What Do You Do When the CTV Inventory Well Runs Dry?
Channel Factory Insights

Ad supported inventory for some CTV streaming services is almost gone for the last quarter of 2020.  Despite growing by 330% last year, in 2020 CTV inventory demand has outweighed supply.1 Why? Because the reach of the ad-supported streaming providers simply cannot meet the demand.  

As we move into a stay-at-home, digital-first holiday shopping season, advertisers should consider moving their CTV dollars into the largest ad supported CTV provider globally, YouTube. The platform offers much more scale than any of the other ad-supported CTV services, while offering better targeting, unique non-ad supported and incremental broadcast reach opportunities, as well as brand suitability advantages.

CTV Inventory Is An Issue

Despite accounting for 83% of all streaming hours, of the “Big 5” streaming players – Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu and Disney+ – only Hulu is ad supported. The remainder of CTV streaming happens through a growing ecosystem of ad-supported platforms: Hulu, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV and Peacock, as well as a handful of other smaller services such as TiVo+ and Redbox.

According to a report by Innovid and the ANA, these platforms are “still in the beginning stages of adopting inventory and building the infrastructure needed to support CTV buys at scale.”2   Most CTV ad buys take place directly, and are bought quickly.  

The bigger problem isn’t how it’s bought, but rather the scale of the platforms themselves. 

YouTube Offers Greater Scale Than CTV Competitors

YouTube is the largest CTV app, out-scaling its competitors by almost a factor of 2.  Over 100 million watch it on the big screen every month3, while Hulu comes in second at 58 million total subscribers4. The other players trail off in the distance: Roku (43 million subscribers)5, Tubi (33 million subscribers)6, Pluto TV (26.5 million subscribers)7 and Peacock (15 million subscribers)8.

And it continues to grow. On YouTube, the content well never dries up. YouTube creators publish 500 hours every minute. In April 2020 during lockdown, almost two-thirds of viewers had watched a video on CTV published in the previous 7 days.9 Viewership grew 80% year-over-year in 2020, and the platform saw an 800% growth in ad-supported and purchased movie consumption on CTV devices.10 

YouTube streams things like Major League Baseball and has captured more than 600 million views on the main U.S. late-night talk shows. The platform also nurtures huge fandoms for broadcast TV shows.  Views on the official YouTube channels for the NFL and WWE as well as on content created by YouTube creators about both sports were about 22 times higher than driven by the broadcasts themselves.11 

Even non-ad supported shows are accessible on YouTube. Netflix’s Stranger Things pulls in about 25+million viewers per season. On YouTube Stranger Things related content pulls in over 300 million views.12

YouTube CTV Offers Brand Suitable, Contextually Aligned Ad Performance

On YouTube CTV, and with the right partner, advertisers can run 6,15 and 30 second ads opposite contextually customized, brand suitable YouTube videos and channels. 

Non-YouTube CTV inventory is mostly unskippable 30second spots and targeting is much less specific. Advertisers have a limited variety of demographic, geographic, content viewer habit and linear TV household mimicking targeting options, with contextual options still in their infancy and no real brand safety or brand suitability controls.13 

YouTube’s targeting advantage also helps drive performance. As we’ve seen not only can contextual alignment drive up to 93% better brand awareness 14, but YouTube ads consumed on CTV devices have been seen to deliver up to 47% lift in ad recall and 35% in purchase intent.15

As we move into the final stretch of 2020, advertisers looking for precise contextual control over the living room experience should look no further than YouTube which, unlike the other streaming services, is always open for business.


Sources:

