Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

CTV: Ignore it at your peril

By Matt White, VP EMEA at Quantcast

About fifteen years ago, when I was working at Channel 4, I was shown an initial ‘smart’ TV which basically equated to a large computer with apps on. You could tell there was a real buzz around consumers being able to stream content as and when they wanted. Discussions focused on a time when this would be the norm. Fast forward to 2023, and we’re arguably now there. Although linear TV certainly still has its place, CTV is unquestionably growing in popularity in the UK and throughout Europe. 

In fact, research shows more than half of viewers watch more CTV than linear, while 72% prefer CTV. This is something I’ve noticed  in my personal life too. Barring live sport and the news, the majority of the content I view is streamed. I’m not sure my children – aged 12 and 14 – ever watch linear TV.

So why is that happening?

For me personally, it’s twofold. Firstly, content is king and consumers love the choice CTV provides them. Long gone are the days where the shows people watch are dependent on the time they sit down in front of the screen. They can binge-watch their favourite programmes at the click of a button, at any time, on any connected device. There’s also the cost of living crisis, which is having an impact and as streaming giants trial cheaper models or even free-to-view content, eyeballs continue to move away from linear TV.

The question is, what does this mean for marketing teams, and is now the time to engage with CTV? 

Invest, or start playing catch-up

Despite the clear move towards CTV at present in the UK, the marketplace still has plenty of growth left. For example, it will be clear CTV has hit the mainstream when marketing and advertising agencies have CTV-buying units. This activity tends to be wrapped-up within digital at present. Over time, that will inevitably change as CTV becomes increasingly dominant. Within 5-10 years time, we may see the term “CTV” become redundant in the same way the term “digital radio” has. CTV will become the mainstream way to consume content and will simply be referred to as TV again.

During this evolution, teams will recognise CTV for the unique marketing platform it is – combining the tailored targeting available online with the mass reach of TV. It’s this unrivalled reach at scale that will make CTV a true game-changer for advertisers. 

For example, if a beauty brand wants to increase awareness and engagement in the 18-24 female demographic, they traditionally might have taken out advertising space during a show like Love Island. With CTV, that same beauty brand could be infinitely more tailored – targeting 18-24 year old females who tend to go on holiday abroad around Easter and regularly browse the internet for beauty products after work. 

While that reduces the overall number of eyes on the creative, it will be viewed by an audience much more likely to engage with the advert and take subsequent action. Marketers can also run multiple campaigns at once, so that same beauty brand may also want to reach different age demographics with the same parameters around their holiday and browsing habits. They may also have different creatives for other cross-sections of society – such as the LGBTQ+ community. This is all possible simultaneously, rather than linear TV’s one size fits all approach which tends to rely on stereotypical viewing habits more than anything else.

Real-time, not part time

Tailoring for niche audiences is made possible thanks to real-time, first party data rather than the outdated third party cookies marketing teams have relied on for far too long. Many marketers still don’t realise that third party data equates to campaigns being based on insight that can be weeks, or months old. 

Interactive CTV advertising also enables in-depth measurement that simply isn’t possible through linear TV. While the latter can highlight an increase in traffic or sales while an ad campaign is running, there’s no true way to intrinsically tie those sales to marketing spend. CTV is quite the opposite. A tailored ad is played and there is a clear, visible journey from creative to the point of purchase. 

Creative can also be amended in almost real-time if it isn’t having the desired response. Let’s go back to the hypothetical beauty brand. If it becomes apparent a particular message within its creative is resonating particularly well with one of its target demographics, this can be pushed more strongly. Equally, if a message is actively turning prospective customers off, this can be switched out to maximise marketing spend and the effectiveness of a campaign.

It is time to get aboard the CTV train. Those who do so now will quickly begin reaping the rewards of a platform set-up for success, which is only going to grow in popularity. Ignoring CTV now is akin to ignoring the social media boom of the mid-00s.

Don’t make that mistake. You’ll regret it.