How brands drive positive attention on CTV

Pete Crofut, vice president, business development, agencies and brands, Wurl

The adage that all publicity is good publicity doesn’t necessarily apply to advertising, especially on connected TV. As a non-skippable environment on the largest screen in the home, CTV offers brands a prime opportunity to meaningfully capture viewers’ attention through ads — while it can also pose a significant risk if not done right.

Attention has often been considered a way of measuring ads’ effectiveness on CTV, but not all attention is created equal. Positive attention on CTV means relevant audiences meaningfully interact with an ad, leading to mental availability, future engagement with the brand and, ultimately, return on investment. Negative attention, on the other hand, does just the opposite, turning viewers actively away from wanting to engage with a brand.

Achieving alignment among ads, CTV programming and the intended audience is necessary to foster positive attention, maintain brand suitability and drive the mental availability that leads to conversions. Yet, CTV’s complex landscape doesn’t make this easy, often preventing advertisers from aligning the tone of their ads with surrounding content.

CTV fragmentation and tech limitations make positive attention challenging

There are three obstacles for advertisers and publishers who want to achieve content-ad-audience alignment to drive positive attention.

The first challenge is fragmentation. In the days of linear-only TV programming, advertisers could evaluate the entire landscape and select programs that fit their audience’s taste and brand ethos. However, CTV delivery mechanisms, platforms and programming are constantly evolving. Connected TV has become more like display advertising; it’s almost impossible for any media buyer to survey the entire landscape. This requires tools that automatically find connections between an advertiser and available inventory.

The second challenge is the availability of tools — or media buying mechanisms — to purchase CTV inventory related to advertising content and appealing to a brand’s ideal audience. Programmatic CTV spend is expected to grow from $21.52 billion in 2023 to $25.34 billion in 2024. TV advertisers are still adapting to programmatic buying methods and testing them to ensure they drive optimal performance.

That leads to the third challenge: understanding the actual context of CTV content and gauging which contextual segments to best optimize toward to drive positive attention and boost performance. Popular forms of contextual targeting, like genre-based targeting, have historically been too broad. Shows get labeled, for example, as comedies or dramas. However, many comedies are dark and many dramas are comedic. The real question is whether an ad makes sense in the context of the episode or even the scene against which it appears.

The digital advertising industry is only cracking the surface of measuring attention in general, meaning how long consumers’ eyes stick to an ad. The nature of attention — positive or negative — and a better understanding of which contextual signals work to skew viewers in either direction represents another opportunity for the industry.

How advertisers drive positive attention by unlocking emotional resonance 

New approaches to contextual advertising on CTV, driven by the advancement of technologies like generative AI, are changing how brands can capture positive attention on the big screen. 

Emotional alignment between an ad and the content an audience consumes is essential in driving positive attention. When an ad matches the audience’s mindset, it feels less like a paid message and more like part of the story they’ve chosen to watch. This connection helps the brand get the audience’s buy-in and puts them in the frame of mind to receive the ad well.

Such alignment is part of what it means to take advantage of the video format in particular. TV ads create experiences around brand, sight, sound and motion — experiences only video can elicit. Video ads don’t need to convince people to feel joy or excitement; they already feel those emotions when they watch TV. Well-aligned ads enhance those feelings instead of disrupting them.

Another consideration is brand suitability, which is easier to ensure with a more detailed understanding of content through emotion. For instance, an advertiser might not want to block all news programming, but they may choose to avoid particularly gruesome topics that elicit negative emotions.

Similarly, an advertiser might not want to avoid ‘The Lion King’ altogether, but they likely don’t want to run an overly happy and lighthearted ad to interrupt the movie right after Mufasa dies. Greater granularity into the content against which an ad will run, including the moment or scene in which it will run, avoids punishing publishers for putting out serious or complex programming while placing ads where they will be best received.

Effective TV advertising comes back to serving the audience

Ultimately, an advertiser’s goal is to craft messages that resonate with audiences on an emotional level and put ads in places that magnify positive emotional associations, not negative ones.

New technology is helping fill the gaps by analyzing amounts of data and content in real-time that would’ve been impossible to crunch previously and finding the optimal place and time for each ad. Generative AI is paving the way, and advertisers must consider emotions and contextual relevance to ensure the attention they’re driving is the right kind.

Sponsored by Wurl

More from Digiday

The era of the in-depth brand and gaming creator partnership has arrived

To reach gamers outside of video games, brands have moved beyond one-off activations based on specific intellectual properties toward more fully integrated programs that span across all aspects of a creator’s community and fandom.

Companies seem determined to make everything a retail media network. How did we get here?

Brands are leveraging retail media to push the boundaries of where and how we can shop. How did we get here?

Sifting through ‘the noise’: AI tools for HR are evolving fast – here’s how to catch up

Like with all emerging tech, sorting the useful from the useless, is critical and time-consuming.