Home On TV & Video YouTube’s CTV Ad Formats Aren’t Innovative Enough. It’s Time To Push Boundaries

YouTube’s CTV Ad Formats Aren’t Innovative Enough. It’s Time To Push Boundaries

Sarah Lewis, global director of CTV at ShowHeroes Group

Unveiling new features at the recent 2023 Upfronts, YouTube announced the introduction of 30-second unskippable ads and pause ads to its YouTube Select package on CTV. No doubt, the move was intended to ramp up YouTube’s share of the industry’s fastest-growing ad channel.

But following its NFL acquisition – a win that was groundbreaking – this latest news underwhelms.

TV streamers, particularly BVOD, have been using pause ads for some time now. And YouTube itself admits that its 30-second nonskip “fits into what viewers already expect” on the big screen. 

In a wildly exciting and inventive sector, YouTube is merely meeting the status quo – with scope for so much more.

A cinematic advantage

The mainstay of CTV’s ad appeal lies in its platform for rich and immersive storytelling. There’s an opening here for advertisers to lean into a big-screen, living-room environment where viewers are intuitively relaxed and engaged.

Research shows that CTV commands an 82% attention rate compared to 69% for linear TV and 42% for social video. That’s all marketers need to double down on brand connection, speaking powerfully to audiences that are already primed to be receptive.

Developing a more immersive approach takes more time and attention to detail, however. You need to do it in a way that fits with and enhances the existing ad experience – rather than scatter-gunning random features for the sake of it.

Say you want to upscale the performance of scannable QR codes on CTV with the use of custom animations. A car ad could be developed to feature an animated dashboard with a spinning steering wheel as the code. This, in turn, drives users to an online competition, brand survey or new product range. The result is eye-catching content that captures audience imagination while encouraging further interaction.

Layering in personalization

The beauty of this type of next-level activation is that advertisers can fine-tune their creative messaging, depending on the context of the ad and the level of interaction required. A CTV ad for a large bakery cafe chain, for example, could display a scannable QR code within an animated cake decorated with sprinkles and summer-themed toppers. This then links through to a series of mini videos with fun ideas for celebrations. 


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This kind of structure expands value from a user perspective by aligning the ad with a wider experience that’s polished and intriguing. It also showcases brand innovation in a setting where users are more likely to be digitally savvy and therefore drawn to slick digital features that go the extra mile.

Context plays a meaningful role here, too. We know that CTV viewers prefer ads that are relevant to the programs they’re watching. So this imaginary cake ad could be served alongside cookery, bakery or party-related content. A personalized toolbox of formats also sits well with CTV’s tendency for co-viewing, whereby brands may be obliged to reach multiple household viewers at once.

Behavior beyond the screen

Above all, the next generation of CTV pioneers are looking beyond the screen to explore how they can influence a broader maxim of devices and behaviors. Imagine you were creating a CTV ad for a cutting-edge homeware brand. A scannable QR code in the form of an animated table lamp appears, encouraging users to go through to a range of designer lights on exclusive discount.

The incentive for engagement could then be developed further with smart speaker ad integration, prompting CTV viewers to use voice commands to issue a personalized discount via their smart speaker devices. In future years, this execution could extend to AR, too, enabling customers to virtually test how the discount lamp looks in their home.

This is the type of fluid, boundary-pushing experience that advertisers should be aiming for to maximize CTV’s lucrative creativity. By making its ads compatible with CTV, YouTube is achieving the bare minimum of what is possible at the intersection of design, tech and narrative. CTV is a premium ad channel with capacity for unparalleled storytelling. We should test every creative parameter in championing digital’s biggest opportunity yet.

On TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video. 

Follow ShowHeroes Group and AdExchanger on LinkedIn.

For more articles featuring Sarah Lewis, click here.

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