The Machines Are Taking Over Advertising (And That’s Okay)
4 Min Read Artificial intelligence; it’s so hot right now. While science fiction threatened (promised?) us that machine overlords would control our every move, so far the real-world application has been significantly less theatrical. From text generators to image creation, search engines to a personal DJ, it seems like you can’t turn around without encountering another AI tool designed to make life easier. Not counting programming itself, marketing might be the industry most impacted by the rise of AI. While copywriters and designers initially worried about these programs taking their jobs, the end results have been less threatening—and have opened up a legal can of worms as well. But when viewed as a tool, like a hammer, AI can produce some helpful outcomes in skilled hands. And lately, the advertising industry is buying these hammers in bulk. Spectrum Reaches for AI Last week, Spectrum’s ad sales business, Spectrum Reach, got into the AI game with a new “first-of-its-kind AI-powered platform” video production platform. By leveraging similar technology to ChaptGPT and Dall-E2, Spectrum Reach now allows advertisers to type in information about their business and quickly generate personalized TV ads. The platform even enables advertisers to create AI-produced voiceover work by accessing 11 different voice options, each with its own timbre, speed, and tone. According to Spectrum, the new platform personalizes ads by reviewing a business’ social footprint, including social media channels and online reviews. The company promises that an entire commercial can be produced in five minutes or less, letting brands get on air significantly faster than through traditional means. Spectrum hopes this new AI-led technology will fit the needs of smaller to mid-sized businesses, allowing brands without big budgets to create “ready to air” commercials more affordably and easily – without the need for scriptwriters, video shoots, acting talent, set design, and post-production work. While the jury’s out on actual outcomes, it’s likely opening the door for brands to test the TV waters and inspiring competing AI platforms. AI’s Advertising Takeover Spectrum’s use of AI for television ads is just one more example of the ad industry’s embracing of artificial intelligence. A quick skim of industry headlines reveals a repeating theme: brands are using AI more and more. Coca-Cola recently announced a partnership with Bain & Company and OpenAI (the owner of ChaptGPT and DALL-E 2) to explore how AI can enhance the brand’s ad creative. PR and marketing firms are employing AI tools to perform better analysis. And even MNTN’s Chief Creative Officer, Ryan Reynolds, recently used ChatGPT to create an entire commercial for his cellular brand, Mint Mobile. On the Connected TV side, AI and automation tools are making the channel easier to use. Premium CTV platforms like MNTN Performance TV use tech that automatically optimizes ads thousands of times a day to generate performance outcomes for advertisers. And programmatic advertising uses algorithmic tools to automate the buying and selling of digital ad space. This lets advertisers forgo the process of placing ads manually, letting them instead create rules for how, when, and where ads are launched—an especially handy tool for small businesses that need a low-cost and low-effort advertising solution. As CTV continues to grow in popularity, and creative increasingly becomes more in-demand, it’s likely we’ll see more advancements in automation designed to streamline the CTV advertising experience. A Glitch in the Matrix While AI might solve a lot of advertising struggles, it’s not without its drawbacks. Shortly after the arrival of AI design tools, artists noticed a disturbing trend—the AI was repurposing their works without permission, leading to a flurry of copyright lawsuits and potential complications for brands caught in the cross-fire. Generative text AI tools like Chat GPT, while useful for writing prompts, emails, and low-effort content, have also come under growing scrutiny for both their habit of pulling outdated and/or inaccurate information and being unable to write for more complicated topics. Additionally, AI could give some advertisers a false sense of confidence if they’re not deploying those ads via the proper advertising channels or solutions (this includes CTV advertising platforms). After all, even the best ads in the world don’t mean much if they’re not being seen on premium networks, targeted to the right audiences, and sending back valuable real-time insights. To keep the hammer analogy going, you won’t build anything without pairing it with the nails to make it complete. There Is No Fate But What We Make Like all tools, AI will undoubtedly continue to grow and evolve — who could have predicted CTV’s current state back when it was just Netflix and Hulu? But in the meantime, many brands are choosing to dip, not dive, into the AI pool. Perhaps the most popular, and best-performing, solution is to rely on hybrid solutions, such as using AI-powered insights paired with creative advertisers and agencies. Options like QuickFrame by MNTN, or Creative-as-a-Subscription match brands with creative teams that may use AI-powered tools, but use them to guide and assist the creative human mind. The end result is similar to using an AI-powered video platform: high-impact creative, launched without the need for video production and costs-–but with more of the creative human touch that’s unmatched by machines. For now, at least. In the meantime, we’re excitedly watching the advancement of generative AI to see what it will do next—and thankful that it’s more C-3PO than Skynet.
