The Ins And Outs Of CTV Retargeting

Cross-platform retargeting involving connected television is an increasingly popular, and powerful, capability. To find out more about it, I interviewed Mark Douglas, CEO of SteelHouse, which provides advertising software for reaching audiences across CTV, the web and mobile. The company’s Performance TV solution has been used by thousands of brands over its decade in business. 

Why has cross-platform retargeting including CTV become more feasible, and thus more common, in recent times? 

Douglas: There’s been a large ongoing shift in viewership toward streaming television services for the past few years. It finally reached an inflection point where the volume of users consuming television over-the-top made CTV retargeting viable.

There are two ingredients to retargeting success: a large pool of people visiting your site and a large reach to these users through other channels/devices. With CTV viewership high, it’s become very likely that you’ll be able to see that same user that visited your website in a CTV impression auction. 



Are there remaining obstacles to using CTV retargeting? 

Douglas: There’s no technical obstacle to succeeding with a retargeting campaign on the web, on CTV, or across both. The only inherent limitation is audience traffic volume. If an advertiser gets a healthy amount of website traffic — say 100,000 visitors a month, at minimum – they’re going to be in a great position to succeed with retargeting at scale. 

In basic terms, how does CTV retargeting work? 

Douglas: With our retargeting solution, once a user visits a client’s website, they're in that advertiser’s retargeting pool — which means they’re eligible to be retargeted on CTV and across the web, creating a full-immersion effect for the advertiser. Then a 15- or 30-second TV ad is uploaded and approved.

The rest of the process is like any other programmatic auction, except that instead of it being an auction for ad inventory on a website or mobile app, it’s for a TV spot on a channel like Bravo or ESPN.

Unlike some other solutions, we don't include mobile devices in our CTV campaigns. We've been running CTV campaigns at scale for a long time now, and we've learned that there’s a formula for performance marketing success on TV: TV-connected devices, top-tier publishers, and intelligent media buying technology. When you run CTV ads on mobile devices, performance drops considerably. That’s why we limit our CTV campaigns to TV-connected devices, and reserve mobile for display advertising delivery.

What kinds of advertisers are using CTV retargeting? Is it always used for performance campaigns? Are some product or service categories particularly suited to retargeting? 

Douglas: CTV retargeting is absolutely considered a performance marketing channel. Any advertiser who has had any regular success with other performance marketing channels will realize immediate success with this channel as well, because they already have the knowledge and reporting infrastructure to run and measure the campaigns. 

There’s also a contingent of advertisers who have long been intrigued by the idea of television advertising but never tried it, because they felt it was all prestige and no accountability. We’ve had several clients — tourism bureaus, well-funded consumer goods startups, and even some well-established brands — whose first CTV retargeting campaign with us was also their first TV advertising campaign. Their feedback has been that they wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t been able to measure the campaign’s reach to the last digit, and see their campaign attribution data inside Google Analytics. 

What proportion of CTV advertisers also use retargeting, and what are the drivers for going to that next level? How can an advertiser assess whether retargeting is worth trying for a given product or campaign? 

Douglas: A third of our Performance TV customers add retargeting. Retargeting has consistently been one of the highest-converting methods of online advertising. In fact, CTV retargeting has a verified visit rate that’s eight times higher than CTV prospecting campaigns.

Since you’re constraining your audience to those who already have familiarity with your brand, it frees you from having to worry about top-funnel awareness campaigns. Instead, you can focus on reengaging users. Those who stand to benefit most are those with shorter purchase cycles, as it takes fewer retargeting impressions to drive a conversion.  

How do advertisers budget for using CTV retargeting? 

Douglas: They can approach budget planning exactly as they do for other performance marketing channels, since the conversion rates are comparable. All of our advertisers set up their campaigns to be based off of a return on ad spend (ROAS) or effective cost per acquisition (eCPA) goal. There’s no concern about bidding or need to use manual campaign optimization to ensure that the goals are met. 

What are the most common retargeting misconceptions or mistakes?

First, creating one-size-fits-all retargeting campaigns, due to resource constraints or platform limitations. The best practice is to segment your audience based on signals of engagement.

The “greatest hits” of retargeting segmentation are: two-plus page views (a non-bounced session signals strong single-session interest); two-plus visits in the last 30 days (a repeat visit to your website signals strong brand consideration); and shopping cart abandonment (the segment most likely to convert).  

Another issue we’ve seen with some marketers is too-liberal use of discounts or other incentives in retargeting campaign offers. Eager to reengage site visitors, some make overly generous offers that they hope their target audience will perceive as too good to pass up. But with proper segmentation, most marketers don’t need to use special offers at all in their retargeting creative. Most of the time, simply reminding a user of a product they were viewing, or that your brand still exists, will be enough to reengage them. Full-price offers obviously make for a much more profitable campaign.

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