Home On TV & Video CTV For The Rest Of Us: Key Questions For Mid-Tier Brands And Agencies

CTV For The Rest Of Us: Key Questions For Mid-Tier Brands And Agencies


On TV and Video” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Hamid Qayyum, SVP of Digital Sales at Stirista.

Shelter-in-place policies have catapulted OTT and CTV consumption. Viewers stuck at home are binge-watching shows as quickly as Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV can drop them, and new streaming services are popping up at an incredible pace. The average home watched 102 hours of OTT content during April, according to Comscore, 17 more hours than the same time last year. Cord cutters and cord-nevers also make up a large portion of CTV consumption, particularly pure-play virtual MVPDs such as Sling, Pluto and FuboTV which saw a 70% increase in consumption in one year.

In addition, a large majority of consumers expressed willingness to view ads in a CTV environment, according to a survey commissioned by SpotX, making the OTT and CTV market ripe with ad opportunities. Unlike with cookies, these viewers are by default real people and completely addressable.

There are good reasons for small to mid-tier brands and agencies to want to reach these audiences – for instance, a DTC clothing brand may find valuable customers glued to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Hulu.

Unfortunately, the entry point for programmatic advertising across OTT and CTV platforms can be intimidating for small to mid-tier brands and agencies. Complicated DSP systems create a barrier to entry for smaller advertisers that could reap real benefits from the OTT and CTV universe if only they could find a way in.

But these environments are not out of reach. Before jumping into the OTT and CTV programmatic ad market, advertisers must know what they want to accomplish and set their success metrics accordingly.

The first steps are to evaluate desired outcomes and settle on a call to action. Do you want to drive brand awareness, website visits or foot traffic? That will help determine the KPIs, e.g., unique visitors, impressions, in-store visits, on which to build and measure the program and its effectiveness.

Remember that creative is critical – more so than in either traditional TV advertising or digital advertising. There are similarities to classic TV ads in that 15- and 30-second spots are best – even though some are viewing on a 55” Samsung and others on an iPhone X. The key commonalities are that viewers can’t fast-forward through ads and are typically more receptive because they are active and intentional viewers. They are expecting targeted content. Take advantage of this one-to-one opportunity and deliver more personalized ads.

This is where data comes into play. CTV and OTT ad programs allow advertisers to target their audiences more precisely – not unlike the granularity of social media. Craft unique audience segments with deterministic data such as age, gender, household income, interests, etc., and ensure the creative addresses those viewers’  unique needs.


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In a perfect world, ad tech for the OTT and CTV market should be as simple as buying Facebook ads, but that is not the case. A lack of understanding when it comes to how DSP systems work – and little transparency around pricing models – keeps many small and mid-tier brands and agencies from investing in campaigns that could help them connect with niche audiences that are hard to find on other platforms.

Before partnering with a DSP on OTT and CTV programmatic advertising initiatives, these brands and agencies should ask a few key questions: What is the transaction fee? Is there a data surcharge? Does the DSP arbitrage media – buying impressions or inventory at a one price and selling it to the advertiser at a higher cost? Often, advertisers spend too much on surcharges and fees associated with managed services deals and too little on actual ads.

Some DSPs will provide basic reports, but charge additional fees for more granular metrics. It’s crucial to know upfront if the platform will provide data connected to the brand’s primary advertising objectives. Will things like attribution data, click-through rates, impression rates or basic campaign rates for both device and network targeting be available without an extra fee? A solid DSP is built on rich, layered data sources, enabling it to deliver programmatic ads to targeted audiences across mobile, connected TV and desktop devices. It easily integrates with brand safety tools to guard against ad fraud, and most importantly, it has a transparent fee structure.

Even before the surge in OTT and CTV consumption brought on by the pandemic, trends pointed to an upswing for the market. And while the OTT and CTV market can be a confusing and overwhelming environment, it can also deliver substantial ROI for even the smallest advertisers who are willing to do the legwork and find the best DSP to meet their programmatic needs.

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