Halo From the Other Side: How CTV Lifts Every Ad Channel
4 Min Read Connected TV has transformed the television into a performance marketing powerhouse, but the platform isn’t just changing the face of TV: it’s boosting outcomes across the advertising board. Leading marketers are using CTV’s halo effect to amplify existing efforts in channels like paid search, social, and even linear TV—and resuscitate underperforming campaigns as well. Jon Zucker, Senior Product Marketing Manager at MNTN, and Ashlee Anderson, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Rumpl, recently spoke to eMarketer about the opportunities that CTV’s halo effect unlocks, how your brand can harness it, and how Rumpl successfully did just that by partnering with MNTN. You can watch a full recording of “The (Real) Ring of Power: CTV’s Halo Effect on Other Ad Channels” here—or you can keep reading for a high-level recap of what was discussed. All Mixed Up While Connected TV has had a stellar year and continues to establish itself as a premier performance marketing platform, other ad channels remain an important part of the marketing mix. “You need to be able to diversify those channels to drive the best performance possible,” noted Zucker. “Today’s consumers use an omnichannel approach to research and reading reviews before marking a purchase. All of these different touchpoints are important—from driving initial branding down to the consumer making a purchase on your website.” Zucker noted that advertisers are deploying the same omnichannel marketing strategy by creating a presence on multiple channels to meet these consumers and drive them down the sales funnel. “This omnichannel approach is more important than ever,” said Zucker as he noted that relying on one ad channel alone would cap the number of customers you could drive to conversion. “Paid search only captures prospects actively searching for your product, and paid social ads appear in scroll-heavy environments that make it difficult to tell your brand’s story.” Zucker noted that when CTV is added, its targeting, measurement, and non-skippable ads create a halo effect that improves ad impact. Advertising’s Promised Land “CTV is a situation where a rising tide lifts all ships,” said Zucker. He pointed to an internal MNTN study that found that advertisers who add CTV to their mix see better site traffic and conversions. “This creates a halo effect that generates more attention, more qualified site visits, and more opportunities to convert on other channels,” said Zucker. “We found that people who watched a CTV ad and visited a site stayed there 49% longer than people driven to the site from paid social, and 19% longer than those driven by paid search.” And it’s not just B2C brands that benefit from this halo effect phenomenon; CTV is boosting outcomes for B2B brands as well. “90% of B2B purchasing decisions are made from companies in the initial consideration set. So when it comes to closing the deal, it’s critical to be in those early conversations.” Zucker noted that when buyers spend more time on a website, they’re learning more about B2B products and placing the brand into their initial consideration sets—and will revisit later when they’re ready to enter the buying cycle. Rumpl Showcases Their Halo Rumpl’s Anderson took over to share her brand’s halo success story and how they achieved it with MNTN. “So MNTN Performance TV created a halo effect for us by boosting our underperforming ad channels,” said Anderson. “Specifically on paid search, which saw a significant increase after adding MNTN.” Anderson broke it down by the numbers: : 2%: Rumpl’s paid search conversion rates 90 days before adding MNTN 5%: Rumpl’s paid search conversion rates 90 days after adding MNTN 163.5%: The total increase in paid search conversion rates “But CTV has driven more than just paid search conversion rates [for Rumpl]. MNTN drove 51% longer average session durations than our Facebook ads,” said Anderson. “So people who see a CTV ad are coming to our website and staying longer. This means they got better information and felt more engaged on our website.” Anderson noted that CTV’s high-impact audio-visual messaging allowed Rumpl to reach new customers and showcase its products in a new and exciting way. Finally, Anderson talked about MNTN’s Creative-As-a-Subscription program. “This program has been a halo effect in itself,” said Anderson. “With Creative-as-a-Subscription, we get a new ad quarterly bundled with our media spend. So the budget that we were going to spend on production and a TV ad itself is now saved. We can take that money and put it back into our paid media dollars, taking our budget further than we did before.” This cost savings and reallocation of funds has boosted Rumpl’s campaign performance, enabling them to run more successful campaigns with greater reach and higher ROAS. To Finish is Divine We’re just scratching the surface—Zucker and Anderson had much more ground to cover on the halo effect. Learn more about Rumpl’s halo effect story, hear the strategies and tips they’re offering other brands, and discover other ways that CTV boosts cross-channel performance—including on linear TV. Click here to watch the full recording.
