Part 3: Advertising beyond walled gardens - Connected TV with FreeWheel

Part 3: Advertising beyond walled gardens - Connected TV with FreeWheel

As we continue our series to discuss media diversification beyond walled gardens (WG), FreeWheel has accepted the challenge to talk about their connected TV (CTV) solutions.

We would like to thank Stefan Beckmann, Commercial Lead Northern Europe, for helping us understand the benefits of CTV as the media to choose outside of WG. It is a trendy topic for many marketing teams with changes of behaviors that have impacted our society since January 2020. More homestay and fewer possible distractions have concentrated a lot of attention on new ways to interact with the audience through digital channels.

95% of the German households have at least one TV, 65% of which are Smart TVs. Yet the IPTV connection figures are rising two-fold, reaching 15% in 2020, including 3% of internet-only devices.

As we will see here, CTV has a lot of benefits and shows to be a trend that reconciles TV and digital. 

Lauriane Tiard-Caillaud von MMT in interview with Stefan Beckmann from FreeWheel:

Stefan, thanks, for taking the time, to talk with me about the exciting topic of connected TV. If you had to choose ONE solution beyond walled gardens, why choose CTV?

CTV is a TV-like advertising experience enhanced with the operational benefits of digital advertising. For consumers, CTV opens up a wide choice of premium video content both on-demand and live. For media buyers (inhouse or in agencies) CTV gives access to TV screen advertising delivery, using a digital-like campaigns booking system which includes, for example, targeting options - such as contextual targeting – easier to book even if you are not a TV buying expert. CTV inventory buying can be part of video campaigns that are running programmatically and, in this way, complement linear TV inventory buying.

CTV offers many benefits, but in particular: it can allow advertisers to reach harder-to-reach audiences or access to TV-like environments without the entry ticket of fully-fleshed linear TV campaigns. For publishers, CTV brings a unique distribution platform, which helps to reach audiences that may have cut the cord and therefore harder to reach on traditional TV. For marketers, it is about reaching engaged viewers, in a targeted way on an impression basis.

After all, one important aspect of CTV… is the TV! A big screen in the living room, together with the socialization component behind it (co-viewing with family and friends). 

Including CTV into your planning and trafficking it from an online platform like MMT based on an equivalent type of digital environment and solutions as the rest of the digital activities, but appearing on the big screen - that we all like so much - sounds great to me! What are the major benefits of FreeWheel when compared to other channels - either walled garden or not?

We recently ran a survey in the top 4 major European markets (UK, France, Germany, and Italy) in February 2021 about surveyed viewers’ attitudes towards CTV. Our survey shows that users interviewed perceive a great potential in the development of advertising founded content on TV format as 68% of the EU4 market would be willing to watch ad-funded TV content. Advertising is entrenched in TV. However, on TV screens we must overcome the past mistakes of digital to safeguard the inherent nature of TV – its premium nature (ie: professionally produced, brand safe, rights managed and limited in supply). FreeWheel has one mission at its core bringing scale, transparency, measurement, flexibility, and interoperability to the advertising market. In a nutshell, our approach to technology, data, and automation provides the simplicity, efficiency, and optimization that our clients need to achieve their advertising goals – with transparency, trust, and control.

The publishers that are onboarded are thoroughly checked by a dedicated team and FreeWheel works with trusted thirst-party vendors to ensure we provide high quality and brand safe CTV inventory. Prevent potential ad fraud. Due to its digital nature, CTV is not immune to fraud so it is essential to put in place some stringent processes to ensure we deliver on safety, viewability and brand suitability. CTV is aspiring to be as qualitative as TV, doing its best to remain 100% clean and safe for brands and providing no inappropriate context from the platforms.

On the business side, we feel that the ease of execution is bringing a serious plus to CTV as it is coupled with the digital environment for operations. 

TV has a platform that remains the most powerful and qualitative device at home to convey branding, but many brands are stopped by the entry cost and complexity of navigating the programming and planning hurdles. CTV addresses these barriers with the digital-like operations approach. What are the constraints of your solution? 

CTV adoption is still in its infancy, especially in Germany, where the reach is limited, but respondents have expressed in our survey very positive attitudes towards CTV, whether for its viewing experience, or its social nature. 44% of respondents have declared watching content on their connected TV screen along with the members of their family - which keeps TV as a driver of social experience.

Reach seems to be growing across Europe: for example, almost 90% of respondents said they use some types of VOD platform regularly, with AVOD already representing 20% in the UK.

