August 17, 2020

CTV Beyond Header Bidding

By Ben Antier, Co-Founder & CPO, Publica

If you are a CTV publisher, you will be acutely aware of the user growth numbers & commercial opportunities ahead of you as users migrate from linear TV & cable services to streaming content and you’ve also probably started to look into header bidding tactics for your inventory. However, what may not be so obvious is the way you monetize these growing audiences & data points using an efficient auction framework, laying out the right tech foundations for longer term advertising yield.

Many CTV publishers have built out their commercial teams with programmatic experts who are currently honing their ad funded strategies & forging partnerships with technology vendors such as SSPs & DSPs.  These programmatic-first teams will hopefully be informing CTV publishers of the valuable lessons they can learn from the evolution of the display programmatic ecosystem that was born 10+ years prior.

What CTV Can Learn From Display?

The most important lesson is in the area of unified yield management, or more commonly known as header bidding. Yes, we hear you – there is no header in App based CTV / OTT which is why so many terms have flourished from pod-bidding to anything-bidding – we are sticking with unified auction.

The unified auction & the technology that supports it went through several iterative stages in display to get to where we are today and CTV publishers are in a very unique position where they can remove a lot of the unnecessary time, R&D costs & lost ad revenue opportunities of making the same mistakes their predecessors did in display.

The majority of the display publishing community today leverages an independent, open & most importantly of all, demand agnostic header bidding wrapper. It only takes several minutes searching through old AdTech articles to realize that a wrapper that was both buyer & auctioneer was going to cause vendor interoperability issues in what is increasingly a very competitive ecosystem, so publishers opted to pull away from proprietary solutions.

This is why it is so important that any unified auction tools on-boarded by CTV publishers don’t restrict in any way demand partners that want to reach your valuable streaming inventory. In this regard, and as explained in our previous blog post, it is essential that sell-side vendors collaborate on the framework to transact based on a unified auction model (oRTB), the revenue uplift is proven in display & the premium nature of OTT inventory means it is already generating significant revenues for the CTV publishers who are running their auctions in this way.

Tier 1 SSPs are creating so much value for CTV publishers today, not only are they in the market educating buyers about the value of streaming inventory, they are also building unique & differentiating features around data, identity & deal discovery that facilitate the shift of advertising budgets towards CTV publishers & their audiences.

SSPs are afterall the gateway to scaled demand. In fact, DSP the Trade Desk recently reported that CTV spend through their platform and into SSPs grew roughly 40% YoY.

Leading CTV publishers in 2020 need the ability to port auction logs from their wrapper, interrogate sophisticated OTT first analytics and then onboard/priotisise SSP partners accordingly. This pragmatic approach based upon revenue-driven KPIs will inevitably come from a tech stack inspired by “header bidding”, but best suited for the unique technical nuances of CTV.

Sample advertising stack using header bidding logic via Publica's demand-agnostic Unified Auction for CTV
Sample advertising stack using Publica’s demand-agnostic Unified Auction for CTV

Beyond the auction engine

The promise of a fully addressable TV advertising ecosystem will only materialise if we learn from our mistakes in display & empower publishers with the ability to create their own ‘open gardens’ of data enriched supply for all SSPs to access, without any vendor interoperability headwinds eroding yield for OTT content producers & distributors.

We believe the ‘unified auction’ is only the first step in implementing a robust ad funded CTV strategy, beyond that, lies the most interesting part of the CTV technical challenge: how do we create and deliver the best viewing experience to the audiences, at scale? First answer for publishers is the mastery of ad-podding, enabling publishers to optimize ad-break value and experience with advanced algorithms. Trailblazers in the space are already shifting gears to deliver SSAI that is built to improve the rendering of programmatic campaigns on Connected TVs.  

Competitive separation within an ad break, a key to ad podding
Let’s make sure competitive ads don’t run in the same ad-break

In this below quote provided by Samsung Ads to the IAB, you can see that leading CTV platforms are already out & ahead when it comes to making it easy for their buy side partners to access their streaming inventory.

“The investment in data, technology, and content, plus the significant consumer behavior shift, have us very bullish on the space and anticipating large increases in advertiser investment. Through Samsung’s own AVOD service, Samsung TV Plus, we have seen first-hand the appetite for live, free streaming content among consumers. At the same time, advertisers have sought out the service because they understand that services like Samsung can give them unduplicated reach to millions who are cutting and shaving the cord”

Michael Scott, Head of Sales, Brand – North America, Samsung Ads .

To summarise, we believe there are many positive lessons for CTV publishers to learn from the display programmatic ecosystem and SSP demand for your streaming inventory will continue to increase, however, the technology you adopt to unify your yield & facilitate your ad break management has to make it easy for demand partners to measure, target & report on your audiences. This is why we recommend selecting open & demand agnostic CTV technology partnerships in order to grow your global OTT advertising revenues.

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