Predictions For Connected TV in 2023
6 Min Read Much has been made of CTV’s big year in 2022. From Netflix and Disney+ embracing ads, to streaming besting linear TV in viewership, it was a year of shakeups, disruptions, and exponential growth. But as Frank Sinatra once sang, “the best is yet to come”—and 2023 is packing a whole lot of excitement for viewers, services, and advertisers. Below you’ll find a sneak peek of what to expect this year and why 2023 will overtake last year as the “best year yet” for CTV. New Year, New Strategies When Netflix first started to produce original content in 2013, they publicly made their intentions clear: they were aiming to dethrone HBO as the home of “prestige TV.” In 2023, that strategy has broadened as much as Netflix’s service. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Netflix’s head of global TV, Bela Barjaria, revealed the service’s new ambition: to “replace all television.” The company is blazing its own path in the post-streaming world, looking to offer the widest variety of content to attract and retain subscribers after a less-than-great subscriber loss last year. To help drive those subscription numbers up, this year will also see Netflix launch an “Extra Members” feature that will charge subscribers for the ability to share passwords. The end result is a win-win for Netflix: either they get extra revenue to cover the viewers who aren’t paying them, or, more likely, non-subscribers will be booted off their friends’ and family’s service and encouraged to sign up themselves. For advertisers, this means a steady flow of new viewers who are both hooked on Netflix’s content offering and looking to make the jump from “free” to “paying” as inexpensive as possible—which happens to be the ad-supported tier. Meanwhile, Disney is rethinking the streaming model for its viewers with an exclusive online shopping service for Disney+ subscribers. Currently in its testing phase and without a launch date, the online shop offers merchandise from Disney brands, including Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel. Additionally, the brand is reportedly exploring plans for a membership program like Amazon Prime, though this feature is still in its infancy. Both of these offer potential opportunities for the service to boost its value proposition to subscribers, especially in the wake of ever-increasing subscription costs, and unlock new advertising opportunities for brands. The Year of the Ad At the end of last year, ad-supported streaming got a major shot in the arm from Netflix and Disney+ and this year they’ll be doubling down on perfecting and expanding the platform. For Netflix’s part, the new ad-supported offering is predicted to hit 7.5 million U.S. subscribers by the end of 2023. Netflix is pleased with the growth of the $6.99 ad tier, with co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings publicly admitting their previous anti-ad stance was “wrong.” The service is expected to see $600 million in advertising sales this year alone. Disney+ similarly has big plans for its $ 7.99-a-month ad tier, with a goal of signing up as many as 260 million subscribers by the end of 2024. Hopes are high that the streamer can overcome the one hurdle it has left in its ad-supported launch—availability on Roku—but there’s no word on a timeline yet. In 2023, Disney+ will expand internationally to 30 additional countries, bringing its service to a total of 160 nations. With Netflix and Disney entering the ad-supported SVOD market, several services are looking to stand out by moving even further: to a free, ad-supported model. Amazon Prime is testing the waters with both its own free ad-supported streaming (FAST) service, Freevee (formerly IMDB TV), as well as a new virtual product placement ad format. While there’s no confirmation yet, rumors and hopes continue to swirl that Prime Video introduces a cheaper ad-supported tier. AppleTV+, which recently increased its subscription costs to $6.99 a month, could similarly benefit from the influx of revenue and subscribers that an ad-supported offering would bring. Finally, Warner Bros. Discovery is reportedly planning a FAST variation of its HBO Max to compete with competitors including Freevee, Peacock, Pluto TV, and others. Connected TV Goes Live One of streaming’s biggest selling points has been the ability to watch on-demand content, whenever and wherever you are. And while that will continue to be the focal point of CTV for the foreseeable future, in 2023 streaming services will move forward by looking back – and bringing the return of live television. Netflix is betting big on its new live-streaming launch, hoping that it will lead to an influx of viewers—and advertisers looking to serve targeted ads during live tentpole events. Similarly, live sports are projected to make a big splash on streaming services this year. In 2022 Amazon’s Prime Video became the exclusive home of NFL’s Thursday Night Football, pulling in 15.3 million viewers for the first game alone. This year, the streamer is expanding their gridiron offering by exclusively offering