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Connected television (CTV) is a slept-on part of the media mix. They are a gateway to many different types of content, from the traditional broadcasters to digital and social video platforms. Since around 80% of households in the UK have at least one CTV, that provides a number of audience opportunities for advertisers – provided they think about the device in the right way.

‘Television’ used to be a simple thing to define. However, a number of developments over the past week have made it clear that it is now a much broader church than it once was. From Sky attempting to get ahead of the competition by bundling its services directly into its new Sky Glass device, to the recognition that 91% of respondents agree that ‘TV’ is now defined as linear and streaming platforms, the race to establish dominance in the CTV world is on.

At YouTube’s recent festival, the company shared a number of key stats about its considerations around CTV. Philip Miles is country sales director for YouTube and Display, UK & Ireland, and believes YouTube on CTVs is complementary to traditional television for brands. “Historically, there tended to be a versus conversation – so YouTube versus television ... pitted against each other. [But] our key thing that we were trying to land with Festival is YouTube is effectively part of the UK TV industry now, and increasingly advertisers are recognizing that it’s not an either or conversation.

“[It’s about] how can TV be improved, how the overall AV strategy can be improved by seeing TV and YouTube as effectively part of that same conversation.”

Sports content is one area where that additive nature of YouTube to TV consumption is most readily apparent. During the pandemic, users chose to view highlights of old events and commentary around their favorite teams on the service, while still consuming what few live events were played on the traditional broadcasters. Watch time on TV screens of sports videos – excluding that live content – rose by over 65% between July 2019 and July 2020.

Miles says one event in particular demonstrated that better than any other – the Olympics: “We had seven times more watch time for the Olympics in Japan this summer than we did just four years ago in Rio. They’re doing it on their TV sets ... if you’re a brand advertiser there’s no doubt that the fact that we’re in the living room is attractive, and an important part of why they’re leaning into YouTube more and more.”

Building brand safety tools on YouTube

During the Festival a number of brands shared their own experiences with advertising on YouTube in addition to traditional television. Research from Nielsen and Coty on behalf of beauty brand Rimmel, for instance, found that “YouTube delivered 33% higher ROI than traditional media and social channels across Rimmel’s portfolio.”

By combining YouTube with TV, Rimmel achieved 22% incremental reach across its audience. Crucially the research also reasserted that many audiences are harder to reach via traditional TV than the self-selected viewers of YouTube content.

Miles argues that YouTube as a platform for advertising also offers brand safety tools that many other services currently do not. He cites the example of a study YouTube conducted on behalf of BT, which demonstrated through judicious use of YouTube’s tools it is possible to achieve growth in impressions while reducing cost. He believes that doing so provides uplift to brands that is not possible through the blunt tools such as keyword blocking that brands have previously relied upon.

“We’ve been able to do that now across multiple advertisers so I think what you’re starting to see is that TV and YouTube are better together. One of the things that has been holding that back was concerns ... is this going to be brand safe if I increase my reach?

“We have to work very hard in this space, we need to never say ‘it’s perfect.’ But we’ve been able to build that trust with these advertisers and they’ve been able to scale with us, so I think ... extending that conversation around incremental reach of YouTube to improve [ad performance] is definitely a big part of our growth ambitions.”

Miles acknowledges that some of the more recent innovations in YouTube’s ability to target users across platforms that have been demonstrated in the US have yet to come over to the UK. Despite that, and the ongoing conversations about video ad measurement standards and brand safety, the trials with Rimmel and BT suggest that as the TV landscape converges, YouTube will become a bigger part of the mix for many advertisers.