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How to Buy OTT Advertising: Media Buying Strategy

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How to Buy OTT Advertising: Media Buying Strategy

After decades of cable and satellite providers dominating the television market, streaming television has become the new norm, with cord-cutters forecasted to outnumber cord-nevers this year. And many of the same things that make streaming content so appealing to viewers carry over into the advantages of streaming advertising for brands and services.

But streaming advertising isn’t just one thing; there are many manners of reaching customers who are streaming video content. In this article, we’ll explore what OTT advertising (over-the-top advertising) is, key benefits it offers, how it’s purchased, and why it’s an important part of a full-funnel digital marketing strategy for brands of all sizes and niches.

“We expect US subscription OTT video ad spending to near $10 billion and account for 3.4% of all digital ad spending—and 10.2% of total video ad spending—by the end of 2023.”eMarketer

Just like people enjoy watching their favorite content on their own schedule, advertisers enjoy reaching their target audience whenever and wherever they watch through OTT ads. Add in the advanced measurement OTT media buying offers, and you have a win-win for viewers and brands alike.

“We have found that the barrier to entry for streaming advertising compared to linear tends to be lower due to improved measurement and the agility of our targeting. For linear advertising, you need to run a test for longer to get a signal on what is and isn’t working. For streaming—because we have more granular attribution—we’re able to detect that signal much faster and then iterate on that, improving our buys and recommendations. We of course also see linear work very well for a lot of our clients, but it is a bigger commitment to get the channel going.”

Stefanos Metaxas, Chief Strategy Officer, Streaming+

 

What is OTT Advertising?

 

eMarketer graph showing US Pay TV vs. Non-Pay-TV households from 2018-2026

Source: https://chart-na1.emarketer.com/259094/us-pay-tv-vs-non-pay-tv-households-2018-2026-millions

OTT advertising describes buying and serving ads to people who are watching or listening to streaming video content delivered via internet-connected devices through a streaming service. Prospective customers see or hear OTT ads when consuming ad-supported programming via apps, websites, or Connected TVs (CTVs). CTV ads are baked into the equation as CTV is a subset of OTT, with the additional opportunity to reach viewers on their computers, phones and more.

The types of devices that OTT ads can be served on are numerous, and include: Smart TVs, mobile devices, streaming sticks, Apple TVs, Roku devices, and video game consoles.

As for the OTT acronym itself, “over-the-top” refers to the way in which the content a viewer is watching or listening to is delivered. In this case, the “top” is a cable set-top box or satellite dish —neither of which are needed to stream OTT content.

 

Key Benefits of Buying OTT Advertising

 

eMarketer chart showing US Subscription OTT Platform ad spending in billions from 2020-2024

Source: https://chart-na1.emarketer.com/259796/us-subscription-over-the-top-ott-platform-ad-spending-2020-2024-billions-change-of-total-video-ad-spending

The benefits of OTT advertising are extensive, and only continuing to grow as more folks cut the cord for good. And people aren’t just subscribing to one platform. As findings shared by eMarketer in December 2022 show, “54% of US internet users subscribe to four or more over-the-top (OTT) video services,” with 20% subscribing to 8 or more services. This allows for more granular segmentation of audiences, making sure advertisers are reaching them with the right message at the right time based on the publisher they subscribe to and the additional targeting we can apply on top of that.
 

Refined Targeting for No Wasted Ad Spend

When advertising to a linear TV viewing audience, advertisers typically cast a very wide net that will naturally include many people who aren’t in their target markets. This is valuable from an overall awareness perspective, and has long been accepted as a literal part of the price you pay to reach the viewers that are likely to be interested, and ultimately convert. But that wide net comes at a cost. With OTT advertising, you can target just the audiences that you want to, improving your return on investment.
 

Improved Engagement

As an extension of reaching the most relevant audiences, OTT advertisers also enjoy a higher level of ad engagement. By reaching the people most likely to be interested in your offering, you save money and get eyes more closely attuned to the video being served to them. Gone are the days of people watching something because “it’s the only thing that’s on.” With streaming services giving us the opportunity to watch only what interests us on our own schedule, we are much more intentional about what programs we actively seek out.
 

Reach Audiences on a Variety of Platforms

Chart showing which services US OTT video service users use most often in 2022 and 2023

Source: https://chart-na1.emarketer.com/261591/us-ott-video-service-users-by-service-2022-2023-millions

There is an ever-increasing number of folks who can’t be reached by cable ads because they’ve simply cut the cord completely, or never had a cord to begin with. This is especially true for viewers under age 55. Instead, they are using one or more of the many popular ad-supported OTT apps to consume content. Advertisers can reach these relevant new and existing audiences with OTT ads, with YouTube leading the pack.

Some of the most popular places your ads can appear include:

The granular segmentation capabilities available through OTT media buying help you make smart use of your investment. And because the results of OTT include KPIs and other engagement metrics similar to what you’re familiar with from other digital advertising avenues, you can continue to scale and refine your campaigns over time much more efficiently and effectively across different advertising channels (and streaming apps!).
 