the first NFL Black Friday game—the first time the league has ever played on the day after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Apple TV+ is likely to continue its live sports deals with both Major League Baseball this year— bringing “Friday Night Baseball” games and “MLB Big Inning” to subscribers. In February 2023, Apple will expand its sports offering further by launching “MLS Season Pass,” a subscription service for Major League Soccer fans. The Question Marks Finally, 2023 might be another big year of shakeups—especially with regard to HBO Max and Hulu. Fresh off its acquisition from Warner Bros. Discovery last year, HBO Max is set to combine with Discovery+ into a new streaming service launching in the spring. The new service, which is currently without a name but is reportedly dropping its “HBO” brand to just be named “Max,” will give viewers access to over 200,000 hours of programming over 100 brands, including WB, HBO, Discovery, CNN, TBS, Food Network, Animal Planet, and more. Like HBO Max, “Max” is expected to launch with both an ad-free and ad-supported option. It’s expected that Max’s ad-free model will cost more than HBO Max’s current $14.99-a-month plan, likely pushing many viewers to switch over to the ad-supported tier. Fresh off hitting its 58 Emmy nominations, Hulu is beginning the year with 47.2 million subscribers—but its 2023 plans are murky. Disney, who currently owns 66% of the service, will likely be buying out Comcast’s 33% remainder before the end of 2024, taking full ownership of Hulu. However, last year the former Disney CEO let it slip that Disney might buy the rights as soon as 2023. Regardless of the timeline, rumors continue to swirl that once Disney owns Hulu they’ll combine it with Disney+ and ESPN+ into one platform. Hulu’s ad-supported offering has been a gamble that paid off for the service—besides influencing Netflix’s about-face on ads, Hulu reports that 70% of its 82 million subscribers are on the ad-supported offering. Here’s to 2023 – and Beyond As last year proved, the Connected TV advertising space moves too fast and dynamically to predict everything. Expect even more market consolidation, shakeups, surprises, and advertising tech advances—all of which we’ll be covering weekly here. One thing’s clear: just because it’s a new year, CTV growth shows no sign of slowing down. By this time next year, we’ll likely be reflecting on how 2023 was CTV’s biggest year yet—and looking at how 2024 will top it. Summary: 2023 is shaping up to be Connected TV’s biggest year yet, as streaming services incorporate new strategies, technologies, and advertising opportunities for brands. Other CTV News You Need to Know:
2022 in Review: Connected TV’s Glow-Up
6 Min Read 2022 is a hard year to neatly wrap up for Connected TV. After years of explosive growth and record-high viewership, the platform matured and finally delivered on its promises. Streaming beat broadcast and cable TV for the first time, Disney+ and Netflix embraced ads, streaming services – and advertisers – started to think strategically, and new ad technology tools helped brands weather economic uncertainty with unparalleled targeting and measurement. We can’t blame you if you can’t remember everything that happened this year; it’s a little hard for us to keep track of it all. Below is a brief summary of every major milestone and event for 2022, Connected TV’s biggest year yet. Thanks for spending the year with MNTN, and we wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year. Changing of the TV Guard The start of this year saw streaming continue to upend many traditional linear TV experiences. As Super Bowl ad buys continue to skyrocket in price, Influential—an AI-powered social data platform that partners with IBM’s Watson—ran an analysis of online conversations for the last five championship games and found that positive reactions are at an all-time low (15%) but negative reactions were higher than ever. It was a bit of a wake-up call for brands as they saw diminishing returns on their ads for the big games—and noticed streaming increasingly embracing sports. Meanwhile, 2022’s Academy Awards saw streaming step into the limelight. Apple made history as the first streamer to bring home the “Best Picture” award with CODA, a film that went on to win three awards total. Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog” and “Don’t Look Up” were also nominated for Best Picture. In fact, eight out of the ten nominees for Best Picture were streaming at the time of the Oscars. 