As OTT’s Barriers to Entry are Lowered, we Must Protect Against Fraudsters

As OTT and CTV take up a larger share of advertisers’ media budgets, the industry is keen to avoid problems we’ve experience in the digital world around brand safety, fraud and a lack of transparency from reoccurring in these new environments. In this Q&A Maria Flores Portillo, general manager EMEA at Amobee, discusses how the industry can work to prevent this, and also looks at where OTT and CTV sit within the media plan, as well as how brands and agencies can use data most effectively in those environments.

Flores Portillo will be on stage at New Video Frontiers on Wednesday, discussing the opportunities and challenges which define the convergence of TV, digital and social.

Where do you think OTT and CTV sit within a media plan – should advertisers see it as a complement to traditional TV, or an alternative?

It is definitely a complement. Traditional TV is a fabulously efficient medium for branding (and will continue to be). There are many headlines hailing the death of traditional TV, but 93.1 percent of the British population still watch live or recorded video on TV at least once a month. Having said that, brands need complementary media to achieve their reach and frequency objectives in a cost efficient manner, and OTT/CTV are excellent platforms for identifying and engaging with audiences, specifically for certain demographics

When it comes to buying, there is still an element of silos when we look at TV budgets and OTT/CTV budgets, the latter almost always come from digital pots. So the categorisation there is not fully settled, as some agencies or advertisers don’t think of those audiences as one and still plan and buy TV and OTT/CTV in a separate rather than complementary fashion. Technology is partly to blame for this, as planning and buying across traditional TV and newer types of media such as OTT/CTV is not as straightforward. We have reasons to be optimistic though. The industry is proactively pushing for technological development to make this cross-screen planning a reality, and media owners are also very interested in offering holistic packages that help buyers achieve this.

How can brands and agencies use data most effectively for CTV/OTT targeting?

I see two aspects to this question. The first aspect is the most immediate one, which refers to the type of data that is actually available from OTT/CTV platforms, and how that can be enriched with agencies’ or brands’ first party and third party data. The digital nature of OTT makes that straightforward and it can be a simple programmatic buy. You can find today a surprising amount of European broadcaster AVOD supply through a plain DSP, as they send some of the remnant inventory to programmatic SSPs on an open exchange basis. The supply chain for CTV is slightly more complex, with device manufacturers involved, but the industry has also made good progress here to embed this inventory into DSP consoles and consolidate measurement.

The second aspect is how buying OTT/CTV can be as effective as possible, in a world where we want to be buying across screens in a seamless manner. We are already seeing a shift in the currency approach to these media. For starters, the use of broadcaster’s registration data and contextual data is rising, partly due to our move to a cookieless world. The likes of ITV are pioneering highly premium, safe environments where advertisers’ and broadcasters’ data assets can co-exist in a very constructive way. In parallel, measurement bodies are also consolidating ways to measure across screens, which will be the future of TV trading and will make buyers’ budgets work a lot harder.

How can advertisers protect themselves on OTT/CTV from the sorts of problems they’ve faced on digital around fraud, brand safety, and murky supply chains?

So far, the barriers to entry have been too high for fraudsters to get in and exploit premium OTT/CTV, but growth and fragmentation will change this as more players follow the money and flood the ecosystem. Given the more premium nature of OTT/CTV, there will be less of an open exchange culture and more of a curated garden one to them, so the future probably does not look as grim as the display world did a few years ago.

Having said that, advertisers will of course need to be cautious around the less premium stuff out there and exercise the same level of diligence that the programmatic space has developed for all activity. Scrutinise the process, the publishers and the placements – how are you vetting and rejecting publisher environments, managing whitelists/blacklists and deciding between networks or aggregators? This is always easier said than done, but breaking out of silos does help. By creating common data sets that operate across all video data activation points, advertisers can take greater ownership with more ease and agility.

At an industry level, we should all rally behind the adoption of app-ads.txt to push all OTT towards a more reliable and transparent operational standard. The roll-out is recent but the speed to which OTT apps are adopting this can be hastened. As it was with ads.txt, advertisers who demand higher standards for transparency will be the most powerful force for change, but the industry needs to step up and get ahead of it.

Should advertisers be wary of the ‘long tail’ in OTT and only buy from the big broadcasters and best known AVOD services? Or is there value in the long tail?

It all comes down to the advertiser’s objectives for a particular campaign. The longtail, across any medium, has the ability to provide complementary reach that may not be possible in a pool of more limited supply, which tends to be the case with broadcaster-grade content. But this reach needs to be balanced with other objectives such as brand association etc.

The key advice for advertisers is to stay in touch with the inventory they are buying, and set the right KPIs and checks for their campaigns. Given the higher CPMs paid for OTT, their budgets could end up being spent in a less efficient manner if the weight of the longtail in the overall plan is not proportionate to their objectives. Opportunism from longtail content creators would not be a new thing in our industry.

Is it possible for OTT and CTV buying platforms to match the simplicity of those provided by the likes of Google and Facebook, or do TV’s specific requirements make that impossible?

TV buying is actually quite efficient. The complexity comes when someone aspires to buy traditional TV and other media in one go, because of the measurement fragmentation and the clashes in philosophy (upfront versus real-time). And yes, simplicity will be key, because unless technology makes it a no-brainer for an agency or an advertiser to break their own internal silos, change will be slow. I think it starts with a shift in the way we think – let’s trade OTT and CTV with a TV mentality. TV has specific requirements, but this does not make the development of efficient buying platforms impossible; it just needs to be different and fit for purpose.

Broadcasters are already moving into this direction. ITV’s investment in a fully programmatic and advanced advertising platform is the best example of this (and I’m not just saying it because it is powered by Amobee’s technology). The vision is to provide a singular platform and unified workflow for buyers to easily access data-driven, addressable advertising.

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