CTV Ad Personalization Remains Elusive

No marketer would argue the crucial importance of personalization — particularly at this extraordinary time, when the chaos of regional reopenings and reclosings is forcing advertisers to struggle like never before to deliver appropriate messages to consumers dealing with different circumstances. 

And while consumers are increasingly concerned about misuse of their data, research indicates that they are also increasingly open to relevant, useful personalization in advertising. 

A recent survey on attitudes about personalized advertising, conducted among U.S. adults by the advertising/analytics platform Innovid, found 43% saying it’s important that the digital ads they see are personalized to incorporate geography, interests and behaviors; 29% saying they’d be more likely to buy something if an ad is personalized; and 31% saying they tend to be more loyal to brands that personalize ads. 

This should be great news for connected TV, since personalization is, or should be, one of CTV's key benefits. 



But asked on which platforms they tend to see more personalized ads, just 13% of the Innovid survey respondents said CTV. Only streaming audio was cited less (3%), although YouTube was about on par with CTV, at 15%. In contrast, 45% cited social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and 20% cited websites.

Asked what types of personalized ad they would pay attention to the most, social media (18%) was again the top choice, followed closely by video ads (17%) and TV ads (17%). Website banner ads (13%) and audio ads (2%) saw the lowest interest.

“Consumers have articulated their desire to see personalization in social, digital video and CTV advertising,” said Stephanie Geno, Innovid’s senior vice president of marketing. “Brands need to use data to develop a more tailored, omni-channel strategy, to engage and connect across all channels.”

Why is implementation of personalized ads still a challenge for CTV?

Reading the experts on this topic uncovers a litany of potential technical reasons. But since I’m writing a column, not a book — and am by no means a techie myself — I’m going to stick my neck out here and venture to boil it down to the most rudimentary view. Which is that it essentially comes down to lack of communication on various levels.

The CTV ad-delivery process is, in a word, disjointed. There are many players using many proprietary platforms to perform a host of functions, each with multiple variables.

For a more nuanced but still pithy view from someone who does have the technical chops and experience, I asked Simulmedia chief Dave Morgan.

Here’s his take: “I believe that a big hold-up on driving more personalized ads on CTV is the fact that the ad servers for CTV today are built primarily to integrate into programmatic buying systems, and not so much for delivering more personalized and higher-yielding ad experiences. That’s why so many Hulu subscribers get so frustrated at getting too many of the same ads. 

“Programmatic platforms are very good for retargeting blunt performance-oriented offerings, but they are not good at enabling advertisers and agencies better plan holistic, multichannel personalized ads. Basically, they were built to optimize direct-response ad campaigns on website banners. They’ve been retrofitted to manage video ads in premium CTV environments, but without having the right plumbing or ad management to do it. 

“Plus, the inventory tends to be so fragmented by programmatic systems that it is hard to ‘fix’ the personalization very well at the user level when any number of hundreds of different buyers might be bidding on it.”

Other or additional views on this topic would be welcome, as always. If enough feedback comes in, a follow-up column might be in order.

But before I close, one more plug for Ad-ID, the unified standard for advertising metadata created precisely to enable streamlining of the CTV/premium video ad-delivery process. By now, adoption of this standard should be, but definitely isn’t, more or less universal. Especially since the ANA and the 4As have now provided a workaround for those who are still using VAST 2.0 rather than the current version.

1 comment about "CTV Ad Personalization Remains Elusive".
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  1. Justin Rath from Flashtalking, August 11, 2020 at 12:36 p.m.

    Thank you Karlene. There seem to be challenges at several levels.

    You touched on the interesting point of view from the programmatic side. Subsequent posts could mention the lack of signals (IP address, Device) being passed to an ad server to make personalization decisions - which could result from device limitations or business agreements.

    It would also be interesting to analyze the new workflow that will be required for video creative agencies (who traditionally only focus on the delivery of a limited number of assets - a 30 second tv spot that is cut down to 15 and 6 seconds) to work with digital creative agencies (who usually specialize in personalization).

    Other post ideas RE: Challenges
    Brand & Creative Agency (how to strategize and create, new workflows)
    Media Agency (how to measure success)
    Ad Server (ad creation and targeting)
    SSP/DSP (targeting, ensuring that personalization is possible)

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