How Are E-commerce Brands Harnessing the Power of CTV?

Connected TV (CTV) is one of the fastest-growing sectors in digital media, and now there’s finally line of sight for CTV ad spend to overtake linear TV. As the digital streaming wage war for this emerging channel continues, the battle has shifted from acquiring users at all costs to retaining and eking profitability from these expensively acquired users; Netflix introduced an ad model in 2023, and Amazon will soon introduce advertising to Prime users. This shift will open up ad inventory and, combined with increasing viewers, will create an opportunity for advertisers. But increasing opportunity begs the practical question, how exactly should advertisers view the CTV opportunity? I sat down with my good friend Dimitri Souffan, who leads Business Development at the CTV platform Vibe, to ask some pointed questions about this emerging opportunity.

— Adam Landis, Head of Growth at Branch

Hi Dimitri, thanks for taking the time. To start, can you tell us a little about your company?

Vibe is a bit of an outlier. We’re a CTV ad platform with all the power, agility, and performance focus you would expect from legacy digital channels while remaining laser-focused on simplifying the ad-buying process for brands of all sizes.

The feedback we often get is a huge “thank you!” for creating a simple, streamlined interface, even from savvy, veteran mobile and e-commerce marketers. There’s a real appetite for agility and transparency right now, and Vibe is all about empowering our customers to take control of their ad-buying experience.

We’re a product-first company. Over half of our team are veteran developers, constantly pushing performance forward, backed by a very lean sales and admin team. The platform speaks for itself — and that’s how we like it.

CTV is a relatively new space, and we could easily talk about an approach to all clients. So why are we talking specifically about e-commerce? What are the specific opportunities for these types of companies?

E-commerce brands capitalized on a kind of golden age during COVID and are quickly adapting their marketing efforts to a new economic and digital landscape. Online shoppers are now pickier about how and where they spend their money. Meanwhile, digital signal loss and cookie deprecation have dramatically decreased e-commerce campaign return on advertising spend (ROAS).

The top challenges facing e-commerce marketers this year — effective targeting, increased consumer trust, and coherent omni-channel campaign deployment — all fit quite nicely in the CTV framework.

CTV advertising has a huge advantage today in that it doesn’t need third-party cookies or approved identity signals from Apple products to target audience household IPs across devices, so e-commerce ads can run in front of highly engaged audiences on premium channels. Demographics, geography, context, and first-party audience targeting on CTV significantly contribute to e-commerce campaign conversion, while retargeting capabilities mitigate cart abandonment rates.

Meanwhile, your ad creative runs on the most trusted medium by far — premium television — reassuring customers about your brand’s legitimacy and your product’s capabilities, no matter where they’re watching (e.g., mobile, tablet, smart TV).

It’s a huge opportunity for e-commerce brands. Not only is CTV a performance channel in its own right, but it also supercharges other channels. Social and display campaigns all perform significantly better when running concurrently with CTV.

When looking at CTV, what are the biggest hurdles e-commerce companies face?

It’s important for larger companies who have worked with linear TV in the past to understand that although the look and feel of the TV experience will remain the same for viewers, CTV advertising is a completely different animal. One of the most exciting aspects of CTV advertising today — especially programmatic CTV — is probably its pricing, which is quantified in CPMs rather than inflexible, long-term contracts. Budgets that never would have covered the cost of a national TV campaign can get you incredible results on CTV, thanks to advanced targeting capabilities like CRM targeting, retargeting, MMP integration, and more.

Integration with Branch’s measurement solutions can help advertisers measure incremental reach, brand lift, cross-device attribution, and campaign ROI.

Right, we’ve talked about the CTV measurement that Branch provides. What are the targeting options that e-commerce companies have, and how are they using them?

Vibe offers geo-targeting (and exclusion) down to ZIP code, audience interest targeting (e.g., golf, beauty, fashion, automotive), demographic targeting (e.g., income level, political affiliation), contextual targeting (e.g., channel, live sports game, device type, time slot), retargeting, and CRM targeting. The point is to spend precious marketing dollars speaking to audiences that are actually interested in your brand, not spray and pray to massive (and expensive) audiences. It’s also essential to leverage real-time campaign results segmented by targeting dimension and act on those insights.

Audience interest targeting is an interesting one. How does this work?

We’ve built some very powerful audience segments for our customers, and we are constantly adding to our interest targeting pool to help advertisers find in-market audiences. We create proprietary segments in-house, based on behavior observed over thousands of campaigns, and we also work with third-party data providers like Oracle or Lotame to achieve real scale for our customers.

How does the third-party data work?

The predefined segments we work with give great targeted reach to our customers like, for example, 250K+ basketball lovers. Meanwhile, first-party data can get very specific and really push effective performance forward.

You say “effective.” How would the advertiser know what works best?

Well, as much as advertisers would love a straight, one-size-fits-all answer, it’s really all about testing and acting on tangible insights. Fortunately, multivariate campaign deployment is super simple with Vibe and allows advertisers to optimize their campaigns in real time, based on those insights. The outcome then becomes your benchmark (e.g., sales, installs, add-to-carts).

Let’s come back to time-slot targeting. How does time-of-day work for e-commerce?

Again, it’s back to driving your ideal outcome with the best ROI. A simple example is we’ll launch and schedule during the day from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. After some time, we look at the data and evaluate when is most effective to drive conversions. Then, we can limit our timeframe to maximize ROI. Remember, frequency capping is also a key component of campaign impact, and Vibe advertisers can determine the times at which and the frequency with which their customers interact best with their brand.

I remember hearing targeting options years ago for linear TV, and it was something like, “your ad will show sometime on this day.” I assume the same logic also applies for geo?

Yes, although your CPM might go up with more granular targeting, your dollar will go further and you will see better ROI.

Channel is a little more obvious, but can you give us some examples of how e-commerce would look at targeting?

Channel targeting is what you might call the “old school” method, used in linear TV, but today you have hundreds of premium channels at your fingertips at unprecedented prices.

Interestingly, you may think channel-specific targeting is effective, but we’ve found by observing thousands of clients that audience targeting is actually much more effective. I think this is because of legacy targeting limitations. Another example of why CTV is more powerful than linear.

Retargeting is a well-known, effective methodology on the web, where you have cookies and IDs that you can show ads to again. How does this work for CTV?

We touched on this a bit earlier, but basically CTV platforms are able to target audiences by IP address and then graph those households for even further impact. Advertisers then place a custom pixel on their websites to monitor CTV-enabled web visits, clicks, purchases, app installs, etc. Those same pixels also enable the retargeting of past customers or the exclusion of those same customers for acquisition campaigns.

Interesting. That could be super effective. How does this apply to e-commerce companies?

There are a bunch of ways in which retargeting applies to e-commerce advertising, if only because it adds an impactful touchpoint to an increasingly fragmented customer journey. We have seen truly astounding ROAS figures over the past year, mostly with retargeting campaigns, which engage high-intent audiences in a premium, brand-safe environment. And don’t forget, those same audiences can also be excluded to focus campaigns on new segments that make a real impact on incremental reach and brand awareness.

Last but not least, you can create that “TV effect” that builds trust and legitimacy in your brand. Think about the experience: a user comes to your website, browses a bit, and then leaves. A few days later, while watching TV, they see an ad for your website, come back feeling more confident, and make a (trackable) purchase. How cool is that?!


For more on how to take advantage of CTV advertising, request a demo!