More People Are Watching AVOD—But Are Advertisers Reaping the Benefits?

As noted last week, in the first part of this two-part series, streaming consumption in the U.S. rose dramatically during the pandemic, and, according to a Deloitte study, half of those streaming Americans were watching content from ad-supported video services (AVOD)—a figure that had grown by 18% in just a year.   

This level of growth has been a boon to the AVOD companies that provide the programming as well as to the advertisers that have targeted the viewers these services have assembled. But it’s also raised a critical set of questions: Is this advertising working? How is it working? And how do we know that?

“Just three or four years ago,” says Tyler Fitch, vice president of advertising partnerships at Tubi, an AVOD service acquired by Fox Entertainment last year, “OTT was a black box. And that was really hindering the growth of budgets” at services like Tubi. He compares OTT’s status then to the growth of mobile over the past decade. Mobile, he points out, “didn’t hit scale until Facebook and Google solved ROI and showed advertisers that their money was working for them.”

What’s Inside the Black Box?

OTT, says Fitch, is in “the same place right now,” which indicates that it’s time to show what’s going on inside the black box. At Tubi, for example, “our users have been growing so fast that we really needed to lean into proving our worth with advertisers. That meant proving the effect that we’re having on our users.” That required, he says, “finding different ways for advertisers to measure their media outside of the Nielsen standard”—a standard that had been golden for linear TV for more than half a century.

Part of this effort also involves helping advertisers, as Fitch puts it, “feel comfortable moving their budgets to streaming.” For many advertisers, Fitch notes, “this is often a first-to-market experience. The future is being able to provide measurement for buys where brands weren’t able to get click data, where they’re not able to get Nielsen data. Getting them outside their usual box means giving them a way to measure their media” in this new environment.

To do that, Tubi has developed integrated partnerships with a number of third-party research firms, including Kantar, TVSquared, and Foursquare, that are able to assess the impact that ads seen on Tubi have on its largely young and diverse viewers. At the IAB NewFronts on May 5, Tubi detailed some of the outcomes it is able to provide through what it is calling the Certified Measurement Program.

One of the advantages that AVOD services such as Tubi have over traditional TV is their ability to track audience habits and preferences in order to develop personalized programs that are more likely to build viewership, engagement, and loyalty—an ability that, in Tubi’s case, is enhanced by its roots in technology. This heritage has allowed the company to build a tech stack for the big screen, rather than just mobile and display environments, at the same time that it applies advanced measurement and attribution solutions.

As Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier told the NewFronts audience, by understanding what programming viewers respond to, Tubi is able to “populate” a specific subscriber’s “platform with like-minded recommendations,” creating, in essence, personalized experiences for each subscriber. This customization creates positive consumer sentiment and enthusiasm, which translates into support for those advertisers that are underwriting the free content the subscribers are enjoying.

Opting in to Provide Information

The key to understanding the depth of that support is knowing what those consumers do after they’ve seen the ads. Toward that end, and with an eye on both serving its streamers and respecting their privacy, Tubi leverages both opt-in first-party data and privacy-compliant third-party data from its partners to clearly understand the impact a household’s exposure to an ad has had: How do viewers feel about the brand? Did they make a purchase as a result?

“Measuring a brand's impact across the consumer journey after they’ve seen the ad is done in a way that is customized to advertisers’ information needs and KPIs.”

With access to this sort of information, Tubi and its Certified Measurement Program can work with advertisers in a consultative capacity to develop research programs that, as Fitch describes it, “track the customer journey with the brand after they’ve seen the ad on TV,” but in a way that is customized to the information needs and KPIs of specific advertisers. “An approach that makes sense for one advertiser isn’t going to work for another,” Fitch notes. For example, while one advertiser might be looking to see if a subscriber went to a quick service restaurant (QSR) after they saw its ad, another might be looking for an uptick in website visits directly tied to ad exposure, and another might be looking for evidence that it’s winning back customers—all information not available to advertisers who have been, as Fitch puts it, “held to the Nielsen standard.” Because of the way these ads are served, he notes, “we’re able to track outcomes and anything else that comes from a digital ad impression. And because we work with a range of top-tier measurement partners, we’re able to bring our clients’ solutions across the funnel.”

Proof Points

The research that Tubi did with its partners on behalf of its advertisers showed exactly the sort of impact the advertisers were hoping to find. For example, working with TV measurement firm TVSquared on behalf of the grocery chain Winn-Dixie and its agency, USIM, Tubi was able to determine not only that 54% of the audience that had been exposed to the Winn-Dixie ads had then visited the retailer’s website, but that 79% of the households Tubi had reached with this ad were incremental to linear inventory.

“More significant, perhaps, was the impact measured by visits to restaurants in the QSR’s five key markets, where the uplift hit 62%.”

In a study Tubi conducted with another partner, a leading QSR experienced a 16% uplift in visits to its restaurants. More significant, perhaps, was the impact measured by visits to restaurants in the QSR’s five key markets—New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Miami—where the uplift hit 62%.

Taking this further, Tubi worked with the data analytics company Kantar to look at the impact ad exposure had on brand perception on behalf of a large consumer packaged goods advertiser. The findings: Among lapsed customers alone, there was a 104% lift in ad awareness, a 22% lift in brand awareness, a 49% lift in brand favorability, and, perhaps most important, a 47% life in purchase consideration.

“Audiences coming to connected TV are differentiated” from other media audiences, says Fitch. “They’re not reachable in other places.” But while that statement might be an article of faith for those, like Fitch, who spend their days cultivating these audiences, it’s still new enough that for many advertisers, accustomed to both media and measurement systems with a longer legacy, there’s a critical need for proof points. The intersection of a tech-based AVOD service and data specialists steeped in tracking consent-based consumer behavior could be what pushes AVOD growth even further than what we’ve witnessed over the past year.

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