Although connected TV buyers have become pretty sophisticated at targeting and delivering an ad to individual users, managing frequency across video providers is a work in progress.
But despite the industry’s recognition that consumers demand better ad experiences, many viewers find themselves bombarded with the same ad.
Worse, those ads sometimes run within the same commercial pod during the same program, negatively affecting a brand’s exposure regardless of how good the creative is.
So what’s holding frequency capping back? Part of the problem is the industry’s maturity – connected TV is a relatively new channel and supply and demand dynamics aren’t fully fleshed out.
In addition, there are technology challenges like the lack of a universal identifier connecting different OTT environments and poor interoperability between the multiple ad servers and SSPs used by CTV publishers.
But with the hyper growth of connected TV – global OTT revenues are projected to hit $64.8 billion by 2021, according to TV intelligence firm Digital TV Research – an increase in ad spend and total impressions will heighten the need for better frequency caps.
Common OTT ID: Still A Pipe Dream
From a technology perspective, the biggest challenge with frequency caps is how they have traditionally been implemented.
Gauging frequency in digital and mobile required a unique identifier, such as a cookie or mobile device ID, said Mark Zagorski, CEO of Telaria, the video ad server and supply-side platform.
While a universal ID connecting multiple OTT publishers is a pipe dream for now (although device makers such as Roku can analyze viewership data across CTV apps using their own proprietary ID) buyers and tech platforms are creating workarounds to improve frequency caps.
Modi Media, for instance, is working with Innovid to ensure its publisher partners are sticking to the frequency caps they committed to on media plans.
Modi uses Innovid to pull log files of CTV ads and the times, households and IP addresses where they’re running.
Once the campaign is in flight, it looks at each publisher and device on a household or IP-based level using Innovid to identify the unique reach and frequency for each partner across a dedicated connected TV investment.
Modi could then verify that information against data from publishers’ ad servers.
Although frequency capping across different CTV publishers and devices is ultimately good for consumers, industry observers say it won’t happen overnight.
“Some people worry there wouldn’t be enough impressions in the market if we employ frequency caps, but then you wonder if that’s the best use of advertiser dollars,” said Jim Wilson, president of broadcaster Tegna’s ad services business Premion.
Another lingering issue stymying proper frequency caps is the lack of a scaled supply pool, despite overall growth in OTT.
“There’s only so much inventory out there,” Zagorski said. “When I’m running a big, high-priced campaign, I want to deliver against as many users as I can for the shows I’m buying.”
As a result, publishers may overestimate supply and force delivery to fulfill advertiser requests and meet reach goals at the expense of a frequency cap.
And despite the growth trajectory for OTT ad spend, demand dollars haven’t shifted in spades – yet – because of the measurability gap.
“There’s more pressure now on the basics, such as achieving delivery, than managing frequency, and that’s just a reality,” Zagorski said. “But as we see more inventory, it will create more looseness, and the ability to spread those ads out improves.”
The buy side plays an important role in dictating frequency caps, too, and not every advertiser prioritizes them the same.
“An advertiser like a luxury brand may be more stringent on their frequency caps, whereas a bigger CPG advertiser may be OK with a little more flexibility, partially because they can spend more within a specific flight,” said Modi’s Winkler.
To improve frequency capping across platforms, buyers also need good attribution data.
“With a good first-party data solution, you can start to understand which audiences are in, which are out and which you can still convince,” said Yvonne Abt, SVP of media for entertainment studio Open Road Films. “Frequency capping has become a really integral part of helping us figure that out and drive conversion.”
Yet, even Abt acknowledges the disconnect between different parties in the ecosystem, including publishers, MVPDs, buyers and tech vendors – and their willingness to work together to improve frequency management.
Traditional MVPDs are increasingly pressured as more smart-TV manufacturers license their smart-TV data or as device makers, networks and digital platforms unlock their own audience insights.
Thus, there is less of an incentive to share viewership data, which can be viewed as competitive information.
“You have the MVPDs like Spectrum and Comcast, the publishers and the device manufacturers,” Zagorski said. “All have the opportunity to capture data and to use it. Will they share it? Probably not. The question is, who will be the arbiter of capturing that generic frequency data and sharing it back with the brand or agency?"