OTT is a catch-22 for advertisers.
While it reaches the cord cutters traditional TV advertisers want to target, that audience is still difficult to track in an OTT environment.
Although the channel is capturing more attention (and dollars) from the traditional TV camp, digital buyers say connected TV needs to address the issue of identity resolution, since OTT ads exist in a cookieless environment.
And network subscriber lists don’t always link up to a cross-screen identity system, which creates obscurities in audience discovery and attribution.
"There is definitely a bit of a challenge when it comes to connecting audiences [with] viewership data or device usage," said Seth Walters, president at Modi Media.
It can be very difficult, for instance, if a marketer wants to see if a consumer exposed to an OTT pre-roll ad later took some desired action.
"That’s very hard to trace back," Walters said. "There are some options with providers like Roku, who have an ad framework and [an identity] graph, where they’re able to take a targeted, addressable message and tie it back to usage or time spent in the app."
As a result, some advertisers instead track clicks, installs, downloads and usage. But that level of performance data isn’t available across all publishers and devices, which shows how, from a measurement standpoint, OTT still lags behind its digital counterparts.
Part of the problem is that there aren’t many solutions linking OTT to the rest of the digital ecosystem.
"It’s not like mobile where there are multiple players in this space that have built out solutions to address those attribution questions for advertisers," Walters said.
Solutions that do exist require a lot of custom development work with publishers and, as a result, don’t always scale, Walters said.
Scaling would require each solution to update its app across different devices and operating systems like Roku, Apple and Amazon – which is still a major process for many buyers.
Another problem is that ad buyers don’t get bidstream data, so when they buy OTT inventory, they don’t always know if their ad is served from a Chromecast or Xbox, which undermines attribution.
However, DSPs like The Trade Desk are trying to solve these problems as more OTT inventory becomes programmatically enabled, said Doug Fleming, head of advanced TV for Hulu.
"The Trade Desk is just one that we’re working with to uncover solutions to the device identifier and bid attribute challenge," he said. "The biggest gap in the industry right now is lack of CTV standards as it relates to identity. For DSPs who have relied on cookie data to reconcile audiences, they’ve entered uncharted territory."
There are, however, workarounds to perform identity matches, which buyers borrowing tactics from addressable TV targeting are already implementing.
"Just like in the addressable television world, you can match back to a subscriber file, but you can’t do a standard cookie match in OTT," said Michael Bologna, president of one2one Media.
Some devices and platforms are using mechanisms like device IDs and IP addresses, he said, as a "back door to identify audiences, knowing that the OTT environment is a catalyst for addressable message insertion."
Correction: An earlier version of the story cited Seth Walters' position as senior partner for interactive and connected TV at Modi Media. He was recently promoted to president of Modi Media.