  1. Programmatic OTT/CTV Ad Volume Up 300%+ In 2019; Roku Devices Lose Share To Amazon, MedaPost
  2. The State of Connected TV Report, 2020 (Innovid, ANA)
  3. Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape”, Comscore 
  4. Hulu Reports 58 Million Ad-Supported Viewers, With Median Age Of 31 – NewFronts”, Deadline, May 2019
  5. Roku Sees 42% Revenue Growth, Monthly Accounts Now Total 43 Million”, MediaPost, August 2020
  6. “Tubi Hits New Record At 33M Monthly Users, Debuts Spanish-Language Offering”, Deadline, September 2020
  7. “Comcast’s Xumo Touts Explosive Growth, Topping 24 Million Monthly Users for Free Streaming Service”, Variety, October 2020
  8. “NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service has 15 million sign-ups, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says”, CNBC, September 2020 
  9. “New YouTube features to help you navigate the streaming boom”, Google, May 2020
  10. Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape”, Comscore 
  11.  Channel Factory, Internal Data 2019
  12. Channel Factory, Internal Data 2019
  13. “OTT Streaming Video Playbook for Advanced Marketers”, IAB, December 2019
  14. Contextual Alignment in Video Advertising, Channel Factory and USC, May 2020
  15. “YouTube advertisers can now target audiences watching on TV screens”, October 2018

Turn Your TV Spot into YouTube Optimized Creative
Channel Factory Insights

Effective ad creative can make all the difference in your campaign. Studies have shown that ad creative can impact actual sales by up to 50% and effective creative can drive a 2X increase in ROI.1 But in digital, running the same TV spot on YouTube could negatively affect your success. Consider the range of YouTube content consumption behaviors, ad lengths and formats. If you use TV creative on YouTube, you could be sacrificing performance.

Channel Factory’s creative studio called Channel Studio can help brands take their TV hero assets and give them the edge they need to drive success.  Here are the top 4 reasons why brands need a creative variation and cutdown strategy.

1. Adopt Your Story Arc for YouTube

Brands who rely on repurposing their TV creative on YouTube will likely see their video completion rates suffer. “Like it or not, the ad industry’s traditional approach to a story arc—beginning, middle, and end in a 30-second spot—is a thing of the past,” says Tara Walpert, VP of Agency and Brand Solutions at Google. 

Brands should consider developing a YouTube specific creative strategy by cutting down their existing creatives and testing multiple variations. Doing this will likely drive significantly higher video completion rates, driving long term effectiveness and performance efficiency.

2. Device Consumption Should Impact Creative Choices

YouTube is not the same as broadcast TV, and YouTube is also not consumed in one single way. When designing creative for a digital first experience, it’s important to consider the variety of devices on which viewers will be seeing ads and adjust accordingly. While approximately 70% of YouTube views come through mobile devices, as of March 2020 comScore reported that 21% of all streaming hours on CTV devices were spent on YouTube.2 

Watching YouTube on an iPhone vs. watching from the comfort of your sofa on a big screen are worlds apart. Ads on the big screen can generate up to 47% lifts in ad recall, but slightly different rules apply. Remember,you can’t click a TV. That means, (1) YouTube CTV viewers don’t tend to skip ads and (2) you’ll want to think about your calls-to-action for that device. So when crafting your CTV strategy, have non-skippable 15 and 30 second ads in your back pocket. 

For mobile, a user is consuming on a small screen, and may only pay attention for a few seconds. Having your brand reveal come after 15 seconds simply won’t work on mobile. Brands should consider having their logos populate earlier or stay in view the entire ad.

3. There’s More Than One Ad Format 

YouTube advertisers can choose between 6 second bumpers, skippable and non-skippable 15 and 30 second ad formats. Using shorter, non-skippable ads to drive reach and ensure consumer attention vs. giving people the option to skip after 5 seconds might both warrant different creative approaches. 

Within each ad format, advertisers want to consider how best to optimize their original hero assets, and consider when to overlay their logos as well as YouTube calls-to-action. 

“When you think about all the different YouTube creative lengths, it’s not so much a question of this vs. that. It’s thinking about how all the components work together,” says Google’s Creative Director, Eugene Buono who joined Channel Factory on a recent panel about creative pivots in 2020. “Whether it’s media and entertainment or consumer goods, there’s a story to tell, and there’s a time and a place for each of these different components depending on where users are and the signals they’re sending out.” 

4. A/B Testing Drives Creative Effectiveness

When they participated in a study conducted by Oracle for their Pedigree pet food brand, Mars tested a video opening with strong branding vs. one that saved the branding for the end. They learned the upfront branded video drove nearly 7x better sales lift.3  That’s the power of testing.

