Jeremy Haft, CRO, was featured in AdMonsters, where he discussed the potential impact of CTV on voters during the upcoming election season.

Political advertisers are betting big on CTV’s targeting power for the 2024 elections, and its performance could significantly influence the future of television advertising.

Many marketers are – let’s say – generally excited about the promised targeting power of CTV. 

Yet, for political advertisers, many are staking their careers on this burgeoning new medium.

Indeed, candidates can’t wait for CTV to sort out all of its fundamentals in the near future. They can’t set aside some ‘test and learn’ budgets while hoping that all the targeting tools, identifiers, and post-cookie offerings that CTV has dangled — producing the ultimate combination of precision targeting and big-screen branding — get put in place.

Rather, politicians have a high-stakes race to run now. And if they lose – they don’t just slip behind in market share. Their brand goes out of business (for four years at least).

The stakes don’t get higher than a race for the White House. But, because the 2024 races should also provide the ultimate test case for this still unfinished medium, the stakes couldn’t be much higher for the business of television advertising either. 

Whether CTV ad targeting can deliver on its campaign promises in 2024 will have huge ramifications for the industry.

What CTV Needs To Prove To Persuade the 2024 Vote

Given the macro shifts in media consumption, political candidates – typically among those without the larger media budgets-  cannot afford to lean on linear-TV-centric playbooks of the past. Today’s voters are ‘Streaming.’ 

However, CTV still needs to prove it can influence voter behavior and election outcomes this year. The good news is that thanks to the adoption of ad-supported tiers by many top streaming services and the expanded availability of FAST platforms, there is far more CTV ad inventory and reach available to political advertisers than just a few years ago.

More importantly, CTV is uniquely equipped to drive tangible outcomes that candidates care about (besides votes on election day), such as site visits, sign-ups, and donations. Increasingly, a new crop of researchers and ad technology companies can tie TV exposure to spikes in web searches, mobile downloads, and transactions.

The key will be for CTV’s targeting capabilities to come through by reaching the right, ideally persuadable, swing voters. That means hitting crucial voting segments in the right neighborhoods or clusters of DMA’s to push voters to the polls.

In addition, CTV will be crucial for connecting with the hard-to-reach yet highly influential Gen Z voters, most of whom are streaming-first, cord-TV viewers. The same can be said for underserved minority voters, who are likely to consume niche streaming content. 

Considering these groups’ ability to potentially sway this election, it’s fair to ask: Can politicians holistically impact all necessary groups across the CTV ecosystem, both in reach and investment? 

Is It the Creative? 

The CTV ad tactic that could have the most impact on political campaigns this year is its long-touted ability to deliver a wide range of different TV ads to different target constituents. This kind of creative variation in CTV has been chiefly theoretical, as many brands continue to run their general TV spots in streaming environments. 

However, given the issue-driven nature of their campaigns, political advertisers can and should take advantage of this opportunity by delivering unique messages – tied to specific causes – to distinct audiences in a very nuanced way.

To help, there are also more impactful creative options in CTV vs. traditional linear, such as QR codes, picture-in-picture units, and other interactive strategies that can be used to achieve performance results among a range of constituencies. 

Politics – And CTV – Are Not for the Faint of Heart

Of course, given that the CTV advertising ecosystem is still in its infancy, candidates who decide to spend aggressively on this vehicle face plenty of potential pitfalls.

Brand safety is of utmost importance for many marketers, yet they are still working through protection mechanisms and technologies common to digital advertising in CTV. If an unwelcome ad adjacency is a nightmare for the average CMO, it could prove fatal to the wrong political campaign.

Plus, this time, campaign managers have to worry about not just keeping their messages away from unsavory or inappropriate content – but also the inevitable rise in misinformation, thanks mainly to the increased adoption of generative AI.

The more that the ‘bad guys’ figure out how to exploit this tech to spread falsehoods, the more social media platforms, in particular, will have to fight an arms race while trying to keep candidates out of trouble. 

As a result, CTV has an opportunity to provide a more regulated environment – as long as streaming platforms and their ad tech partners can create reliable safeguards.

