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Noelle Huynh, senior vice president, advertising and measurement research, WarnerMedia 

The past few years have been marked by a flurry of new streaming offerings that are supported partially or fully by advertising. A common thread among these launches is a consistent pledge to run fewer ads per hour than in traditional television broadcasts. For example, streaming services such as HBO Max have touted some of the lowest commercial ad loads upon launch. 

The pledge stems from the fact that consumers and marketers have more choice than ever before. First and foremost, consumers want great programming. Once they’ve identified the entertainment service with the programs they want to watch, they weigh the value exchange between cost (e.g. free or paying a subscription fee) and experience (e.g. ad supported or ad-free, amount of ads, etc.) and make a choice based on what best fits their needs. 

From a marketing perspective, they want their ads to break through to the right audience, at the right time with the goal of driving their business outcomes. Conventional wisdom holds that brands should benefit from a less cluttered ad environment, as their messages have more of a chance of resonating.

However, historically, CTV as an advertising channel has suffered from poorly constructed ad breaks, ad repetition and frequency-capping issues. So, even with fewer ad impressions being delivered overall, the user experience in streaming can be inconsistent, or even irritating — threatening to place the medium’s viability as a premium ad vehicle in question.

Delivering less, but more intentional, ads

Fortunately, as CTV has evolved it has granted marketers tools to measure the effectiveness of ad spend with more sophistication. With the ability to more accurately target, deliver and measure ads, one of the most significant learnings has been that less is more.

CTV has helped marketers understand that premium experiences that do include advertising can deliver benefits to both consumers and advertisers. And, given consumers’ high expectations about the content they watch on their screens, it’s not enough to simply run fewer ads. The ads that are run should be intentional and additive. 

A restrained, nuanced approach doesn’t automatically mean that brands must compromise in how they connect with viewers. When executed well — ideally by blending strong creative messaging, optimal frequency and recency, and smart data-driven decisioning — streaming ads can deliver a greater impact in a shorter time. 

Last year, WarnerMedia conducted proprietary research to help quantify some of these principles. The research focused primarily on the brand exclusive content takeover. 

The results were validating, as consumers clearly recognized the special treatment a lower ad load afforded them. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said they appreciated that brands made their ad experience shorter. 

Overall, the advertisers’ takeover treatment yielded a sizable payoff. For example, compared to traditional ad placements, advertisers enjoyed a whopping 37% jump in unaided recall and a 21% spike in brand recognition.

Captivating consumers through thoughtful ad execution leads to genuine engagement 

By delivering a more curated, thoughtful ad execution, advertisers stand out more and command a greater share of voice. However, It wasn’t just that the brand takeover ads stood out, based on WarnerMedia research of HBO Max with Ads’ Brand Block — it’s that they proved uniquely captivating. Eye-tracking metrics revealed that more than half of viewers not only looked at the text on the screen, but were fixated on it.

Furthermore, compared to traditional ad placements, viewers were twice as likely to talk to someone about the ad in question and four times as likely to follow that advertiser on social media. They were even five times more likely to post about these ads to their own social media accounts. 

Thus, the early returns show that this type of customized ad treatment can drive lifts in both key upper funnel KPIs as well as real world actions offscreen. That kind of multifaceted response is invaluable, and atypical in a traditionally lean-back medium like television. 

Yet over time, this is the kind of measurable impact marketers will likely come to expect, as CTV advertising promises a greater ability to utilize data and gauge the impact of ad exposures. Therefore, when it comes to advertising within streaming environments, brands must focus on providing an optimal ad experience that is more respectful of consumers’ time and attention.

This may go against the grain of traditional forms of advertising, but with CTV, the old adage of less is more stands.

Sponsored By: Warner Media

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