While streaming viewers are generally accepting of ads, just a third of connected TV (CTV) ads receive two or more seconds of active, eyes-on-the-screen attention, according to a study from Yahoo and Publicis Media that used both facial recognition and ACR data and a consumer survey to probe CTV ad attention and receptiveness.
The study also found that viewers tend to pay more attention to ads on apps that are paid or subscription-based — particularly virtual, multichannel programming distributors (MVPDs) like YouTube, Fubo and Sling TV and hybrids like Hulu, HBO Max and Paramount+ — where there is more intent behind programming choices.
However, some FASTs do generate high ad attention rates. In fact, Xumo outperforms all of its paid counterparts, and the Roku Channel is in the top five.
Viewers also said they expect a better ad experience and are more critical of ads on paid streamers. “When you’re watching a commercial on a [paid] channel… it’s not supposed to be humdrum television,” said one.
Advertising attention increases with age. Younger CTV viewers are harder to engage.
But it’s possible to use streamer type to help target viewers. Those under 18 are nearly 50% more likely to spend time with hybrid apps and those between 18 and 29 are nearly 60% more likely to watch these apps. Smart TV channels on FAST platforms are most popular among those 40 to 49, and standalone FASTs among those 50 to 60-plus.
The paid subscription formats’ average edge in ad attention may in part have to do with the ad experience. Two-thirds of viewers said their worst ad experiences include ads that cut off a show at an unnatural juncture (e.g. mid-sentence), 61% cited ads that cut a show off at a cliffhanger, and 47% cited ad breaks that are not evenly spaced throughout a show.
More than half said the cable ad experience is more predictable than that of streaming services, and that they’d like streaming ads to be more similar to cable.
No streaming format got high marks, but 43% of viewers agreed that the ad experience feels “natural” on vMVPDs, versus 39% saying the same about hybrids, 38% about smart TV FAST channels, and just 33% about FASTs.
Still, nearly half (46%) of CTV viewers said they would rather pay less and receive some ads when adding a new streaming service, 82% expect ads on free streaming services, and seven out of 10 report being at least somewhat satisfied with their CTV ad experiences. In addition, 56% agreed that ads and commercials provide them with useful information.
However, just 63% of all CTV ads were found to be viewable (TV on, one or more person in the room, and on screen for two or more seconds), and just a third of those drew eyes-on-screen attention for two seconds or more.
Half said they frequently have TV on in the background/do other things while watching TV (60% of women, 47% of men), and 44% of FAST viewers said they frequently leave the TV on all day.
The researchers used TVision facial recognition and ACR data to capture attention metrics, analyzing 66,000 ads, 1.3 million impressions, 5,000 households, and 15,000 individuals in 25 DMAs across four CTV ad environments. These included paid subscription-based services that were either hybrid (Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, Discovery+, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video) or vMVPD (Fubo, YouTubeTV, Sling, Philo, DirecTV Stream); and non-subscription-based streaming apps that were either standalone free, ad-supported FASTs (Tubi, Pluto, Roku, Crackle, Vudu, Xumo) or smart TV FAST channels (Amazon Freevee, Vizio’s WatchFree, Samsung TV Plus, LG Channels). The study also included a survey of 1,000 adult CTV consumers done by Open Mind Strategy.
There are many ways to interpret these findings. For example, your typical CTV commercial---FAST or otherwise----captures a smaller percentage of those who were present in the room just before the ad break than it's counterpart on "linear TV". The difference ---which was not reported in this presentation---is about 10-15% in "linear's" favor. How can this be if CTV's superior targeting capabilities brings its ad messages to a more "receptive" audience? And how can it be that" linear TV's"heavily commercialized breaks out perform CTV's generally shorter breaks in delivering ad attentive audiences?
One possible explanation may be that "linear TV" scores higher commercial attention levels because of its pronounced older audience slant---and old folks are less likely to leave the room when a break interrupts program content. Hence they pay more attention to commercials. As for the better targeting explanation, it may be that very few CTV advertisers are fully exploiting this assumed CTV advantage or, if they are, the targeting may need additional refinements to be more effective. There are other possibilities---like the nature of the program content, how the ads are placed and scheduled, what kinds of advertisers are using CTV versus "liner TV", etc.
As we report to our MDI Direct subscribers in an upcoming Alert covering the interesting TVision findings in this study, we are really at the beginning where CTV advertising is concerned and, as was the case with TV when it burst upon the media scene in 1950, there is much more to learn about CTV, which is currently transforming itself into a potentially major "TV" ad platform. Assuming that these early findings about CTV ad attentiveness are accurate, the next step ---before we advance to more sophisticated refinements like outcome attribution---is to find out what are the underlying causes behind these findings. Only then can we move on with a solid understanding of the basics as a foundation for further learning.