‘We want to be as frictionless as possible’: Samsung ramps up its pitch to advertisers across Europe

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Connected TVs are streaming more video than ever to people in Europe and Samsung wants a share of the spoils. 

The TV manufacturer’s advertising division, Samsung Ads, has been selling media on the home screen of its connected TVs since 2015. But in recent months there’s been more demand for those ads. In the midst of the pandemic, more people are using their connected TVs to stream content, which has piqued the interest of advertisers.

“Our aim is to be as frictionless as possible when we work with buying communities and then we use our first-party data and insights to supplement that buy,” said Alex Hole, vp of Samsung Ads Europe.

So much so that Samsung has been looking at ways to get its ads in front of as many advertisers as possible. In May, the business made its CTV inventory available programmatically for the first time to advertisers. It did so exclusively via the ad tech platform SpotX. That could change should Samsung’s discussions with other SSPs turn into concrete deals. The more SSPs selling ads for Samsung the more advertisers that can in theory buy them.

“We’ve had some early discussions with Samsung’s ads team about using our technology to sell their ads,” said an ad tech exec who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s still early days, but I get the impression that Samsung will scale this part of the business next year.”

There are two types of inventory advertisers can buy from Samsung. The first is the format embedded onto the onscreen menu viewers see while deciding what to watch. The second is woven into 120 free, ad-supported channels on the Samsung TV Plus service. This service launched in the summer across seven European markets including the U.K.

“We’re working with our current agency partners as well as advertisers directly to understand how they can intelligently use our data,” said Hole. 

This data is sorted into three categories: data from the TV such as the model and language, data on the devices connected to it such as games consoles and set-top boxes and the viewing data on what is being watched or played on the TV. While this data has always been key to Samsung’s pitch to advertisers, it’s now at the forefront of it. 

Additionally, execs from Samsung Ads are talking up what they describe as “cookie-free, first-party deterministic, TV level data to advertisers, according to agency execs and ad tech vendors who have been in those meetings. As Lawrence Dodds, client director at agency Universal McCann, explained: “There aren’t really any other deterministic data sets that give advertisers a view of how people are watching content on their connected TV, meaning you can target specific games or shows.” 

It’s a rational adjustment for a business that has limited access to exclusive content. Without those deals, there’s less reason for people to watch content on Samsung’s operating system versus a set-top box provider like Sky. And when that happens there are fewer impressions to sell. Samsung is increasingly in the business of delivering audience insights to marketers. 

Take a recent pitch deck Samsung shared with agencies in the U.K. In it, the TV manufacturer talks up the value of insights whereas previously it’s been about the content.  Of the 11 slides, six of them pitch the quality of Samsung’s media data from the five million connected TVs it sells ads on in the U.K. This mirrors Samsung’s strategy in the U.S. where it pitches itself as the largest source of TV data from more than 50 million connected TVs.

But the only way advertisers can access this data is through Samsung. Effectively, the TV manufacturer is running its own mini walled garden around connected TV. This idea is backed by the Samsung’s decision to give advertisers access to exclusive inventory when they buy its ads from its own demand-side-platform. 

Between its own DSP and a growing number of approved SSPs, Samsung is building a closed eco-system where it’s able to retain control over how its data used and its ads sold. Other players in the battle for CTV are following a similar strategy. Commercial broadcaster ITV, for example, said as much when it started building out its own programmatic business two years ago. 

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For now, most advertisers in Europe are looking at ads on CTV as a way to drive incremental reach, similar to the U.S, where those ads are targeted to people who weren’t exposed to them on linear. 

“We’re working with advertisers to look at that total viewing experience to see how they can reach new audiences as they seamlessly navigate between, linear, OTT and gaming, which we’re in a unique position to be able to see,” said Hole. 

There’s a clear advantage to owning the largest screen for content and advertising, but it may not be enough to turn Samsung into a real contender for media dollars. Viewers have too many different ways to access content on Samsung’s CTVs beyond its operating system, from set-top boxes to games consoles. That represents a lot of media real estate Samsung’s advertising division can’t monetize.

In fact, ad spending on CTV is set to double between 2019 and 2023 from $6.9million to $14.1 billion, per eMarketer. Samsung’s share of those dollars will be aggressively pursued by some of the largest media owners in the online video market such as YouTube, Hulu, Roku and Amazon.

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