Testing video ad creative can be time-consuming and expensive when brands have to handle the cut downs and variations in-house or find creative agencies not involved in the actual media buying component of the campaign. 

Further, at the campaign level, the process can be repetitive and manual for many users. However, when it’s incorporated as an added value component of a managed service, with video and channel level targeting, it’s easy to get results and quickly optimize towards the better performing content.

5. Creative Adaptability in A Dynamic World

According to Eugene Buono, “when some big cultural phenomenon happens, brands and agencies want to be on top of that. From a brand suitability, as well as from a creative messaging perspective.” Adopting a versatile, adaptable creative strategy is key to advertising in a fast-paced and globally-connected world where messaging and tone shifts can happen overnight.  

Advertisers on YouTube have a vast array of creative options to choose from, across a variety of devices. Channel factory offers added value creative edits for brands to help adapt their YouTube creative. The offer, called Channel Studio, gives brands a way of making the most of their already existing creative, without simply recycling their TV spot. As an added value component of our end-to-end managed service campaigns, this kind of creative editing adaptability isn’t just worthwhile, it’s essential to capturing consumer attention in a competitive ecosystem. 

For more information on Channel Studio, check out the overview here, or contact marketing@channelfactory.com for more detail.


Sources: 

  1. comScore ARS Global Validation Summary, comScore, October 2010; Nielsen Catalina Solutions, Nearly 500 campaigns across all media platforms, 2016-Q1 2017
  2. YouTube Press Page; Comscore, ConnectedTV: Share of OTT Hours by Service
  3. Google/Oracle Data Cloud Sales Lift Meta Analysis, US (TrueView CPG campaigns tested between April 2015 and March 2016)

Channel Science: Brand Safety, Suitability & Performance by Channel Factory & Integral Ad Science
Channel Factory Insights

Advertisers today have many considerations when it comes to YouTube. Are my ads reaching the right person? Against the right content? Am I only running on brand safe videos and channels? In the past, brands had to work across multiple partners to achieve their goals. With today’s announcement that Channel Factory and IAS will be partnering to create Channel Science, brands will now have an end to end solution to ensure they can achieve their goals on YouTube. 

What is Channel Science? Channel Science is an industry-leading offering in partnership with Integral Ad Science that enables advertisers to have the most complete YouTube brand safety and suitability optimization solution on the market. One product integrating two industry partners, Channel Science allows advertisers to maximize both companies’ tech platforms to guarantee their YouTube TrueView campaigns are at their safest, most brand-suitable and performance-driven. 

“We are thrilled to announce the world’s first combined verification and performance optimization solution for YouTube advertisers. Partnerships that offer power solutions like this one save time and money for advertisers are absolutely crucial in today’s world. Advertisers need an end-to-end solution to manage the quality and performance of YouTube buys while saving time and money,” said Lisa Utzschneider, Chief Executive Officer, IAS. 

Both YouTube Measurement Partners (YTMP), Channel Factory and IAS deliver unique value in creating a solution brands and agencies can trust. Channel Factory offers best-in-class curation of YouTube content and a performance-driven approach, while IAS gives advertisers video- and channel- level brand safety. Together, Channel Factory and IAS give advertisers Channel Science—a potent, one-stop solution for YouTube TrueView advertising. 

Channel Science offers advertisers: 

  • Peace of mind knowing they are investing in the most suitable YouTube channels and videos by combining the best in brand safety (IAS) with the best contextual targeting solution (Channel Factory) on YouTube 
  • An end-to-end, continually optimized campaign that delivers real outcomes, like increased click through rates, view through rates, and reduced costs 
  • Improved outcomes by investing in high performing media that ensures brand suitability and simultaneously reduces ad waste
  • Verification and monitoring from IAS to confirm the campaign’s brand safety

“We are incredibly excited to partner with IAS to combine expertise, innovation, and technology to help advertisers achieve their brand safety, brand suitability, and ROI goals in one product from two trusted YTMP partners,” said Tony Chen, CEO of Channel Factory.

For more information on Channel Science, download our one sheet here

Blocklists, Inclusion Lists and Everything In-Between (Part 2)
Channel Factory Insights

By Mattias Spetz, MD, Europe

Last week we discussed the nuance of having a blocklist approach that does not overly exclude content (here). On YouTube, keyword blocklists uploaded into GoogleAds or DV 360 are exact match only – on their own, they will act as a blunt instrument and block content without regard for context. 

