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Measuring the incremental reach of the booming CTV marketplace and understanding for the first time the make-up of its audience is one of the major predictions for the year ahead for Edward Wale, the EMEA managing director at video ad platform SpotX.

Speaking to The Drum’s John McCarthy, Wale tells how measurement has long been the Achilles heel of the industry, hindering the exponential growth of CTV as ad budgets skew towards the agreed metrics of linear audiences rather than to non-linear.

But scale has now arrived for CTV, he says, and while the Covid pandemic may have helped accelerate its growth, it’s not the sole reason. “There has been a great deal of investment behind its growth. There has long been a question of whether there was critical mass, but now our research shows that 40% of all internet-enabled households have an active CTV device. And increased consumption across CTV big-screen devices was one of the major trends of last year.”

Fuelling this growth has been investment from device manufacturers such as Samsung, by broadcasters and international media owners launching new platforms such as Discovery+, and by the rise of the ‘Fast’ players (free ad supported streaming TV) such as Pluto TV and Rakuten TV, which now have real scale in Europe as well as the US. The biggest surprise to emerge from this growth, however, is that it is not only confined to a younger, less-linear audience, but is present across all demographics – dashing previous stereotypes of CTV.

Taking stock of this audience is MetriX, the cross-platform ad measurement solution created by SpotX in partnership with the market research company AudienceProject and TechEdge, a supplier of tools for linear and non-linear TV consumption. They have just brought their solution to the UK.

MetriX, says Wale, allows SpotX to respond to demand in two key areas: firstly, illuminating and understanding the demographics of the CTV audience (particularly in terms of socioeconomics) and secondly, understanding where CTV sits within the context of linear TV. It is notable that viewers are fluid between the two platforms and that sometimes as much as half of the incremental reach provided by CTV is either unique or consisting of light users of linear.

An early MetriX case study for a sportswear brand, for example, reveals that in an incremental increase of 100,000 households not easily reached through linear, 32% were digital-only viewers, with a large proportion of those in the tough to reach 25- to 44-year-old audience. A global insurance brand, meanwhile, reached 1.2 million households with a CTV campaign that utilised AudienceProject and Techedge data to compare with Barb linear data. This time there were 300,000 incremental viewers, with 27% of households digital-only. These were not just 18- to 24-year-olds, but elusive 35- to 44-year-olds.

Wale accepts that with this growth comes fragmentation, which makes it more complex than ever for marketers to buy in this ecosystem. The result is that many are looking to leverage solutions that can unify as many technologies and inventory providers as possible in the one place. Wale cites ad platform silos and measurement silos as problems that have previously hindered CTV’s growth as an ad medium.

“There’s a push and pull between the buy side and the media owner’s duty to protect this valuable inventory source, taking into account the ever more vital issue of privacy,” he says. “The protocols and standards available in programmatic can now be deployed to the benefit of both sides. Programmatic also offers controls around privacy and the protection of data. In 2021, we will see innovations around the optimization of ad breaks.”

Wale concludes that the reason that spend has not, until now, been as fluid as audiences is that there has been a lack of measurement. “The improvement in measurement represented by solutions such as MetriX, however, allows marketers to truly understand this increased reach. The measurement question is paramount.”

Edward Wale, SpotX EMEA managing director, was talking to The Drum’s senior reporter John McCarthy.