The Race (For Media Supremacy) Is On

Just as the pandemic accelerated many shifts in consumer behavior and subsequent advertising strategies, this year’s highly contested election could serve to pour jet fuel on an already red-hot medium – or a bucket of cold water. Candidates essentially have no choice but to dive right in and make a big bet on the medium’s supposed unmatched set of capabilities. How that bet goes could sway many future advertisers to quickly look to emulate the 2024 winners’ CTV ad tactics – or to put on the brakes. It’s incumbent on the industry as a whole to execute and deliver. Whichever candidates win, if CTV is considered key to their success – the entire medium should soar.

Check out the article on AdMonsters, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Digital Remedy updates.

David Zapletal, COO, was featured in Advertising Week. In it, he discussed the benefits and challenges of AI in advertising, emphasizing the need for human oversight to ensure compliance and brand safety.

As brands and agencies continue to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) tools in their advertising efforts, the challenge has always been to acknowledge and react to the technology’s value and limitations. Much of the work that needs to be done toward that challenge happens behind the scenes. But ad creative belongs out in the open, obvious to the broader public.

This matters as brands and agencies investigate the benefits of using AI for creative personalization. AI greatly increases the number of creative variations that can be produced for a campaign, which would be hard to scale with normal dynamic creative toolsets. But with all those personalized creatives—specifically when they’re generated in real time—there are potential pitfalls in the standardization necessary to pass creative audits through leading ad platforms and premium publishers. Brands and agencies will need to look for AI tools that can solve the challenge of standardization, uphold platform and publisher specs, and provide the most relevant, brand-appropriate user experience.

The digital industry is right to embrace the efficiencies and cost savings offered by AI’s ability to create a vast amount of personalized creative. But AI output requires human oversight. As we’ve seen, generative AI tools can produce biased language, factually untrue statements, and off-brand messages. Brands need to be on high alert, ensuring real-time AI-driven ad creative is accurate, on-brand, and compliant. But publishers and platforms are on very high alert. The integrity of their own content and brand is at stake here: Most consumers don’t know the adtech landscape well, and will hold publishers accountable for all content on their sites, including advertising.

A new set of AI-specific creative requirements is coming

Publishers need to ensure the audiences and communities they serve are not exposed to inappropriate ad creative that doesn’t align with their own ad policies. The trend toward real-time AI creative generation, then, is ushering in a new set of creative requirements, driven by publishers’ specs and concerns, that brands and agencies will need to uphold and the DSP auditing service will need to verify. Realistically, this means agencies and brands need to expect new requirements – and to expect industry-certified generative AI toolsets will come to the fore to better ensure compliance and alignment.

Off-the-shelf AI tools simply won’t be nuanced enough for the task at hand. We can expect a massive AI evolution to unfold in the near future: Not only will we be seeing certified AI tools emerge, but we’ll also see DSPs add a new AI-specific category in creative audits—a category publishers will be able to opt out of if they choose. This category will include technical and sensitive attributes that give publishers more control over the ads that appear on their sites.

We know that artificial intelligence can generate ad creatives that violate site policies. For example, one site might have a limit on the amount of animation permissible in an ad. Other sites will have lists of keywords and terms that can’t be used in a creative. There are so many publisher-specific guidelines for an ad platform to consider. Platforms that enable media to be served will need to keep up with the volume of real-time AI-generated creative.

The digital industry must take the initiative

As it stands, neither regulation nor standardization of AI creative are on the horizon. In lieu of that, we’ll likely see a trade group, such as the IAB, to launch a working group to assess the issue. But artificial intelligence evolution is happening too quickly for platforms to wait for outside guidance. Right now, each ad platform will need to create policies that limit what elements of an ad creative AI is allowed to modify. Brands need those guardrails in place, and because a human review is an important part of creative oversight, platforms will want to look for any processes they can automate.

In particular, the creation of assets, verification by platforms and publishers, and creative delivery and optimization are ripe for automation – worth highlighting because AI will create these assets faster. Automation will lift some of the burden from the human team and will make quality control and oversight more efficient by working proactively to flag clear violations of publisher ad policies. This will make quality control and oversight more efficient by working proactively to flag clear violations of publisher ad policies.

