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Why collaboration is the answer to connected TV measurement

A new digital TV landscape is expected in time for the 2028 Olympics, or so suggests global broadcasting giant NBC, who predicts that all TV will be delivered via an internet connection in less than 10 years. Based on consumers’ evolving content consumption habits – demanding anywhere, at any time – NBC is (wisely) choosing to heavily invest in content and advertising distributed over internet protocol. Considering the advertising placements to coincide with the 2028 Olympics are already up for sale, the broadcaster appears confident that consumer behaviour will dramatically shift in the advertiser’s favour by then.

And it’s no surprise – the connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) market is the fastest-growing segment of the ad-supported media marketplace, expanding by 54% in 2018 and expected to grow an additional 39% this year. With over half of UK televisions now connected to the internet, CTV is the greatest opportunity for advertisers and publishers to reach consumers today, enabling brands to make meaningful connections with consumers from the comfort of their living room.

However, with the establishment of new environments comes roadblocks that must be addressed – and CTV is no exception. From encouraging the digital advertising industry to align on terminology, to finding a way to quantify advertising impact in this new environment, through to defining what the successful metrics are for OTT – collaboration across the advertising ecosystem is required.

Clarifying terminology

Currently, half the advertising community defines OTT as television-like video content delivered to any screen – computer, mobile, or connected TV. The other half defines it first by the device, followed by video content specifically delivered to a CTV. Given that measurement is approached differently depending on the device content is viewed, there is an assortment of factors to consider. There will be no agreement on the metrics chosen to measure OTT advertising performance while the definition is unclear. The IAB has begun to address this confusion by releasing an advanced TV matrix that defines the terms in use, but only with input from the entire ecosystem will we align on the terminology and prevent unnecessary confusion.

Quantifying impact and measurement

While OTT services connect with consumers, there is one roadblock in quantifying that impact – measurement. With the increasing number of technological devices, measurement of digital advertising has grown in complexity and can be particularly challenging for emerging technologies. As an industry, we are inching closer to standardisation for video measurement.The Media Rating Council (MRC) recently released its long-awaited draft proposal for a new cross-media audience measurement standard, imposing stricter rules for digital companies reporting on video impressions, and how broadcasters report commercial viewership. At IAS, we announced the first-ever verification solution for connected TV that partners directly with the largest video publishers to verify that video ads are played to completion, and free from invalid traffic. We are undoubtedly heading in the right direction, but some industry changes still need to happen.

Nevertheless, there’s the necessary, but tricky, technical adjustments that come with applying a new form of measurement to an emerging environment. One of the key challenges here is accounting for the use of server-side ad insertion (SSAI) as part of the video delivery chain. Ads are joined up into a single video stream alongside the content, so information about the device must be correctly passed on by the server component. In some cases, this does happen but there are instances when it does not, meaning those ads could be flagged, incorrectly, as invalid traffic. The solution here comes in partnering with publishers to understand the data signals being sent, and to ensure that any missing or non-standard signals and unrecognised SSAI data points are corrected. Here, we see again that transparency and collaboration between verification vendors and the supply side is crucial to achieving accurate CTV measurement.

Defining successful metrics

Once measurement capabilities are in place – then lies the challenge of defining what ‘successful’ CTV metrics consist of. Looking at viewability as a key metric, the expectation today is that TV screens are inherently viewable. However, as the technology required to measure viewability is not universally supported across CTVs, this is not possible to validate, yet. As such, video that reaches completion and is fraud-free is considered an acceptable ‘success’ metric for viewability. With video standards still disputed across the industry, the answer to what CTV measurement should look like is an ongoing challenge – but a challenge we must face together to determine an industry-wide standard.

As the ecosystem transitions to a wholly digital, internet-enabled TV landscape, there is one truism – cross-market collaboration and engagement with both the buy-side and sell-side of the industry will be critical to getting future measurement right. Short-term, the industry must agree on consistent definitions for both CTV and OTT to ensure wider understanding. In the mid-term, an environment of collaboration based on transparency should be fostered, where buyers receive unambiguous data points from sellers. And the final goal must be unity on what success looks like for digital advertising in a CTV platform and OTT environment. Collectively, there is the opportunity to establish consistency in the early stages of CTV development and adoption, but we will only achieve this when all parties work together.

Victoria Chappell is VP marketing EMEA & APAC, Integral Ad Science.