Thanks To COVID-19, Connected TV Is A Prime Opportunity For Marketers – And Ad Fraud

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

Today’s column is written by Lauren Fisher, vice president of business intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions.

The coronavirus outbreak has catapulted connected TV (CTV) into the limelight. What was already considered a promising, premium digital video medium has quickly become a priority for many advertisers, thanks to a boost in streaming video consumption.

Our own set of surveys conducted in mid-March and early April found four in five US advertisers expected to increase their personal use of streaming services in light of COVID-19.

Streaming had already accounted for almost a quarter of total US TV time the week of March 16, according to Nielsen. US consumers spent 156.1 billion minutes streaming content that week, a 36% increase over the week of February 24, and more than double the amount of time spent streaming content the same week in March 2019.

As CTV inherits scale – perhaps one of its greatest limitations pre-COVID-19 – advertisers are hungry for inventory.

Of course, so are fraudsters.

Connected TV already has its share of ad fraud problems thanks to its attractive double-digit CPMs and its lagging capabilities for ad measurement and verification compared with desktop and mobile web. Couple these factors with increased consumption habits and a market now distracted by bigger issues – the coronavirus – and it’s not hard to see connected TV as an even bigger target for ad fraud.

On March 30, the Media Rating Council issued a statement urging industry participants to maintain measurement quality and proper methodology during the coronavirus pandemic. The notice also asked companies to use “objective criteria” when examining data quality and reporting for any nontraditional insights and metrics now being provided as a result of COVID-19.

While the notice was specific to neither CTV nor ad fraud, it does carry an important message for both: Remain vigilant.

Here are some ways media buyers can do just that.

Get informed about what the increase in streaming consumption actually means for your ad buys.

Viewership patterns are changing quickly, which means historical impression data, often used as a first check on ad fraud, may not be valid.

Greater scale is good news, but it also allows fraudulent parties to more easily flood the market with falsified impressions. Don’t fall for it. Have transparent and frequent conversations with partners to know what to expect on their platforms and on their properties.

Own the connected TV category – especially if you’re a programmatic buyer.

Now is the time to be well-versed in average CPMs and pricing trends for the types of inventory you buy – and how they are changing as a result of COVID-19. You should also know the major providers and methods for accessing their inventory.

Fraudulent parties will prey on advertisers chasing what they assume are deep discounts on premium inventory. Device spoofing, app spoofing and other forms of misrepresentation fraud are designed to lure buyers into believing something is too good to be true. Don’t believe it, and don’t just set it and forget it. Work with your DSP to make sure your bidding algorithms are set up to avoid a race-to-the-bottom scenario.

Go direct when possible.

Typically, the fewer parties involved, the less room for fraudulent activity. Already seeing great success with accessing a particular publisher’s inventory programmatically? Take things direct.

Prioritize true partners.

Here’s the thing with fraud: It still happens because buyers prioritize what’s easy and what’s needed to “make the numbers” over what’s right.

Our COVID-19 research emphasized that buyers want partners that are flexible, transparent and willing to work hand in hand. But these should not be requirements only during times of crisis. More than ever, buyers must prioritize partners that truly drive value. Otherwise, the cycle continues.

Senior-level marketers and executives must make it possible too.

If media buyers are held to channel- or company-specific KPIs that can’t be met without mixing in a handful of questionable partners, then things won’t change. It’s up to senior-level marketers and the executive team to fully understand the effects of ad fraud on their investments and to empower ad buyers to make positive changes.

The bottom line: Knowledge is power. By understanding the landscape and the limitations of connected TV, and by identifying the right partners, marketers can make the most of this rapidly expanding medium.

Follow Advertiser Perceptions (@AdPerceptions) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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