5 Non-Obvious Things To Know Before Choosing A CTV Supply Partner 

Oleg Sokolan Admixer

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

Today's column is by Oleg Sokolan, Director of Demand Partnerships at Admixer.

Linear TV was on its way out for years, but the pandemic truly accelerated the loss of impressions and the massive consumer switch to connected TV (CTV). In a matter of a year, the CTV space experienced exponential growth in engagement, mass adoption and an explosion in ad spend, especially in LATAM and APAC.  

78% of US households are now reachable via programmatic CTV advertising, a 56% growth from last year. CTV is a potent new medium with great reach and access to consumers, while web and in-app are swiftly losing addressability. Programmatic continues to be the preferred vehicle to reach consumers in this environment because of the operational efficiency and ability to manage inventory across devices through one easy dashboard. 

However, not all CTV supply partners are created equal. To put your ad spend to good use, here are critical things to watch for when choosing a CTV partner.

1. Check for mislabeled inventory 

For many, CTV is a new untapped market, and most people have yet to become savvy in this inventory. CTV can be very diverse and many supply partners can sell ads from various applications on Smart TVs and consoles, although it should be noted that they are not choosing to do so. Be sure to check the list of publishers that a partner has to offer. You need to know what you are buying. Don’t take anything at face value, and relentlessly verify the inventory.

Programming is not a black box, as many perceive it to be. By itself, it is a great tool to reach your audiences, but as with all tools, it is important what hands it will fall into. 

The programmatic ecosystem is constantly evolving, thanks to the work of the IAB. The organization's members, new tools, mechanisms and algorithms are being introduced in order to make this ecosystem more transparent, efficient, reliable and free from fraudsters. 

In the era of sellers.json and ads.txt, you can weed out partners that are 100% intermediaries. Work with SSPs that have direct relationships with CTV publishers.

2. Ensure CTV fraud detection

Fraudsters are also riding the wave of CTV. The CTV space, as noted, accelerated faster than anybody was prepared for, which left it largely unchecked. According to Pixalate, CTV ad fraud rates (invalid traffic, “IVT”) climbed to 24% in Q4 2020. This is due to a lot of spoofing on the part of CTV mobile apps and server-side ad insertions (SSAI). 

CTV is not a new medium for advertisers, but its rapid adoption, unchecked by security measures and astronomical sizes of allocated budgets, made it ripe for fraud. Make sure that your supply partner works with MRC-accredited vendors for CTV fraud detection and filtration. 

3. Check the supply path 

Routinely check the quality of your partners. For this assessment, not only are direct partners important, but so are all intermediaries through which the inventory passes. It’s critical to:

  • Evaluate the supply path, its length, and understand which partners/SSPs are involved in it
  • Select and consolidate the number of partners, on the basis of direct access to the inventory, which will boost the overall efficiency of media buying

In order to conduct a high-quality internal audit of the inventory supply chain, so-called log-level data is often needed, which allows you to obtain extensive information about all bid requests during an advertising campaign, which in turn allows you to identify insights for an SPO by analyzing this data.

4. Only work with partners who have up-to-date filtering capabilities

The most common type of fraud for the programmatic ecosystem is fake supply. This type of deception happens on the supply side when fraudsters misrepresent the traffic and sell it as more valuable ad units. Video is the most common target of fraudsters. In these cases, an out-stream video could be sold as in-stream, or even more frequently, OTT inventory is mislabeled as CTV ads. 

This usually happens because of mismanagement on the side of the supply partner, who lacks the capabilities to properly filter and vet the inventory. For this reason, you should choose only technologically up-to-date supply partners, most of which are members of IAB Tech Lab. 

5. Use programmatic deals 

The best way to safeguard your transactions is to conduct them via programmatic private marketplaces. These media trading methods imply that inventory never enters the open marketplace and is instead offered to a selected group of advertisers in a separate auction. Advertisers are hungry for brand-safe inventory, and private marketplaces can deliver impressions from premium publishers and niche content resources with data-rich segments. 

Not all of the ad exchanges can support private marketplaces and need to have the Deal IDs capabilities. An ad exchange should line up a list of direct programmatic deals with credible publishers and pre-fixed audience packages through a searchable interface or a dedicated support team. Today, private marketplace capabilities are a must-have for ad exchanges.

To sum up 

The number of ad impressions served on CTV devices has been quickly increasing since the beginning of the lockdown. CTV ads are now reaching wider audiences and can provide better reach and engagement than many traditional channels.  

Unfortunately, the CTV environment is highly prone to fraud, so choosing a proper supply partner is key to conducting effective campaigns. Chasing a good CPM without doing a proper background check is just pouring money down the drain. 

Follow Admixer (@Admixer_tech) and AdExchanger (@AdExchanger) on Twitter.

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