The Fundamentals Of Upfront Planning for CTV

Author: Christine Grammier


The television advertising landscape fragmentation struggle is not new, but it is very real. With Connected TV becoming the predominant way video is consumed, marketers need to adapt quickly to make sense out of the alphabet soup that includes CTV, OTT, AVOD, and SVOD in order to extract the most value for their advertising spend. While these newer channels are bringing data, speed, and agility to the TV marketplace, marketers must find the gaps and reinvent the traditional TV planning process.


Given everything that happened in 2020, it’s imperative to focus on your pre-Upfront planning strategy for 2021/22 rather than waiting for the mythological “singular, perfect planning tool that can rule them all.” Previously, you may have focused on linear GRPs to achieve specific reach and frequency goals, and developed a custom mix to attain them. It's easy to manipulate scenarios with traditional linear planning tools and achieve these goals. But this year you have to think about how to balance reach and frequency cross-screen, and where to layer on audiences for more precise targeting where CPMs are at premium. You should be thinking about how to set and track KPIs to align more closely with business goals, and you're going to need to reevaluate your strategic process over the next few months to bring these key planning elements together.


The good news is there are solution providers that bring the most important elements of Upfront planning together, such as activation and measurement. Here are three things to consider while deciding which solutions will best support your Upfront strategy and beyond:


  1. Plan your holistic approach with identity in mind. Even if you want to just reach adults 18-49 and measure delivery across screens, you still need to have a clear understanding of identity. It sits at the center which powers everything: planning, activation, measurement, and guarantees. Authenticated people-based identifiers are durable, work omnichannel, and can provide the most accurate and best match rates. Marketers should focus more on the quality of the matches and not the volume of matches.
  2. Activate data everywhere. Even when reach is your goal, data should be part of your cross-screen strategy. Make sure your first- and third-party data can be activated across the advertising ecosystem easily and consistently. You can be far more effective with reach and accuracy if your audiences have consistency in how they are defined. Activating audiences also helps manage budgets cross-screen and enable transparency, especially when buying CTV premium video inventory. Keep in mind that when it comes to speed and agility, interoperability can help reduce counts, forecasts, and data transfers to days vs. weeks. Take the steps today to check your audience match rates with partners and properly arm yourself with the intel to negotiate in the Upfront.
  3. Cross-screen measurement. Participation and collaboration from a large and diverse set of partners (programmers, MVPDs, CTV, OTT platforms, etc.) provides impactful coverage that matters. Having the ability to merge online data such as ACR, STB, and digital for Upfront planning is critical. Solutions that can bridge both online and offline data, such as store visits, will set marketers up for their entire year of planning. Decide on the metrics that matter most—whether it’s KPIs like website visits or reach or audience-specific such as demographic or psychographic. Knowledge is power, and the clearer picture you have of how your media is performing, the easier you can pivot when it matters.


You can take much of the guesswork out of buying CTV when you strategize and plan your approach using identity, activate data everywhere, and measure cross-screen. However, understanding premium CTV inventory will be the next consideration to focus on. Having insight into all available inventory is key to strategic Upfront planning. To help deliver your KPIs more efficiently, work directly with media owners to gain access to the most “premium” inventory relative to your brand’s audience. Layer on measurement to understand the value of the incremental audience being delivered, and know it might be worth an audience strategy that focuses on suppression.


Marketers are currently in that critical window for planning their CTV strategy, and in a few short months will negotiate deals that will affect their top line for the next year. That’s why it’s important to do foundational work now so you can reap the rewards this year and beyond as the marketplace continues to evolve. Because if 2020 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. 

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