D2Cs Learning To Use OTT In The Performance Mix

Today, legacy brands have joined digital-native brands in embracing direct-to-consumer channels. And both are increasingly interested in harnessing the potential of OTT.

“We see the OTT space as being ripe for two kinds of brands: TV advertisers that are looking to recapture some of the impressions and reach that are no longer available through traditional channels, and challenger brands that don’t have direct broadcast budgets but can play in the TV space for the first time through OTT,” offered Jesse Math, speaking as vice president social and OTT at global brand performance marketing agency ForwardPMX. (Math has subsequently moved to Tinuiti as VP planning and platforms, OTT lead.)

Today, there’s benefit in learning to use OTT, and disadvantage in not being there, he believes.

“Consumers are moving to OTT channels. So we need to start from the perspective that OTT can work; we just need to understand how to use it to advantage,” Math said during MediaPost’s most recent TV & Video Insider Summit.  



In the past couple of years, the agency has been challenging clients to revisit “what it means to drive performance, and what a performance plan looks like in today’s day and age,” he said.  

“As performance marketers, we’re trying to get consumers to do something they wouldn’t have done without the medium investment. What we’re saying to our brand partners is that if [digital display ads], which are generally accepted as part of a performance media plan, can do that, then certainly OTT — using sight, sound and motion in non-skippable premium video — can do that, as well.”

At the same time, “What’s working is the ability to leverage data and measurement and to approach not just OTT, but all digital channels, from a unified audience strategy perspective,” he stressed. “You can now apply the same data sets to OTT that you’re applying to display and social buys. You’re literally building an ecosystem around the consumer to drive performance… it’s a full-funnel approach to performance — to driving business outcomes such as measured conversions.”  

ForwardPMX — which doesn’t buy TV in-house — feels strongly that OTT is TV for a digital world, and should be measured as digital, he said. As a result, reach and frequency are viewed as metrics to optimize around, not goals in and of themselves. “The goals are conversion rates, revenue, site traffic or foot traffic to brick-and-mortar,” Math explained. “We have to understand the reach and frequency that were behind those metrics, but we’re not out to just drive reach for reach’s sake.”

The agency prefers using programmatic because it enables centralizing OTT and online video buys and helps overcome fragmentation problems. “One of the challenges the OTT buyer faces is that no one sells all of anything,” Math observed. “Hulu doesn’t sell the most premium NBC content, for instance. And the carriage rates differ with every platform and publisher. So the only way to make sure you’re reaching audiences no matter what they’re watching is by in effect working with ‘everyone.’”

Programmatic also provides the assurance needed to buy new OTT platforms, he said. “If someone comes to me with new inventory, I’ll buy it, because if I’m buying it programmatically, and the audience is there, I’ll deliver on them." And programmatic is particularly beneficial for D2Cs that don’t have large budgets, because there are no minimums, he added. “I set up private marketplace deals. Some scale, while others deliver in relatively small fashion, but can be optimized based on the data we get back.”

In contrast, Modi Media, the Group M agency specializing in advanced TV, typically buys through platforms, reports its president, Marissa Jimenez, a session co-panelist. “We’re looking for that additional first- and third-party data and the platforms’ subscription-based viewership data, and the merging of the two,” she explained.

Focusing on platforms also minimizes duplication, because people typically use one device, she said. “We’ve analyzed it, and the duplication is minimal across devices.”

From Modi’s perspective, “What’s exciting about the CTV ecosystem is the ability to test whatever you want, because the data is there,” she said. “There are tons of opportunities to test and learn.”

Math agreed, noting that because it’s rare to test OTT in a vacuum, “ultimately, what we’re testing is, does adding OTT to an overall media mix make that media mix work harder?’

As for metrics, “we need to be able to answer first, if we’re serving ads to people who are converting,” he said. “Second, by using test-and-control, we need to start to measure some of the incremental lift.”

Still, it’s important to acknowledge that there’s an element of “drinking the Kool-Aid” in any metric chosen, including cross-device, pixels and other methods that he uses to measure post-exposure conversion rates, Math said.    

“As a centralized buyer, I’m making the choice to own my measurement, as well as my ad buys, dollars and content,” he added.

Modi relies on ad servers to report back on the reach and frequency against a custom audience, Jimenez said. The agency addresses attribution at the end of a campaign, by having first-party, sales or other data sent to a neutral third party to assess the campaign’s effect on sales, brand health or other factors.

The analysis also includes deeper insights and optimization recommendations for elements such as frequency, dayparts and choice of networks and channels.

“Sometimes it’s most important just to prove the overall success of the campaign,” she said. OTT is “still a nascent space, and people are still somewhat timid about how much they should spend. So you need to overcome that by showing them that they spent this amount, and got this amount in return. Once they’re more comfortable, you can dig further into analysis, like the optimizations and what can be done better. It’s a work in progress as we bring people through the journey of OTT and addressable.”

The big promise of OTT and other data-driven TV is being able to answer those types of specific questions, Math pointed out.

Both agencies “are focused on reaching consumers in a targeted way that results in business outcomes,” he summed up.

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