Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, CTV/OTT (connected TV/over-the-top) viewership rates were rising rapidly among U.S. voters, and with the spread of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, both total viewers and time spent viewing CTV content have skyrocketed even further. CTV now comprises nearly half of all TV hours among people under 35, and weekly CTV hours have increased 43% since January, with linear TV hours growing just 15% in the same period. 

CTV advertising will be a critical channel for reaching voters in 2020 — but in this new and rapidly changing marketplace, how do you know that your CTV buyer is the real deal? Here are five questions you should ask — and the answers you should be looking for. 

How do you define CTV/OTT?

Historically, CTV has referred to the physical device that streams digital content that would traditionally be accessed via linear TV, while OTT stands for “over the top,” a term that emerged when streaming devices literally sat on top of your cable box.

Technology has evolved considerably since these terms were coined, and CTV and OTT can now be used more or less interchangeably to refer to a broad range of digital content that mirrors the TV viewing experience while bypassing the traditional linear TV outlets. 

Do you consider CTV an extension of the TV buy or the digital program?

Though it references TV in the name, CTV is virtually indistinguishable from other digital inventory in the way it’s targeted, trafficked, bought, and measured. In fact, CTV is a natural extension of a comprehensive digital media plan, one that layers precisely targeted communication with high impact advertising that can be scaled based on gender, age, ZIP code, and more. 

Which CTV vendors do you use?

Just like digital preroll inventory, CTV can be bought directly from publishers like NBC or ESPN, streaming devices like Roku, subscription streaming services like Hulu, or programmatically through vendors who consolidate all inventory available through those sources and more. Often, the same inventory is available through multiple vendors.

Being conversant in CTV’s many variations is essential to being able to deploy it effectively by finding the most premium inventory and maximizing reach. Be very, very wary of anyone whose list of CTV vendors can be counted on one hand — or who can’t list them at all. 

How is this CTV plan targeted to our specific electorate?

CTV inventory isn’t limited to buying based on what TV program someone is watching or by DMA – it can be targeted with precision at the household level just like voter-file targeted preroll video and social media advertising. Your CTV buyer should be thinking about planning in terms of reaching the right people. Based on your district and the needs of your specific race, they should recommend targeting based on household-level voter file matching, ad exposure (i.e. if someone has seen your or your opponents’ ads), frequency across platforms, demographic data, and ZIP-level analysis of voter file targets. 

How do you guard against ad fraud and under-delivery?

CTV – especially when bought programmatically – has more ad fraud than other inventory types, including TV and digital preroll. Because it’s a relatively new product with high CPMs and high margins for vendors, programmatic networks haven’t yet figured out how to avoid bad actors in the space, so managing buying, reporting and analytics in-house is especially important to guard against fraud in real time. Your buyer should be managing your CTV buys themselves, monitoring delivery, viewability, view-through rates and more to ensure your ads are being delivered to the right (human) audience. 

Your buyer should also be monitoring pacing in real time – unlike linear TV, CTV buys are often an estimate of what can be delivered, and CTV networks, including direct publishers, can overestimate inventory. Not a big deal if you’re a brand that can roll impressions over into the next month, but a very big deal if you come up 20% short before Election Day! If your buyer isn’t tracking pacing on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, you’re running a significant risk of under-delivery.  Have more questions about CTV? Drop us a line!