Most CTV Ads Miss The Frequency 'Sweet Spot'

Earlier this week, I reported on some key findings from an in-depth study on attention and receptiveness to connected TV ads, from Yahoo and Publicis Media, that employed facial recognition and ACR data and a consumer survey.

Those points, in a nutshell:

*Streaming viewers are generally accepting of ads, but just a third of CTV ads draw two or more seconds of active, eyes-on-the-screen attention.

* Viewers tend to pay more attention to ads on paid, subscription-based apps, including vMVPDs like YouTube, Fubo and Sling TV and ad-free/ad-supported tier hybrids like Hulu, HBO Max and Paramount+, than to ads on free, ad-supported streamers (FASTs) or smart-TV channels on FASTs (like Amazon’s FreeVee).

* CTV advertising attention increases with age. It’s more difficult to engage the attention of younger viewers.



* Viewers under 30 are much more likely to spend time with hybrid streaming apps. Standalone FASTs, like YouTube TV and Tubi, are most-viewed by those age 50 and up. Smart TV channels on FASTs are most popular among those 40 to 49.

* Most consumers aren’t impressed by the ad experiences delivered by any of the four paid and free ad-supported formats studied. Asked if these platforms deliver  “natural,” cable TV-like ad experiences, 43% of consumers agreed that vMVPDs deliver such an experience, and even fewer said the same about FAST channels (39%), hybrids (38%) and FASTs (33%). Awkward ad breaks during programming and ads that aren’t evenly distributed across a program are major turn-offs.

* Only two-thirds 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.

But that summary didn’t include several other potentially valuable insights produced by the study, so I’m sharing those here:

*Frequency matters. Attention peaks at six to 10 ad exposures — but 85% of impressions never hit this peak (chart top of page).

On the other hand, over-repetition can negatively affect brand sentiment. More than two-thirds (67%) of viewers say they’re annoyed by seeing the same ad more than once within the same ad pod. Attention drops when viewers are exposed to the same ad within two minutes, and remains lower for ads aired less than five minutes apart.

The “sweet spot” for attention is six to 10 exposures, with 12 to 24 hours between exposures. 

* While CTV ad attention is highest during traditional linear prime time, it also has peaks of attention during the early and late morning periods that may offer attractive, less costly opportunities for advertisers.

* The audio aspect of CTV creative is critical. Half (53%) of consumers report frequently having CTV on in the background while they do other things, or even leaving it on all day long as background, and 81% said they still hear/listen to the audio when CTV is in the background.

* Ad-pod position and length matter. Ads that air in the first in-pod position capture at least two seconds of attention 38% of the time, and draw an average attention length of 11 seconds. Longer (60-second) ads, in particular, perform best in the first position. Pods of under 90 seconds up to four or five minutes in length generate 36% to 38% attention rates, but pods that are five minutes or longer drop to 27%.

*Changing creative over multiple exposures has a positive impact on receptiveness to brands. Seeing different lengths of an ad has a positive, but lesser, influence.

*Longer ads get more attention time, but viewers see less of the total ad.

*Content genres with higher engagement during viewing also draw higher ad attention. Crime dramas have the highest ad attention (46%), followed by political commentary/coverage (39%) and game shows/competitions (38%), other dramas (35%), and horror/mysteries (34%). The top three genres for ad attention during co-viewing are game shows, political and family.

*Contextually relevant ads draw more attention. For instance, the average attention level for all 30-second ads in the cooking genre was 20%, but vertical food/beverage ads’ rate jumped to 45%. Two-thirds of viewers said that ad experiences are better when they feature elements or people from the program they are watching.

*Personalization is key (59% want ads relevant to them/their interests), but 62% say most streamed ads aren’t relevant to them, and 54% say social media delivers more relevant ads than streaming services.

* Sponsorships outperformed conventional ads on getting at least two seconds of attention, attention time, and attention conversion.

*Consumers want to control their ad experiences, including seeing a countdown timer, choosing the ads or ad categories they’ll see, and interacting with ads.

* Viewers describe “ideal” ads as ones that are funny, to-the-point, feature good/catchy music, clearly identify the brand being promoted, and tell a story.

3 comments about "Most CTV Ads Miss The Frequency 'Sweet Spot'".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 24, 2023 at 8:54 a.m.

    Karlene, the difference between the ad watching level for a single exposure ---52%---and the "sweet spot"--or 6-15 exposures---which is pegged at 55%--is extremely small. Also, if the average ad viewing rate for CTV commercials is in the vicinity of 35% from the same source how can the figures cited in this table be so much above the norm?

    As for the statement made in the presentation that 85% of CTV commercials never reach the "sweet spot"---meaning that their frequency levels are low---- that is not unusual as the same thing applies to most TV schedules. In this case if a quintile analysis was conducted you would probably find that 20% of those who look at a brand's commercials account for 50% of the ad contacts---just like we often see in linear TV r&f tallies.

  2. Brianna Santoro from LG Ads Solutions, October 4, 2023 at 11:39 a.m.

    Do we know how long this study was ran for? 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 4, 2023 at 12:56 p.m.

    Another possibility for the slightly higher attentiveness findings for 16+ viewings compared to 2-5 viewings is that the former---2-5 exposures--- would probably include a higher percentage of younger, generally lighter, viewers while the latter --16+ exposures----probably had a higher proportion of heavy viewing oldsters. Since older viewers are more attentive to commercials than younger ones, this, alone might be the explanation. I wonder what the results would look like if the data were only for adults aged 30-50.

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