2022 saw more streaming services continue to spend top dollar and lock down exclusive films and TV shows, including the most money ever spent on a TV show—Amazon Prime’s Rings of Power, at $715 million for one season. It’s that commitment to quality content that led to streaming hitting its biggest milestone yet in July—outperforming broadcast and cable TV in viewership for the first (and surely not last) time in history. From Ad-Free to Ads, Please For advertisers in the CTV space, 2022 was a special year as every major streaming service went all in on ads. In March, Disney+ announced plans to introduce an ad-supported tier for their service by end of the year. They made their target release date and launched their ad tier on December 8th. The new offering proved popular at a $7.99 price point with consumers, and over 100 companies agreed to advertise at launch. While Disney is still struggling to get their ad-supported offering on Roku devices, the future is looking rosy for the House of Mouse: the ad-supported offering is projected to account for 88% of Disney’s global subscriptions by 2028, and 1 in every 4 subscribers may switch over to ads. But Disney wasn’t the only service to turn to ads in 2022. Netflix, one of the founders of the modern streaming movement, also announced an ad-supported offering. The company’s about-face followed a public bruising the company suffered after their quarterly earnings fell far below target—and resulted in the company’s first subscriber loss since 2011. While there were many questions about what Netflix’s ad support would look like throughout the year, the company partnered with Microsoft to fast-track a model that costs $6.99 a month and launched in November. A month later, Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings publicly admitted that the company should have embraced ads years ago and acknowledged that his previous views on advertising were “wrong.” Landscape Contraction For the last several years, the CTV market was under a period of heavy fragmentation and expansion. Disney+, Peacock, HBO Max, and countless others—it seemed that every time you turned around, a new streaming service had arrived. 2022 saw the opposite happen: as the CTV market matured, service providers rethought their strategies, target new audiences, and consolidate and merge with other services. The biggest example this year was easily the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery in the spring. The merger caused a bit of an identity content crisis for the newly created Warner Bros. Discovery, with the company immediately cutting films and shows—including completed and highly-anticipated content like Batgirl—as well as dialing back on kids’ programming and scripted content. The company spent the back half of the year quietly reorganizing its content slate, including removing some of its HBO original programs like Westworld. In August, the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery announced an intent to merge HBO Max with Discovery+ in the summer of 2023. Meanwhile, Disney’s ascension to the top of the streaming world continued. Its Disney+ continued to break viewership records, while the company continued to hold a majority investment stake in Hulu—which it used to provide more adult-rated content like its new Predator movie, Prey. There has been plenty of speculation about what Disney will do with these two services next year when Comcast will sell its remaining stake and Disney takes full control. Many industry observers, and even media executives, are speculating that Disney will merge the two services. We might have already seen some experimentation with this idea, as 2022 saw Disney+ shed its family-friendly-only image and start offering adult-rated fare including the Deadpool movies (staring MNTN Chief Creative Officer Ryan Reynolds). The Peak of the MNTN All of these advancements in streaming services wouldn’t mean much without cutting-edge ad solutions, which is why MNTN also had a busy 2022 breaking new ground. In October, MNTN brought incrementality reporting to Connected TV. With incrementality reporting, marketers can see the true impact of their campaigns versus the results they would have produced anyway to make more effective optimizations and investment decisions—all with absolutely no additional costs or upfront planning required. Performance TV’s audience segment reporting launched, letting marketers drill down and view performance data on each audience segment, giving a detailed picture of audiences that drive conversions Maximum Effort continued to make advertising headlines for major brands. Creative-as-a-Subscription, announced late last year, continued to shake up the industry and provide brands with high-impact creative that drove record performance MNTN Performance TV unveiled Adobe Analytics support, letting marketers launch and measure their CTV campaigns alongside all of the marketing channels MNTN introduced My TV Videos Library and Flighted Budgets to Performance TV. These features let marketers store and manage creative directly in the MNTN software, as well as gain total control to plan daily, weekly, and monthly campaign budgets. What’s Next? If 2022 was the year that CTV rose to new heights, 2023 will be the year it soars. Next year, we’ll finally see what the HBO Max and Discovery merger looks like, we’ll discover Disney’s plans for Hulu, and we’ll surely see new market shakeups and advanced technology solutions to help marketers make the most of the platform. This might have been a big year for Connected TV and streaming, but as the old adage goes: “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”