Lower Cost of Entry

OTT advertising offers a lower upfront cost than most traditional TV advertising from cable and satellite providers. This doesn’t always mean the media itself is cheaper, rather the amount you need to invest to get started is usually lower. Even brands and services with a modest advertising budget can dip their toes in the streaming waters, and begin building brand recognition.
 

How to Buy OTT Advertising

 

Chart showing Subscription OTT Platform Ad Revenues  in the US from 2020-2024

Source: https://forecasts-na1.emarketer.com/6359b427d3496f0694309768/63598c46d3496f0694309740

OTT ads are typically purchased from streaming providers directly, or through agencies. Agencies like Tinuiti offer the combined advantages of working directly with networks, and utilizing programmatic platforms when more flexibility is helpful to achieving a campaign’s goals.
 

Buying OTT Advertising Directly from Platforms and Publishers

When buying OTT ads from platforms and publishers, you’re going straight to the source. This method of buying is useful for advertisers who want to guarantee their ads will display to users watching a specific platform—such as Netflix or Hulu—or those who are watching via a specific device, such as an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick. An agency that works directly with publishers can help you achieve the same thing of course, while tapping into the advantages of buying at scale (without breaking the bank).
 

Buying OTT Ads from Agencies

Agencies act as an intermediary between the publishers and platforms and the advertisers, offering a number of benefits to brands…

  • Among the key advantages of working with an agency is they already have established relationships and partnerships with platforms and providers. They also understand the ins and outs of OTT media buying because they’re involved in it every day across multiple client accounts
  •  

  • This experience coupled with valuable existing relationships can help in securing the ad inventory you’re most interested in at the best possible price. Just like brands can buy ad space directly, so can agencies—and often at scale to support all their clients. The benefits of our incredible buying power extend to every campaign we manage
  •  

  • From a cost perspective, working with an agency is typically preferable to buying directly from the publisher
  •  

  • Finally, if an agency is worth their salt, they will be able to track performance against your business goals and recommend optimizations to further improve. Most 3rd party MTA platforms are not built with view-through attribution in mind, so this is key to running an efficient campaign

 

What is the currency of OTT?

 
As with most forms of advertising, the price you’ll pay for OTT advertising is determined by a number of factors, including the ad types you choose and where the ad will be shown. That said, the pricing model is typically a CPM or CPCV model. Other possible pricing models include CPA (cost-per-action) and CPI (cost-per-install, for apps).

CPM (Cost per Mille / Cost per Thousand Impressions): On a CPM pricing model, advertisers pay a set price for every one thousand impressions their ad receives.

CPCV (Cost per Completed View): With a CPCV pricing model, advertisers only pay when a viewer has watched their ad in full.

At Tinuiti, we typically purchase on a CPM or flat rate impression model, not CPCV. As explained by Shasta Cafarelli, SVP Media Strategy, Streaming+:

Shasta Cafarelli

“Since Tinuiti largely operates on buying full episode player (FEP) media where most ad inventory is non-skippable, cost per completed view (CPCV) is organically baked in. Our video completion rate is over 95% for FEP media, we don’t charge an advertiser more for a completed view. CPCV when used in streaming can help draw a parallel to other digital channels, but it generally doesn’t apply for this type of inventory because a user can’t watch their content unless they watch the ad as well.”

It’s important to remember that with cable TV advertising, you’re paying for your ad to run whether anyone is watching the program or not. Because OTT ads are only delivered during content that is actively being watched or listened to, you know your ads are actually being seen and heard.

 

How to Target Audiences When Buying OTT Ads

 

Chart showing the top 6 Streaming Video Services among US OTT Streaming Households in December 2022

Source: https://chart-na1.emarketer.com/261565/top-6-ott-streaming-video-services-among-us-ott-streaming-households1-dec-2022-reach

Targeting and measurement are two areas OTT advertising shines, making it possible to not only reach your desired audiences, but also uncover the data you need to test the effectiveness of your ads on those specific audiences.

Targeting options for OTT ads vary, and can include:

  • Third-party data
  • First-party lookalike targeting
  • TV audience data
  • Consumer behavior
  • Consumer interests
  • Purchase data
  • Demographics
  • Geolocation
  • Life event groups (eg. new parents)

 

Conclusion

 

Chart showing the share of time spent viewing OTT streaming video worldwide, by device and region, in Q2 2022

Source: https://chart-na1.emarketer.com/261565/top-6-ott-streaming-video-services-among-us-ott-streaming-households1-dec-2022-reach

We think eMarketer summarized it well:

“The last decade saw the buildup of streaming. Now, the industry is facing a change as it pivots toward ads and looks for ways to cut costs. The future of streaming will be ad-supported, more selective, and will involve social video even more.”

To reach the widest audience possible, it’s essential to engage in streaming advertising. Want to learn more about how Tinuiti can help your brand realize streaming success? Visit our Streaming+ Services page, or reach out today to chat with an expert.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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