Subscription service still has the lion share, but advertiser-funded models are emerging. 

The technology also accompanies the new way consumers are approaching their relationship with content watching on and off TV. CTV permits also to fund these new approaches, I suppose.

Which audience do you address?

CTV provides a TV-like experience. In the early days of CTV, the audience skewed towards the younger generation as the younger public is definitely more present in the digital environment. But while the Millenials were early adopters of CTV, and still represent the lion share of the audience, the trend is now narrowing with more adults adopting the platform to access premium content. Audiences are more diverse today. This wider adoption is also driven by the fact that households at some point need to replace their own TV screen due to obsolescence. If we deep dive into eMarketer’s GlobalWebIndex Q1-Q2 2019 & Q1-Q2 2020, we see that smart TV owners fastest-growing segment in Q1 2020 was internet users aged between 55 and 64 years old (+5% YOY).

Media planners could be tempted to think “digital-only” when they want to target an audience under 30 but media planning tactics should be nuanced more than ever before.

From a targeting standpoint, many of our publishers offer contextual targeting, enabling buyers to target specific audiences based on the content they are watching. Buyers’ demand for contextual targeting is increasing as it can maximize user experience and campaign efficiency.

In addition, the FreeWheel study found that respondents prefer CTV for its on-demand offering, which shows how the content itself is a vital data source. Contextual targeting will take its place alongside socio-demographic and behavioral targeting, and programmatic will enable this combination.    

If we extend to OTT (which is about advertising in the TV publisher environment but on all types of devices), It is even more true, I suppose! How is CTV measured? 

The question of measurement is a recurrent one and the currency for CTV measurement is still in development, while progress has been made, we are still in the early days. The challenge is that CTV is really at the crossroads of Digital and TV.

CTV reporting is provided with the codes which belong to digital - including currencies - from Click Through Rate (CTR) to View Through Rate (VTR)... We do need standardized currencies to apprehend the full power of CTV. FreeWheel provides premium video inventory across a multitude of platforms at scale, which means comprehensive measurement and reporting is a priority for us. We recently announced our partnership with Analyser and TVSquared to deliver enhanced measurement and reporting for advertisers and agencies of all sizes. Collaboration within the industry is key.

It is one example of our ongoing efforts to ensure FreeWheel clients can always accurately attribute their TV ad spend and better understand the role of TV in the customer journey.   

As it is at the crossroads of both, there are two important points to it: there are no viewability questions to CTV as the brand is demonstrated alone on the screen, but just like in the case with traditional TV, it is impossible to confirm who is actually watching it, right?

Indeed, viewability in CTV environment is very compelling for advertisers. With CTV providing a TV-like experience (full-screen, audio on, lean back experience), the ad completion rate is very high, well over 90% on average.

The first step to measuring properly depends on consent. Consent could be collected by either publishers or operators for then being able to build an authentic measurement framework and leverage audience metrics.

Some progress is being made and some measurement methods are emerging, especially through programmatic channels. For instance, the ability to target users through device ID. These new tactics allow advertisers to leverage their first-party data in order to reach specific audiences. Other solutions are also available to build audience profiles for targeting when device ID is not available.

In parallel, it would be interesting to offer a comparable measurement with the one from AGF (a panel system providing TV ratings for the German market) to be able to integrate and compare results to TV based on a GRP-like standard.

Measurement is a challenge, but advancements are being made and it would be interesting for advertisers and their agencies to consider CTV. The engaged audiences and marketing effectiveness that CTV brings to marketers is likely to make it an essential tool in their arsenal.

Stefan, thank you very much for your time and the exciting conversation about connected TV. We are looking forward to working with you and your team at FreeWheel.

What is FreeWheel?
FreeWheel, A Comcast Company, empowers all segments of The New TV Ecosystem. We are structured to provide the full breadth of solutions the advertising industry needs to achieve its goals. We provide the technology, data enablement, and convergent marketplaces required to ensure buyers and sellers can transact across all screens, across all data types, and all sales channels, in order to ensure the ultimate goal – results for marketers. With offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Beijing, and across the globe, FreeWheel, A Comcast Company, stands to advocate for the entire industry through the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video. For more information, please visit www.freewheel.com, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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We hope you enjoyed the interview with Stefan Beckmann from FreeWheel and that you were able to take away useful information for you and your company. To discuss your individual challenges and how you can scale outside the walled gardens with our leading media management platform MMT Mercury. Do not hesitate to be in touch.

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