CTV Ad Loads Are Important, But Not The Whole Ball Game

This week, IAB released a guide summarizing what’s known to date about best practices in CTV, including ad loads, durations and creative formats. 

On the ad-load front, IAB, which worked with numerous media and ad-tech members to produce the report, emphasizes that while lower-than-linear loads are critical, other factors are also key in delivering positive AVOD/FAST experiences. 

Consumers have been conditioned to expect — and value —CTV’s much-lower ad loads (1.56 to 5.36 minutes per hour, versus linear’s 15 to 18 minutes), but ad load reduction has its limits. 

FreeWheel research found that cutting ad loads increases engagement—defined as number of videos watched per visit—but even the best-performing reduction tests upped engagement by just 7%, and repeat visits by only 1%. 



Conclusion: The CTV ad experience also depends on factors including reducing unnecessary creative repetition, managing ad frequency and following technical guidelines that allow for delivering “the right creative asset at the right quality and resolution for the viewer,” notes the guide.

To achieve that balance, publishers are starting to experiment with dynamic pod placement, which allows for changing the number of ads in pods to tailor the experience for a specific person or household, IAB points out. That will be driven by machine learning, which can identify when viewers tune out and adjust the advertising accordingly. 

Turning to ad duration, IAB notes that, in addition to considering the objective — branding versus driving some kind of engagement metric — marketers need to factor in where ads fall in a pod (15 seconds for pre-roll and longer lengths for mid-roll, for example). Pod lengths and ad placements should also reflect the nature of different content, such as live sports versus 20-minute comedy episodes.

IAB acknowledges that ad frequency — not just the number of ads, but the repetition of creative — is viewers’ No. 1 complaint about CTV (a reality confirmed by Conviva’s most recent “State of Streaming” survey). 

“Whether it’s the result of poor advertiser-publisher placement planning, channel conflict among too many tech enablers, or missing or incorrect asset IDs, poor frequency management is causing consumer backlash in CTV,” says the report, referring to a recent Conviva survey finding that excessive frequency is viewers’ top complaint about CTV. 

Multiple (three or more) creative versions are key to avoiding consumer fatigue and creative burnout, and brands can create versions cost-effectively by working with publisher and tech partners, says the report. 

Not surprisingly, IAB also advocates using ad registries like Ad-ID to enable better creative asset management and tracking/reporting across systems. (Last month, NBCUniversal became the first major media company to incorporate Ad-ID into its platform.) 

Managing frequency on publishers’ platforms is easier if one ad server oversees all decisioning, but complex CTV buys can require using multiple servers. 

Ad servers, DSPs and ad-tech platforms are working to streamline measurement and frequency management across content providers and demand sources, and some publishers are also providing modeled data to enable marketers to estimate reach and frequency against a target population, but challenges remain, notes IAB. 

IAB also recommends that publishers use an IFA (Identifier for Advertising) to deliver targeted ads with better control of frequency and ad rotation. IAB Tech Lab’s site spells out guidelines for IFA on CTV/OTT platforms. 

Operational seamlessness is, of course, also critical — in fact, there’s little point in investing in advertising innovations if viewers are being turned off by latency and buffering problems. Adhering to IAB’s latest Digital Video In-Stream Ad Format and VAST 4.x guidelines goes far toward addressing these fundamentals. 

The IAB report, available only to employees of member companies, also discusses various CTV ad formats and innovations (chart above summarizes the frequency of use of key creative formats) and offers CTV creative case studies from several major brands. 

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