How YouTube is working to focus advertisers’ attentions on its connected TV inventory

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At present, YouTube doesn’t necessarily need to pitch advertisers on its connected TV inventory. While YouTube viewership on TV screens is growing faster than on any other type of device, mobile remains YouTube’s biggest device platform and advertisers are more than fine with CTV being part of their broader cross-platform YouTube campaigns.

Still, YouTube does want advertisers to have a better understanding of how they might want to treat CTV beyond than just another inventory source.

In the first half of 2021, YouTube expects to deliver more insights to advertisers regarding what ad creative works best on CTV by compiling takeaways aggregated from the CTV-specific brand lift surveys it started conducting with individual advertisers this year, said Debbie Weinstein, vp of global solutions at YouTube. YouTube already shares creative guidelines with advertisers, but the forthcoming insights will be able to concentrate specifically on the TV screen. 

The insights may lead advertisers to tailor their campaign creative specifically to when an ad would run on CTV. To date — and with exceptions such as advertisers running CTV-only YouTube campaigns around tentpole events — advertisers largely do not treat YouTube’s CTV differently than its other inventory types for a few main reasons. 

In addition to mobile representing a larger share of YouTube’s viewership, many advertisers have taken an audience-based buying strategy for YouTube, so the context in which an ad appears is less important, so long as the corresponding video containing the ad is not inappropriate. “When you’re buying audience-first, you’re not caring what content you’re airing in or on what device. You’re just making sure you’re reaching the audience you determined you want to reach,” said one agency executive.

Compounding matters, YouTube doesn’t exactly make it easy for advertisers to adjust their campaigns’ creative to CTV. If an advertiser wants a different ad to appear when served to a CTV viewer versus a mobile or desktop viewer, YouTube recommends the advertiser set up a separate CTV campaign, Weinstein said. That added effort can be more than advertisers are willing to put in, especially if they are unsure how much it may boost their campaigns’ performance. 

However, advertisers will increasingly have more reason to put in the work to tailor their campaigns to CTV. In addition to YouTube channels’ CTV viewership growing, next year Nielsen will start measuring CTV ads running on YouTube using its Digital Ad Ratings system that offers advertisers a like-for-like metric to compare a digital campaign’s reach with their TV spots.

Additionally, YouTube plans to further develop its ad portfolio for CTV. “We have hinted to the market that working on making sure that all of our [direct-response] formats work on a TV screen is definitely one of our focus areas, and I expect in 2021 we’ll have more to say and announce on that,” Weinstein said.

This article has been updated to reflect that the additional CTV creative insights will become available in the first half of 2021. It previously stated that they would become available in the first quarter, but a YouTube spokesperson clarified the timeline after the article published.

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