Channel Factory uses keyword blocklists as one part of a multi-pronged approach to delivering brand suitable, efficient YouTube advertising and, in our experience, it must begin at the pre-bid phase of a campaign where inventory selection and pre-optimization is most critical.

Step One – Brand Suitability Parameters

It’s essential for brands to craft an approach that works for them. Brand suitability is all about selecting highly specific content adjacencies and contextual alignments that meet potential customers and brand-loyalists in the right places within YouTube’s massive video ecosystem. Certain contexts work better for certain brands, and that differs by market, by language, and so on. The only way to finetune that resonant environment-building is by sitting down and deciding what contexts work best align with a brand’s values.

Step Two – Ongoing Analysis of Inventory

Channel Factory’s proprietary technology is always-on, always curating content from within YouTube’s constant user-generated content machine. Campaign success occurs as much at the pre-bid phase as it does mid-flight.

Keyword blacklists (approximately 155,000 words in total) are updated regularly in 36 languages to account for real-time, real-world events. They cycle constantly within our technology and data platform, ViewIQ, flagging and categorizing all undesirable content and identifying the highest quality inventory for use in client campaigns. 

These blacklists look at all the content signals available within videos and channels, which includes a whole host of metadata (titles, tags, descriptions), as well as the audio tracks of the videos themselves. Unlike exact match keyword blacklists used in live campaigns, these advanced blacklists are capable of detecting context from natural language cues. 

Brand unsuitable content is tagged at the keyword, channel, topic and video-level and used to guide inclusion list curation, as well as generate video-level and keyword blacklists calibrated to suit a particular brand and run dynamically within campaigns for ultimate suitability and scale. 

Step Three – Inclusion Lists Drive Brand Suitable, Contextual Performance

Inclusion lists help brands curate brand suitable, trusted environments to advertise within. However, smart use of blacklists is a pivotal part of that strategy. 

Inclusion lists are built from the constant cycling of inventory through brand suitability filters. Once these highly refined, pre-bid optimized channel and video lists are built out, however, that’s not the end of the story.

Inclusion lists need to be updated continually throughout a campaign. Otherwise what we see is a steady increase of CPV/CPM as brands keep bidding against the same static inclusion list inventory. It also affects scale as well as relevance – by bidding against static content, brands run the risk of missing out on new, viral highly relevant and engaging content.

Fortunately, blacklists are always running in the background, distilling the best content and extracting the brand unsuitable to ensure there’s always new inventory available for the multiple inclusion list iterations it takes to drive dynamic contextual performance on YouTube.

Step Four – Video-Level Blocklists

Once brands have guaranteed pre-bid optimized inclusion lists which target suitable, aligned content and in-market audiences their campaigns run alongside highly specific video-level and keyword blocklists. 

Video-level blocklists enable brands to buy against channels that make overall sense for them, but which have the odd video that sits outside their brand suitability parameters. Without using this technique, brands otherwise have to write off entire channels worth of scale just to avoid one lone wolf video. 

Keyword blocklists at this stage in the brand suitability provide “air cover” for a “ground force” of highly curated inclusion list inventory. In-flight keyword blacklists are highly brand-customized and, thanks to pre-bid curation,  they’re not the only hope of campaign brand suitability once a campaign is live.

COVID-19 Blocklisting

As far as COVID-19 content adjacencies are concerned, our clients have taken varying approaches to brand suitability for coronavirus related content. Some of our clients are fine with appearing next to this type of content – in fact some advertisers actively seek it out. However, for some brands it is the right approach to avoid it. A lot of these decisions are driven by an understanding of their consumer, as well as the brand’s creative messaging at this time. For example, brands helping to amplify the WHO’s  messaging by providing educational content might find news adjacencies ideally suited to them and their customer’s content consumption choices. 

Early on in this crisis we shared a Coronavirus keyword list with all our clients and other advertisers to help them target or de-target content related to COVID-19 as they see fit.