Transparency and custom tools enable brands to proceed with AI confidently

Brands and agencies will need the ability to customize AI creative generation to adhere to publisher and platform creative requirements – which we can expect to evolve as AI matures – and this will require investment in the brand’s custom GPTs. Custom GPTs will ensure AI tools are trained, and that those tools “know” the limitations posed by creative specs. While it may be tempting, this is not the time for brands and agencies to rush their adoption of AI tools for the purposes of creative personalization. Businesses should pace themselves, make strategic hires to bring in talent who understands how to communicate with AI for the best results and set cautious goals and expectations.

Furthermore, as the ad industry can expect AI regulation to come eventually, advocacy groups and industry stakeholders will push to advise regulators and educate lawmakers on the technology’s implications. But that’s just one step: We also must educate the public, who aren’t artificial intelligence experts.

We need to be honest and transparent about the effects and performance of AI tools—what’s going well and what still needs work. A lack of transparency will only backfire on brands and agencies. After all, the consumer is the first to notice when AI personalization produces biased language, off-spec creative, and off-brand messaging that inadvertently makes its way through creative audits.

Check out the article on Advertising Week, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Digital Remedy updates.

Jeremy Haft, CRO, was featured in TV Technology, where he explained why a three-pronged approach and accurate cross-platform metrics are crucial for marketers looking to reach viewers at scale while addressing evolving viewing habits.

It turns out that the key to a successful TV advertising strategy can be found in geology.

Namely, brands looking to reach consumers at scale today need to lean on the right mix of Boulders, Rocks, and Sand.

Confused? Well, in this case, we’re talking about the different vehicles through which people consume video: linear TV (the boulder), connected TV (rocks), and digital video (sand). Despite all the hype about the macro (and very real) shift toward streaming, implementing the right mixture of these three is crucial for modern brands both to reach their target audiences and accurately measure their impact effectively.

Because even as viewing habits change, consumers are unlikely to direct all of their viewing to a single platform or channel en masse for the foreseeable future—and ad spending allocations need to reflect that reality.

TV Viewing Will Remain in a Hybrid Phase for Awhile

There is no question that CTV viewing has exploded over the past decade—and ballooned considerably since the pandemic.

In fact, streaming consumption recently surpassed linear TV in the U.S. for the first time, according to Nielsen. At the same time, cord-cutting has continued to accelerate, leading some cable distributors to consider giving up on distributing linear channels altogether.

However, the hype surrounding this massive change has led to some obstinate thinking on both ends of the industry.

You’ll hear plenty of chatter at one end of the spectrum that brands should abandon linear TV entirely. Usually, this is accompanied by talk that linear TV is, in their view, “dead.” This is despite the fact the broadcast and cable still account for roughly half of TV viewing, per Nielsen. For instance, roughly 20 million people tune in to watch Sunday Night Football each week. In fact, even a service as popular as the binge-friendly Netflix can lay claim to a mere 8% of total TV consumption.

So, despite rumors of its demise, linear TV is far from dead.

Yet, there are the linear TV denialists at the other end of the spectrum. Some in our industry are so devoted to/enamored with linear TV’s historic reach and efficiency that they cling to a linear-centric point of view when planning media. This philosophy ignores the fact that people consume video in huge numbers via a multitude of devices, platforms and viewing patterns—and likely will for some time.

Therefore, the smartest, most forward-thinking brands will recognize the need for balance in their TV ad planning.

TV Advertising Requires Boulders, Rocks, and Sand
Given the permanently fragmented state the TV market finds itself, marketers can’t afford to go all in on any one platform or vehicle. Instead, brands looking to employ TV to reach the majority of consumers are going to need a three-pronged strategy, including the Boulder, the Rocks, and the Sand.

Indeed, even as the number of cord-cutters and cord-never households rises, large swaths of the country continue to consume TV through an array of channels, including linear and streaming.

The key will be figuring out how and when to use all three the most effectively. Video is only growing more complex, as brands will need to carefully plan out their budget distribution to ensure that they reach their target audiences via all three vehicles effectively and at the right level of exposure.

In other words, it’s incumbent on brands to know when and how to use Boulders, Rocks, and Sand.

