Why OTT Belongs in Your 2018 Marketing Mix

This article was originally published on the TUNE blog. Branch acquired the TUNE Attribution Analytics product in September 2018, and we have republished select pieces of content for the enjoyment of Branch customers.

If you’ve watched an episode of Hulu recently, you’ve participated in an advertising opportunity going prime-time in 2018: OTT. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what OTT is and the opportunities for marketers to learn from this rising channel.


But First, What Is OTT?

OTT stands for “over the top.” It refers to content that is delivered over the top of another platform. For example, when you watch your favorite Hulu episode, you’re not watching it on Comcast; you’re watching it on Hulu, a service that lays over the top of your cable provider.

Another example: When you scroll through Facebook on your smartphone and see ads in your feed, you’re not giving impressions to Verizon; you’re giving them to Facebook, the service that lays over the top of your wireless carrier. The same goes for text messaging apps (like WhatsApp), streaming music providers (like Spotify), voice calling services (like Skype), and many others. 


What Opportunity Does OTT Provide for Marketers?

Whatever fear arose about the loss of advertising opportunities when Hulu first came out has been swiftly recouped. OTT enables marketers to slide advertisements in front of all the services consumers use on their devices. Advertisements can be sandwiched between streaming television shows, YouTube videos, or apps in the realms of messaging, games, social media, and more.

But OTT is much more than strategically inserted ads. Below are some of the compelling possibilities OTT creates for marketers in both OTT advertising and the entire marketing mix as a whole.

Granular Targeting with Performance-based Metrics

Television ads, radio spots, and billboards offer at best limited demographics on who consumes those advertisements. Social media offers increased granularity, allowing marketers to target more specific audiences. But OTT really digs deep.

OTT allows marketers to not only choose who sees what and when on which devices, it also allows marketers to measure audience engagement. Marketers can see who skips ahead, which ad spot a consumer chooses when given a choice, and where a target audience spends their time (or doesn’t).

This level of data is making all advertising performance-based. It’s building an ecosystem where marketers are not just concerned with reach, but also with engagement. Not just with best guess, but with hard data. Marketers can apply these learnings in OTT and their other marketing initiatives both to access the most specific customer targeting possible as well as to adapt metrics that measure beyond reach to consumption and engagement.

A Focus on the Entire Customer Journey

OTT pushes the industry toward a more connected picture of the customer. A picture that might reveal the customer watching a show on an iPad, scrolling through social media on a smartphone, and making a purchase later that night on a laptop. Marketers who are staying ahead of the trend are choosing technologies that connect and reveal this complete picture, with the customer — not the marketing channel — at the center.

Brands that are using OTT well are using it not just to get new leads, but to remarket to hot ones. Instead of reach and conversion, OTT is moving the industry toward a focus on engagement metrics like aggregate reach, engaged reach, time spent, and true followers or subscribers.

“Lead generation is not a one-time campaign conversion; it the first step to an ongoing relationship fueled by a customized experience on the site, newsletters, and even retargeted display advertising once a consumer leaves the site,” writes Janet Balis, a Principal with Ernst & Young LLP.

Content Over Screens

OTT introduces a new challenge: how to create ads that will fit a seemingly endless array of screen sizes and technology platforms. Customers care very little whether they stream episodes on a smartphone at the gym or a TV at home (and they likely do all of the above). This means marketers must shift focus from creating ads for specific channels into creating ads that work across all of them.

“In a post-digital world, the line between traditional and digital content is irrelevant to consumers,” Forrester Analyst Brandon Verblow says. “Marketers will need to develop screen-agnostic planning and execution to reassemble the audiences that fragment across these screens in order to achieve their reach, frequency, and communication objectives.”

The Most Connected Brands Will Win

Many brands used to rely solely on media companies to come up with campaign concepts and reach the right audiences. That expectation is changing. Today’s brands must know their customers remarkably well, and media companies must to be able to reach those customers with increasing specificity and at a massive scale.

To stay ahead of the game, marketers should be thinking about how to integrate technology between their data and their media partners’ in order to reach the most people in the most compelling way possible. The companies that invest in connecting all of their partners and technologies will be best poised to reach their most valuable customers with the most relevant advertisements — and have the data to prove it.


Where to Begin

A few common themes emerge. Lean into the following trends to stay ahead of OTT and marketing as a whole:

  • Measure the entire customer journey (instead of just the start of it)
  • Connect your advertising partners, customer insights, and technology
  • Hone in on performance advertising as all marketing becomes measurable
  • Approach marketing with mobile as the ecosystem, not the channel