It’s the 10 CTV Commandments, What?

In 2023, CTV continues its heyday, fueled by a surge in cord-cutting and pandemic-induced streaming behaviors. Yet, amidst rising viewership and ad spend splurges, measurement and attribution remain a thorn in the technology’s side creating intense growing pains. So what’s an industry to do?

As I prep for my upcoming keynote chat with AdTechGod about the future of CTV on November 6, 2023, at Publisher Forum New Orleans, I was reminded that both the IAB and eMarketer projected significant growth for CTV ad spend in 2023 by approximately 21%, reaching $22.5 billion and $25.1 billion respectively.

FAST is a huge part of that growth, with even long-standing subscription-only streamers adding ad-supported tiers to their offerings. Since CTV viewers have come to accept ads as part of their viewing experience, engagement rates are bonkers. Some studies place video completion rates as high as 96.4% for CTV, and once you sprinkle in some interactive elements you see huge increases in engagement, brand lift, and purchase consideration. That’s why brands are investing in CTV, along with the targeting capabilities and massive reach you get from the platforms.

So, today, here stands CTV in all of its glory, siphoning off budgets from linear TV and digital/mobile video to make all advertisers’ dreams come true. But like Barbie discovered in Barbieland, not all things in CTV land are perfect. CTV has its challenges, namely measurement, attribution, and fragmentation to name a few. Some of these challenges became even more clear to me, during a recent panel I moderated at CIMMSummt a couple of weeks ago, where a group of independent streamers talked about the need for measurement standardization.

With these opportunities and challenges in mind, along with my highlights from a conversation I had with AdTechGod on a recent episode of his podcast, I wondered what a CTV best practices might look like.

Here’s a little light and fun thing I put together, with the aid of ChatGPT, to imagine those best practices, as well as topics we might discuss at PubForum on November 6.

The Ten CTV Commandments

Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Know Thy Audience

You can’t monetize effectively if you don’t know who’s watching. Dig into that data, segment your audience, and then tailor your monetization strategies to suit. Data’s your guiding star. Use it to make informed decisions, target your audience, and personalize experiences. Just be mindful of privacy rules, yeah? While you’re hustling with data, be upfront about how you collect and use it. GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy rules are not to be trifled with.

Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Worship at the Altar of Analytics

Don’t even think about monetizing without a strong analytics backbone. Track impressions, completion rates, and all those fun metrics to know exactly how your content and ads are performing. Set thy standards high, but keep them real. Unrealistic benchmarks are but golden calves that lead thee astray from the Promised Land of ROI. Also, the situation is always fluid. Use real-time analytics to adapt your strategy on the fly. That way, you’re not flying blind or relying on yesterday’s insights.

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Be User-Focused

Honor thy viewers, for they are your flock. Treat thy audience not as mere eyeballs, but as the soul of thy monetization strategy. Ad relevance is thy sermon; preach it wisely. Remember, it’s all about the viewer experience. No one wants to suffer through laggy streaming or annoying ads. Make it smooth and seamless, my friends. Buffering is the devil, and awkward ad transitions are its minions. Invest in technology that ensures a smooth, seamless viewing and ad experience.

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Covet Programmatic Direct Deals

Hearken to the Gospel of Guaranteed Revenue. Direct deals are thy heavenly manna; partake and see that it is good for both thee and thy partners. Unlike the shifting sands of the open auction, these deals offer stability, allowing you to navigate the turbulent seas of CTV monetization with confidence. Your CPMs are guaranteed, your inventory is promised to a worthy buyer, and lo, even your data sharing can be more transparent. Partake in these deals, then, not just for the revenue they bring today, but for the lasting partnerships and strategic alignment they foster for tomorrow. For in the world of CTV, he who masters Programmatic Direct Deals shall inherit the kingdom of sustainable revenue.

Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Not Flood Thy Stream with Ads

A sin most grievous!  Viewers are there for content and most don’t mind ads, but they do mind an ad deluge.  Overindulgence in ad servings is a cardinal sin. Be mindful of ad load and frequency capping as a righteous guardrail and let not one viewer be tormented by the same ad, again and again, until they click away in exasperation. More ads don’t necessarily mean more money if you’re alienating your audience. Even as you dance to the siren’s song of higher revenues through heavier ad loads, beware! For what profiteth a platform if it gains a heap of impressions but loses its soul—nay, its audience? Balance is your scripture, and moderation your commandment.

Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Keep Thy Fill Rates High, but Quality Higher

No one remembers the 20 forgettable ads they saw, but they’ll remember the one that made them laugh, cry, or click. Make your ad slots count by valuing quality over quantity. Don’t just fill ad slots for the sake of it. A dead fill rate is an abomination unto your metrics. Aim for high fill rates but never at the expense of ad quality or viewer experience. Keep it lively, but balance it with quality, for a feast of spam benefits no one.

Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Preach the Doctrine of Multi-Platform

Mobile, OTT, desktop—these are the Holy Trinity of platforms. Embrace them all, and let not your message be confined to just one pulpit. Your viewers are bouncing between devices like they’re auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. Don’t limit thy offerings to just one device or platform. The more, the merrier! Make sure your monetization strategies translate well across different platforms.

Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery… with Thy Ad Pods

Mix not thine ads haphazardly, for a disjointed ad pod is an abomination. Instead, craft thine ad pods with the precision of a divine being—or at least a very skilled ops team. Ad pods are your cathedrals of revenue. Flood not thy ad pods with irrelevant or repetitive ads. Variety and relevance are your sacraments; administer them wisely.  Curate them thoughtfully. Space ads appropriately to avoid viewer fatigue, and mix in different types, categories, and lengths to keep eyeballs engaged. Balance is key: Your viewers should feel like they’re experiencing a well-conducted symphony, not a cacophony. For ad podding to be successful it needs to meet the needs of publishers, their audiences, and buyers.

Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Partner Wisely

In the CTV garden, pick your business partners like you pick your produce — fresh and reliable. Poor partnerships can spoil the whole bunch. Whether it’s ad networks or other publishers, make sure you’re working with entities that align with your goals and audience. A bad match can mess up more than just your revenue. Influencers and partnerships can be thy apostles, spreading the Good News of your inventory. But vet them carefully, for false prophets lurk in the AdTech wilderness.

Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Diversify Revenue Streams

Don’t put all your eggs — or in this case, ads — in one basket. Think not just of ads but of subscription tiers, sponsored content, transactional video, and other revenue streams to keep that cash flowing. Cast away the dogma that ads are thy one and only revenue savior. Open thine minds to hybrid models. At the end of the day, the key to sustainability lies in not just fishing in one pond, but in casting a wide net across the monetization oceans.

Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Not Take Measurement and Attribution in Vain

Here’s the gospel truth: You can’t just throw in a couple of pixels and expect to understand your ad’s effectiveness like it’s a basic cable rerun. In the CTV kingdom, accurate measurement and attribution aren’t just holy grails, they’re existential necessities. Yet, the landscape is rife with heresies: an alphabet soup of acronyms, fragmented methodologies, nebulous IP-based identities, and a Tower of Babel of metrics. With looming regulations like CCPA and GDPR, the IP as an identifier is a dwindling sanctuary. Cross-media viewership adds to the chaos, making it near-impossible to stitch together a comprehensive tapestry of your audience. And let’s not forget about the unholy specter of ad fraud. In this climate, one cannot afford to be cavalier. Seek trusted, innovative solutions to these complex challenges — invest in standardized, transparent, and oh-so-sophisticated measurement methods — for without them, you’re navigating a labyrinth in blind faith, and that’s no way to ascend to ad revenue heaven.


Commandments were created with the assistance of ChatGPT 4

Images were created with the assistance of DALL·E 3