This is why accurate cross-platform metrics, buying and planning tools aren’t nice to have but a must-have for our industry. If marketers can’t easily calculate basic measures such as how many people they are reaching through each vehicle, and whether they are the same viewers or not—well, they risk overwhelming people with boulders or burying others with sand.

Beyond the basics, brands must also take measures to ensure they have the right blend of mass reach advertising and audience based buying in TV as it evolves. Increasingly, new tools and solutions are entering the market designed to bring TV advertising in line with other media in terms of tracking return on ad spend.

In either case, this will require both brands—and their media partners – to knock down internal silos –  as data sharing and media planning coordination will only become more essential.

TV is Getting Harder to Execute

Amazingly, the audience that can be reached via video advertising keeps getting larger, and the measurement and targeting tools available to brands have never been more innovative. Yet TV viewing is getting ever more fragmented, and complicated for brands to employ. 

That’s why it’s imperative for our industry to not rest on its laurels, as streaming and CTV ad spending surges. To fully capitalize on this medium’s potential, we must move faster to develop cross-platform measurement that allows brands to reconcile their reach, frequency, and engagement across all channels. 

This should enable brands to master just when to use Boulders, Rocks, and Sand as effectively as possible to fill in all the gaps of an audience. 

Check out the article on TV Technology, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Digital Remedy updates.

In short: It’s probably not. But as voices around the digital media industry have been telling us, how businesses approach in-housing is changing. It’s becoming rarer and rarer to hear about brands aiming to bring all functions of their ad tech stacks inside. That’s good because managed tech services deliver significant value to the ad marketplace. If a business wants to replace one of its partners with an in-house solution, it should have a real, practical purpose.

Over the last several years, industry leaders have found that building out all primary ad tech functions internally isn’t just daunting – it’s effectively impossible. Today’s digital marketplace is too complex to strategize exclusively for self-service. Specialized tech partners are better suited to navigate that complexity.

There’s a dire need for quality service in ad tech, and that service is becoming increasingly a priority for businesses. A specialized partnership is more important than ever in this current landscape – with myriad digital channels, rapidly changing industry protocol and new regulations around data. It helps ensure optimal campaign performance while preserving the business’s bottom line. And the choices brands and agencies make to ensure success today show they agree. 

This Isn’t the Same Old Programmatic Marketplace

The reasons why the in-housing trend began are straightforward. As the programmatic market emerged, so did third-party services to guide advertisers and publishers. But in time, businesses started questioning whether the margins were too high and the services were not high enough in quality to justify the investment. Many companies assumed they could build teams and solutions in-house for better customization and lower costs.

The catch is that the in-housing trend started when in-housing was a much easier and more cost-effective proposition. Today, it’s not likely that a brand or agency can learn just a bit about each important tech function and expect that’s enough to replicate it on their own. The proliferation of digital channels is difficult for one business to manage effectively. Those channels require specialized knowledge to transact, analyze, measure, and report on. 

Countless Interlocking Pieces To Oversee When In-Housing

A decade ago, we might have been able to think of “outsourcing” as meaning “one person clicking five different buttons” to manage client services. But today, it’s more like ten people clicking a whole lot of buttons on multiple, distinct platforms – to ensure they’re doing things like maximizing CTV/OTT spend, optimizing social budgets, managing digital out-of-home, avoiding duplicating audiences during attribution, and providing insights that are concise enough to understand real ROI.

It’s too much of a lift in operational cost and human resources for one brand or agency to build and adequately oversee these functions. For brands, agency attrition only increases the burden. With a high-quality managed service, the cost of outsourcing delivers obvious value. 

So, once again, managed services can deliver greater value to businesses than self-service. Specifically, performance-driven managed solutions will take us into the future of the digital marketplace. Otherwise, brands and agencies must figure out how to drive ROI from their in-house solutions that can compete against what specialized managed solutions provide. “Good enough” won’t win against “highest quality.” Businesses looking to in-house tech must seriously consider whether they have the resources to go far beyond “adequate.”