In Sum

Clumsy blocklisting is a real concern, but that’s only when it’s the only method by which advertisers are driving brand suitability in their campaigns. A lot rests on contextual analysis capabilities and ongoing strategic media planning considerations. 

At Channel Factory, we’ve refined a inclusion listing methodology which introduces the very best in contextual sophistication. This approach is key to aligning brands, publishers/content creators and consumer stakeholders especially during times where those value systems are in constant flux.

Creative Pivots In Constantly Changing Times
Channel Factory Insights

Top advertisers revise creative on average once every 10.4 days, but nothing could have prepared them for the creative revisions demanded by the first half of 2020. The quarantine lockdown prompted massive rethinks at every brand marketing department and agency worldwide about the organic and ad creative produced prior to March now lying on the cutting room floor. 

Creative pivots in the digital realm was the topic of a recent MMA discussion (you can watch the entire discussion here) between Channel Factory’s Chief Commercial Officer Jed Hartman, Traci Spiegelman Director of Global Media at Mastercard, and Eugene Buono, Google’s West Coast Creative Lead.

“Generally in culture when something happens, brands and agencies want to be on top of that. But it takes time to act quickly, and brands with a heritage of doing that were able to get moving right away” says Eugene Buono, Google’s West Coast Creative Lead. 

While 2020’s creative pivots might have been a shock at a macro-level, brands with sensitivity, empathy and cultural relevance already in their DNA were better prepared for the rapid change demanded by the macro global, civil and economic events unfolding since March. 

Not long into the lockdown, Edelman fielded a survey which found that 55% of consumers said brands and consumers were responding more quickly and effectively than most governments. In addition, it also showed that 71% of consumers agreed that if brands put profit over people, trust in them would disappear forever.

Since that report came out, brand marketers have responded in a variety of ways – some successful, and some less so. In fact, AdAge maintains a regularly updated post of marketers’ responses to the coronavirus.

Traci Spiegelman, Director of Global Media at Mastercard drove home the importance of authenticity in brand message pivots. “Brands need to be able to stand behind and honor core brand values in their creative. They should avoid being something they’re not. At Mastercard, we’re always conscious of how and who we’re talking to, and we lean into the passion points we’ve aligned to over the years.”

Putting Creative In Context

So how do you pair authentic, empathic, value-driven ad creative with the content that it runs on across digital? Devising media plans that make sense for individual advertisers requires a little little soul-searching and it’s entirely conceivable that what works for some might not work for others.  

Taking YouTube as an example, Jed Hartman, Channel Factory’s Chief Commercial Officer, and someone whose own career has pivoted between the publisher, the brand and the tech side, pointed out that “one thing that makes YouTube interesting is that you have that one-to-one ratio of content to ad. This means that brands want to ensure their newly adapted creative runs opposite content that not only works for its targeting and performance, but is also aligned with the tenor and intention of the creative message.”

In order to better understand and control where their ads run, advertisers have very quickly had to learn the new vernacular, updating their blocklists with a range of keywords across the health and social justice spectrum. On top of that, they’ve had to revise their inclusion lists to confirm the types of content they formerly embraced are still environments that best serve their business and their message.

And once the media plans have been reviewed, it’s over to the campaign to serve as a testing ground for new creatives in a new normal. Just like brands have multiple products and services, so do they have a variety of ad formats to use in order to test and optimize their multi-market messages. 

“When you think about all the different YouTube creative lengths, it’s not so much a question of this vs. that. It’s thinking about how all the components work together,” shared Eugene, who sits within Google’s creative innovation team. “Whether it’s media and entertainment or consumer goods, there’s a story to tell, and there’s a time and a place for each of these different components depending on where users are and the signals they’re sending out.” 

Brands are always adapting, and the cultural conversation is always changing, but 2020 really drove home the importance of infusing brand culture with the expectation that things could change on a dime. Digital video offers brands a powerful place to test and adapt at speeds and with data that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere. It’s time to fully explore those opportunities. 

Blocklists, Inclusion Lists and Everything In-Between (Part 1)
Channel Factory Insights

By Mattias Spetz, MD, Europe

The latest conversation around advertiser blocklisting is focused on the damage being caused to publishers by the COVID-19 news cycle. With publisher revenues down, blocklisting strategies have once again come under scrutiny. 

