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Over the Top Television (OTT) is Here to Stay. But Not All is Created Equal.

Adam Smith VP of national accounts
Adam Smith

Over the Top Television (OTT) is no longer an emerging technology; it’s here, and it’s here to stay. However, as a medium, not all OTT is created equal. There are numerous considerations that advertisers must be aware of in order to ensure they’re making a good strategic investment with their ad dollars. This is particularly true with the recent rise of self-service OTT platforms. Read on to learn more about what OTT is, why it’s appealing for advertisers, and some of the key strategic considerations that must be accounted for when planning an OTT ad campaign.

What is Over the Top Television?

For starters, if you aren’t familiar with OTT, it’s an umbrella term for video that’s watched over the internet without the use of a cable or satellite provider. With such a loose definition, lots of things fall under the “OTT” umbrella, but they’re not all created equal. By definition, YouTube and Netflix certainly fit the bill, as do popular cable/satellite alternatives like Hulu, Sling and YouTubeTV, just to name a few.

Aside from those, there are other “OTT” options, but many lack the premium placement you’d expect from the examples listed above. In-app videos, as an example, fit the definition of OTT but don’t provide the same value as a 30-second ad, in the living room, while the family is watching the latest episode of The Voice via Hulu or Sling. There also are serious concerns around brand safety and where, or what, your ads may run adjacent to. The bottom line here is — buyer beware. Again, not all OTT is created equal.

Key Strategic Considerations for OTT Campaigns

In addition to the segmentation of OTT and loose definition, there are other considerations when considering OTT as part of your strategy. Several providers, including Hulu, offer a self-serve, ad-buying platform – Hulu’s offering starts at $500 minimum investment. While the price-point is attractive, there are things to consider when buying OTT in this fashion, and they go back to ‘tried and true’ media buying practices of reach and frequency.

  • Reach means: “How many unique people will see my ad?”
  • Frequency is: “How many times will those unique people see my ad?”

These are fundamental practices for media buying that can make or break the success of a campaign. Without the ability to control or understand reach and frequency, it can leave an advertiser feeling like their ad-dollars were wasted.

If your investment allows for 900 ads (assuming you’re targeting the right demographic). Would you rather have 900 people see your ad once, or 300 people see your ad 3 times? While expanding the reach (900×1) is appealing, the ability for your message to resonate with a consumer after only one view is minimal at best.

Running ads during the Super Bowl would be an outlier for the scenario described above. The unique prestige of that event and the sheer size of that audience (208+ million viewers in 2022) mean your ads are going to be seen. Outside of the Super Bowl, though, it’s significantly more effective for brand recall to have the same people see your ad multiple times over a longer timespan. The brands that have the best recall are the ones whose ads you can’t seem to escape — think Geico and State Farm. And it’s of note that ad creative premiered at the Super Bowl often runs for months and months afterward in order to maximize frequency for those brands as well.

Media buying is a science, there’s an art to crafting a media schedule for maximum effectiveness and honing in on the right audience. The other downside to many self-service platforms is minimized reach. Because OTT has become so popular and it’s not constrained by (literal) cables that run in a neighborhood, it’s become much more segmented. If you were to walk up and down a residential block, the providers being used in each household will vary dramatically, and that landscape is only getting more fragmented.

Premium, Cross-Provider OTT Buys for Brands

At Mediagistic, we leverage cross-provider OTT buys that are streamed in the home, typically on the big-screen, during premium content, are non-skippable, brand-safe and typically have a 98%+ video completion rate. Additionally, the cross-provider purchasing method means we’re not limited to just one provider like Hulu, Sling, etc. and focus on the appropriate demographic. So, if a home is geographically in our target area and meets our demographic needs, we will find them regardless of the service they’re using – thus maximizing reach.

Combine that with ensuring the necessary frequency and we’ve got a sound media schedule that’s primed to deliver results. To use a football analogy, you can draw up a great play, but without fundamental blocking and tackling, the chances of success are limited.

Have questions about an OTT advertising campaign that you’re currently planning or may already be running for your business? Reach out to Mediagistic’s expert media planning team today, and we’ll be happy to look under the hood and provide recommendations.


Adam Smith is the Vice President of Channel Marketing at Mediagistic. He’s a driven marketing and management professional with 15+ years of experience and a passion for his work. His role requires expertise in every aspect of advertising, but also necessitates the ability to understand a business’ objectives and provide recommendations that drive results. Whether collaborating with an individual business or a marketing manager looking to drive results, the goal never changes – gain market share, increase brand awareness and make the phone ring! Connect with him on Linkedin.

Images via iStock

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