AI Can’t Do All the Heavy Lifting 

Considering the direction so many conversations in the industry have gone over the last several months, you’re probably thinking: Why can’t businesses use AI to tackle some of these challenges? AI does hold promise. But it’s not about to relieve the kinds of headaches brands and agencies are dealing with today. AI may lower the cost of automation, but it still requires a great deal of human oversight, verification, and cross-checking of output and recommendations. 

Innovators must make AI results more consistent, comprehensive, and less prone to inadvertent bias or compliance risk. We should expect this process of optimizing AI tools to play out in years rather than months. In advance of any breakthroughs AI may have in the next five years, companies that want to play ball in the current digital landscape will need managed services by real people.

A Broader View of the Marketplace

Another key benefit of bringing in managed services: You can learn more about the right strategies for a business from the outside than from the inside. We can’t underestimate the value of specialization and customized services. This is one of the top takeaways brands and agencies have gained from the in-housing trend: The skills they wanted to take in-house are too specialized to find all the talent necessary.

Managing first-party data, for example, is a primary focus among brands and agencies, and outsourcing complex data-related tasks is far more efficient than building internal teams. Businesses finding external partners can help them build relationships across the digital ecosystem while recognizing internal teams’ blind spots. 

It’s not as though managed services are replacing in-house teams. Instead, they give in-house teams the ability and flexibility to use a variety of partners that can create synergies in the right structures and ultimately benefit the business’s bottom line amid such digital complexity. Businesses weighing the benefits of in-housing versus outsourcing need to ask themselves: Do they have the internal resources to create the same ROI as a managed-service partner, given the tasks and goals? Industry leaders must look at the best drivers of performance and the best ways to position themselves strategically and competitively in the industry.

This byline was featured in AdMonsters.

[As featured in Advertising Week 360] There’s a special place in the AdTech mythos for the “end-to-end solution.” Brands gravitate toward those ostensibly convenient offerings. But it’s high time for an industry reckoning about the real merits and ultimate value of umbrella solutions. It’s simply not feasible for one-size-fits-all AdTech offerings to meet brands’ unique needs and goals. At this moment, AdTech platforms need to shift their approach and work to provide more tailored solutions – to meet their clients’ specific requirements, execute more effective campaigns, and strengthen business relationships.

It’s not complicated why end-to-end solutions have remained widely used by brands, regardless of the value they add. When AdTech businesses come to market, they understand broader solutions can scale across a broader audience. Traditionally, customer-bespoke solutions have been challenging to provide quickly and effectively. But the downside is that the business often ends up with a solution that feels generic, and may not perform consistently across its various intended functions. In the end, the industry’s current status quo doesn’t deliver optimal results for the business of either the brand or the vendor.

So What Does “Customization as Product” in AdTech Mean, in Practice?

All stakeholders in this equation can drive better results from offering or implementing brand-specific AdTech solutions. Customized solutions enable tech providers to surface deeper insights from their efforts on behalf of their brand clients. Brands, in turn, can use those insights to drive more value from their connections with consumers, improving ROI from campaigns on metrics like cost per checkout or per store visitation, return on ad spend, and brand lift. We’ve seen a number of prominent providers lean into customization: Google, for example, allows clients to bring in their own data into its Ads Data Hub, where they can apply their preferred attribution models. We’ve also seen this play out with custom bidding solutions at DSPs.

As the AdTech space evolves, customization will be a product itself that attracts brands to providers. Providers will need to learn how to put customization into production, and to make it replicable for different clients with varied needs. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean bringing scores of distinct bespoke conditions to market. It means creating an underlying tech framework in order to customize on the fly and as needed without overburdening the provider’s tech or client success teams and taking them away from strategic efforts that improve the business’s bottom line.

Focus on the Data Flywheel to Inspire Innovation

If this still sounds like a heavy internal resource lift for AdTech providers, keep in mind that the goal is not necessarily to go from zero to 60 in an instant. Providers need to offer both innovative and traditional solutions. There will always be clients who are hesitant to change processes from what they already know. It’s important to drive all the return you can from those less tailored offerings. And those offerings will give providers important insights about their tech product, to create a flywheel effect that continually informs new product development and enables the provider to make relevant recommendations for customization. Some clients will eagerly embrace innovation. More reluctant clients will be able to see the benefits of bespoke solutions but may require a nudge toward innovation.

