Blinc Co-Founders: ‘The Pandemic Has Pushed Advertisers Into The Advanced TV Pool’

Blinc Digital Co-Founders Lindsey Brie

Streaming behavior has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and advertisers have been rising to meet that change.

“Major catastrophic events don’t change what’s happening, but they do make trends accelerate. OTT was already growing, but it has accelerated so much,” said Lindsey Harju, co-founder of Blinc Digital, a consultancy that advises buyers, sellers and tech companies on how to build their products and marketing for the advanced TV world.

Despite the pandemic-related stress on marketer budgets, 38% of buyers in a recent AdExchanger Research report said they planned to increase their OTT and digital video budgets – making the channel the biggest beneficiary of budget increases. The bigger the annual marketing budget, the more likely buyers are to double down on OTT: Fifty-seven percent of buyers with budgets greater than $50 million are upping their investments in OTT.

“The pandemic has pushed advertisers into the advanced [TV] advertising pool,” said Brie Pinnow, Blinc Digital co-founder. “Either you are going to swim by using data and measurement, or you are going to sink because you are using traditional metrics from the linear world.”

Pinnow and Harju talked to AdExchanger about the rapid evolution of the advanced TV marketplace – and how buyers should navigate these uncharted waters.

AdExchanger: What’s an example of how people are shifting to advanced TV due to the pandemic?

BRIE PINNOW: The last thing a brand wants to do is come across right now as tone deaf or insensitive. Addressable can really focus the message for people. People are reallocating the big ad spend they had for sports and having it find a new home with addressable TV. Maybe there’s one audience that wants to know about at-home delivery, and another audience that cares but is going to make the purchase six months from now. It’s about being considerate of your audience.

I like to say measurement is the best safety net you can give yourself. If you can say a media buy drove app downloads or got people to come through the drive-thru, you can make sure those media investments right now are making your business outcomes reality.

Coming out of the upfronts and the NewFronts, what’s your take on the marketplace right now?

Pinnow: This is a weird upfronts bus to get on. Some people are on, and some people are off. Sellers are taking a balanced, adaptable approach that’s accommodating to advertisers. But people are thinking this should create more of a buyers’ market – in any industry, you would think this means pricing would be more advantageous – but prices have been holding steady and strong.

It is a buyers’ market in the sense that at least prices are stable, but they aren’t dropping the way buyers might want to see. Sellers are feeling quite confident about what’s being sketched out for the rest of the year, especially with a potential sports comeback.

What is smoke and mirrors in the CTV space right now?

LINDSEY HARJU: Volume is one of the most overstated capabilities. There are pitches that take the CTV universe, layer on how many times you can hit the person by household, their search history, their personal attributes. They talk about the perfect ad for the perfect person and measuring 100% of it … yeah, for five people!

What you can do and what you can do at scale are often at the other side of the room. Buyers might have a $100,000 buy, but only 1% of the buy is going toward those super cool tactics. Everyone has to be more realistic.

CTV has a reputation for being more expensive than linear. How do you see that dynamic playing out?

Harju: I think it depends on how niche your target is. What is the total number of eyeballs that matter to my brand? If it’s a toilet paper commercial, everyone can use it, so linear makes more sense. But if you’re a tractor company that only wants to hit people who have more than an acre of land, then CTV will be more efficient.

Pinnow: People get sticker shock. But when you look at how much it costs to reach only those in your target, OTT/CTV could have a $5 eCPM, and linear could have a $30 eCPM. That’s what we should care about as advertisers.

Online advertising is facing a reckoning around privacy, as third-party cookies are being blocked by browsers. Where is CTV better or worse positioned when it comes to privacy concerns?

Pinnow: The mantra everyone should live by in this world, in terms of addressable aspirations and measurement, is that we need to put consumers first, and focus on notice and choice.

If it’s buried in legalese, that’s not great. When consumers log into a streaming app, are we making it clear to consumers what they’re about to enjoy and the benefit? Are we making it just as easy for them to raise their hands as to opt out? Are we being clear and transparent? That will be the industry’s best bet to avoid harsher government oversight.

What do buyers who are leaning into advanced TV have in common?

Harju: Advanced TV has really been around 18 years. Back then, it was a new and unproven tactic that you’d use a test budget for. The people who could test the most were advertisers with a big TV number to start with, like auto manufacturers.

Pinnow: The No. 1 thing brands today have in common is a comfort, even a passion, for their own first-party data. DTC brands were born and bred in the customer-first world. As they’ve maximized their scale across media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, CTV and OTT have provided an opportunity for those folks to dive in and use data at their fingertips, sometimes more quickly than people who have been in the TV game for decades.

What trend are you keeping your eye on?

Pinnow: In recent years, internal media buying teams have been in a tug of war. TV people were on one end of the rope, and digital folks were on the other end over who owns the budget. We are seeing less of a tug of war and more of a convergence. The IAB shared that two-thirds of teams at this point are coming together, which is what we’ve pushed our clients to do from the beginning.

What changes are you pushing buyers to make these days?

Harju: I would love to see less extremism, where people feel like, “I’m going to try every cool tactic I’ve heard about on AdExchanger, or I’m going to do nothing.” Right-size your budget. If you only have $100,000 to spend on TV in a year, that doesn’t mean you should be out until you have a $100 million budget.

Think about where you want to be pointing the ship for 2021 and 2022, and do some today, some more tomorrow and more the day after that. Try something, even if it’s small.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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