While blocklisting is an essential component of scalable and brand suitable campaigns, there are a few pitfalls it’s important for advertisers to avoid. 

Contextual blindness in keyword lists 

Blocklisting on YouTube needs a combination of keywords, videos, and channels to ensure brands can scale campaigns against content that makes sense for them and not accidentally 

Brand safety company CHEQ’s 2019 study found 57% of neutral or positive stories were being incorrectly flagged as unsafe for brands. Keyword blocklists can easily become clumsy and avoid completely innocuous content when they fail to acknowledge the context in which a keyword appears. Think “shots” or “injuries” on the basketball court. Or amidst quarantine, here is a great workout routine or recipe.

One-size-fits-all, set-and-forget approaches

Blocklists must adapt to the brand, and they must adapt constantly. Popular culture and news events are in constant flux, and new keywords must be incorporated constantly. 

Using universal blocklists across brands (for agencies) or markets isn’t an ideal solution. Every brand is different and every market has unique nuances.

This is particularly important for multi-market advertisers.  Local languages have their own native nuance and idioms. Also, individual countries have their own real-world events (political parties, celebrity scandals, etc) that might need to be blocklisted. 

Overlooking consumer content consumption realities  

Brand should consider content consumption habits to engage with the right audience. 

The latest debate around news blocklisting highlights the importance of considering the context and content against which brands advertise. When you see almost 40% of millennials closely following national politics, social issues, and natural disasters, and yet a reluctance on the part of brands to buy against that content, bridging the gap is a question of building nuance into your blacklisting strategy to address consumer consumption patterns.

As we found in our recent survey of consumer viewing habits during the lockdown, 70% of consumers interested in seeing more alignment with their mood, brands have to factor in consumer viewing habits into what they choose to include and exclude in their campaigns.

By Mattias Spetz, MD, Europe

The latest conversation around advertiser blocklisting is focused on the damage being caused to publishers by the COVID-19 news cycle. With publisher revenues down, blocklisting strategies have once again come under scrutiny. 

While blocklisting is an essential component of scalable and brand suitable campaigns, there are a few pitfalls it’s important for advertisers to avoid. 

Contextual blindness in keyword lists 

Blocklisting on YouTube needs a combination of keywords, videos, and channels to ensure brands can scale campaigns against content that makes sense for them and not accidentally 

Brand safety company CHEQ’s 2019 study found 57% of neutral or positive stories were being incorrectly flagged as unsafe for brands. Keyword blocklists can easily become clumsy and avoid completely innocuous content when they fail to acknowledge the context in which a keyword appears. Think “shots” or “injuries” on the basketball court. Or amidst quarantine, here is a great workout routine or recipe.

One-size-fits-all, set-and-forget approaches

Blocklists must adapt to the brand, and they must adapt constantly. Popular culture and news events are in constant flux, and new keywords must be incorporated constantly. 

Using universal blocklists across brands (for agencies) or markets isn’t an ideal solution. Every brand is different and every market has unique nuances.

This is particularly important for multi-market advertisers.  Local languages have their own native nuance and idioms. Also, individual countries have their own real-world events (political parties, celebrity scandals, etc) that might need to be blocklisted. 

Overlooking consumer content consumption realities  

Brand should consider content consumption habits to engage with the right audience. 

The latest debate around news blocklisting highlights the importance of considering the context and content against which brands advertise. When you see almost 40% of millennials closely following national politics, social issues, and natural disasters, and yet a reluctance on the part of brands to buy against that content, bridging the gap is a question of building nuance into your blacklisting strategy to address consumer consumption patterns.

As we found in our recent survey of consumer viewing habits during the lockdown, 70% of consumers interested in seeing more alignment with their mood, brands have to factor in consumer viewing habits into what they choose to include and exclude in their campaigns.

Conclusion

At Channel Factory, we’ve found a duel inclusion list/blocklist strategy to be the most effective way to deliver maximum contextual sophistication for brands. In next week’s post, we’ll outline the optimal ways to configure this strategy to maximize your brand suitability.