experience with prime TV advertising that focused more on brand marketing. Their view of performance ads and ad monetization can be restricted to display ads or, at best, interactive ads inviting clicks or downloads. The new generation of OTT viewers is now accustomed to consuming content and advertising in much more precise and meaningful ways.
Being there when you’re needed
Beyond garnering more eyeballs, a primary driver of AVOD’S popularity is its ability to target viewers with pinpoint accuracy. That’s where precise targeting and retargeting come in. Powerful tools in Meta and Google’s arsenal
These can be tweaked further based on an advertiser’s preferences – like targeting repeat viewers with different messaging than first-time ad viewers. There are also ways to serve up user-generated content – think influencer reels – that promotes a particular brand.
The result is an advertising strategy that doesn’t bombard people with messaging but offers them informed advertising that matches their needs in moments that matter throughout the customer journey.
Watching for spikes: Timing is everything
Targeted advertising is especially effective during events like major festivals. Consumer purchase patterns skew because, unlike otherwise, people tend to buy for others, leading to search patterns different from regular days. The OTT opportunity is enormous, considering that seven in ten U.S. consumers use at least one social network to inspire their holiday shopping.
Understanding and catering to these dynamics can bring significant returns for content publishers. For example, the October festival season accounts for 20 – to 30% of annual ad spend in India.
Political advertising is also becoming a significant opportunity, as parties can now effectively use OTT platforms’ audience addressability. Using OTT platforms’ granular insight capabilities, demographic information, interests, and engagement data help political parties understand and react to ground realities.
OTT ads have a proven engagement rate of three times more and a retention rate nearly four times that of linear TV ads. It makes them crucial in influencing opinion and gauging the public mood. OTT platforms offering political advertisers insightful granularity into viewer preferences could reap a windfall.
Is that really you? Beating the bots
Measurability is also the need of the hour for another reason – giving advertisers the confidence that their advertising revenue is being spent on reaching actual customers. An astonishing 42% of online traffic is invalid; it comes from non-human sources like bots and other malware.
While bots are used for genuine purposes – search engine bots or digital assistant bots, for example – malicious parties use them in an ever-expanding variety of nefarious ways. Click bots deliberately click on ads, creating a false picture of ad effectiveness and viewability. On a more advanced level, SDK bots reside in apps, generating fake clicks and app installs. This leads to inflated ad metrics far from reflecting reality. Ad injectors replace genuine ads with fake ones without the publisher knowing. Pixel stuffers turn individual pixels into ads, so clicking on a page generates millions of fake clicks. Ad stackers, on the other hand, place several ads on top of each other; clicking on one ad generates clicks for the ones behind it, inflating click-through rates. The list goes on as fraudsters evolve their acts to keep pace with adtech innovation.
What’s worrying for publishers and advertisers is the economic and reputational loss that ad fraud generates. Digital ad fraud caused global losses of $35 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $100 billion in 2023. In these recessionary times, that’s a figure few businesses can ignore. Besides direct ad revenue leakage, ad fraud harms businesses in other ways. Advertising effectiveness metrics get widely skewed, leading to false assumptions that can disrupt a brand’s future product strategies, budget priorities and media plans.
Publishers suffer too. In the short term, activities like ad injection cost them lost revenue. But, when ad fraud keeps occurring over longer periods, relationships between advertisers and publishers suffer.
Putting a lid on OTT ad fraud
Some warning signals suggest ad fraud, like slower loading speeds, erratic traffic, high bounce rates and low session durations. But these are hit or miss, given the complexities of traffic patterns.
The best insurance, though, is to nip the problem in the bud by eliminating it at its source. A sound OTT platform solutions provider can and should incorporate measures that offer proactive protection against ad fraud. Only by providing a secure environment to advertisers can content publishers reach a win-win situation, where both they and their advertisers monetize their efforts to the maximum.
The author is Co-founder at ViewLift.