To put all this talk about customization in tangible terms, imagine using data around shifts in housing prices to predict geographical locations where home security systems are likely to be in demand or using data around in-store inventory levels to drive more consumers to the right locations where the product they need is available. These are specific cases with specific goals, which can be met by understanding the most necessary data sources and implementing the tech framework to collect, centralize, and process those insights. AdTech providers will need to make relevant data transparent and readily accessible to derive meaningful insights. The tech framework must drive these processes rather than human teams conducting highly manual efforts. The process must be efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable for continued business growth.

Filling Out the Framework Efficiently

In building out that framework, tech providers should look to innovations such as searchable analytics – a must-have, which provides the ability to use natural language to ask questions and draw answers from the data. AI can then use customer data insights to scale custom content and messaging, dynamic creative optimization, and personalization for the client. Tools like ChatGPT are emerging to elevate those AI capabilities without straining the business’s internal resources.

In the midst of all the uncertainty brands and their partners are bracing for in the digital ad ecosystem, one sure thing is that navigating the space will only become more complex. End-to-end solutions should no longer be considered ends unto themselves. Ad tech providers can efficiently devise custom solutions that strengthen their and their clients’ bottom lines by making smarter use of data and creating the frameworks.

Katie Cladis, VP of Product, was featured in AdExchanger, discussing why marketers are outgrowing VCR.

For years, video completion rate (VCR) has been a top metric for digital marketers. The metric held media accountable for delivering impressions that brought value to a campaign, while giving marketers a pricing model they could get behind.

Even today, over 60% of marketers still consider views or plays their most important metric. And yet, there’s so much more that marketers can measure to get a clearer understanding of video performance against more nuanced, campaign-specific goals.

Marketers’ evolving needs

Today, viewability, ad fraud, and brand safety are all important considerations. We’ve also seen a push toward transacting on outcomes and actions – marketers have come to think of video for its performance marketing potential. Meanwhile, audience consumption habits have evolved, too. Higher-quality content on CTV and more time at home have driven growth, accelerated by the rise of native digital TV platforms.

More than a third of streaming viewers subscribe to four or more services, a rapidly growing share. This has led to advertising saturation in the viewing experience. And when the volume of exposure to ads is greater, that decreases the likelihood the viewer will retain or take action because of the ad.

What’s more, marketers right now are facing uncertainty about how a coming recession would affect their budgets. With tighter budgets, CPMs would need to work harder to deliver results, which means video ad spend must be more accountable to action. But all of these changes bring fresh opportunities.

Better measurement opportunities

Consumers had previously expected premium ad experiences in linear TV only. Now, they expect those experiences in CTV and OTT, where they’re typically more cost-effective. CTV and OTT also appeal greatly to DTC brands, whose businesses rely on consumers making purchases via digital channels.

Technological changes since the adoption of VCR have concurrently cracked open marketers’ ability to measure a video campaign’s performance. Marketers can track an audience’s exposure to an ad and link that exposure to an action.

We’ve seen increased sophistication in incrementality measurement to attribute lift to exposure. Attribution models have evolved, allowing marketers to find models suitable for their goals and optimize toward incremental lift. And marketers can take advantage of real-time optimization using AI, which can allocate spend toward the ad units, channels and audiences that are likely to deliver the best performance.

VCR’s evolving role

VCR doesn’t cut it anymore. While it can illuminate aspects of advertising’s performance, it just shouldn’t be at the very center of a modern video ad campaign.

Instead, marketers in video can augment and enhance their measurement methodologies by exploring and implementing more nuanced metrics and tools already at their disposal. In digital media, performance metrics reign supreme. And now they’re measurable in video, including OTT/CTV. Attribution tools can measure campaign impact across all channels, and incremental measurement allows marketers to directly attribute actions.

Familiarity for familiarity’s sake isn’t enough reason to hold VCR above other metrics. There’s great value in a successful digital video campaign. Marketers need to explore the metrics and tools that can deliver the value they’re due.

Check out the article on AdExchanger, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Digital Remedy updates.