As the saying goes – change is the only constant, and the impact of this change can be unpredictable. Nowhere is this truer than in ad tech. As technology evolves, new formats emerge, and unforeseen circumstances such as Covid-19 result in the unfamiliar combination of increased viewership and reduced ad budgets for publishers, it’s clear that there’s only so much you can prepare for.
When it comes to OTT, there are some lessons to be learned from the world of display to help OTT publishers and broadcasters future-proof their businesses – namely adopting header-bidding.
Header bidding technology for OTT players is becoming increasingly important for programmatic ad serving. The importance of managing inventory that can change as new needs arise has been especially evident during the pandemic. As consumers’ time spent on streaming platforms has increased, we’ve seen inventory spike and publishers who relied solely on guaranteed deals, fixed deals, fixed rates and upfronts to fill their ad space finding they have a lot of unsold inventory or inventories being bought at previously unimagined prices.
Couple that with advertisers who have limited budgets and are reluctant to buy inventory for that same price now, and the winners are publishers who had header bidding implemented. They had the technology to allow them to respond to real-time market conditions and maximize yield and fill.
Keeping Viewers Engaged
Even in the midst of change, some things remain the same. For publishers, two questions are of paramount importance – ‘How can I increase yield?’ and ‘How can I create a better viewer experience?’ These two themes are interconnected. Publishers shouldn’t just want to optimize for yield, they must also want to optimize advertising for experiences. For users, ad experience is a core part of the content experience, which has publishers asking how they can use ads to improve the viewer experience through branding and overall stickiness.
OTT players are content companies first and foremost. To hold an audience and increase average view time, keeping viewers in their seats is critical. They need viewers consuming content in a single user session and not using an ad break to grab a snack or make a call.
But if the ads are truly going to be part of a positive user experience, they can’t be bland or inappropriate, and the user shouldn’t see the same ad back to back or, for example, ads of three cars in a row. The relationship between ad platforms and the viewers is so fragile that any bad experience can be a huge turn off and the viewer will switch away, particularly here in India where so many alternative platforms are available.
Seeing the Whole Ecosystem
Working with a header bidding solution like PubMatic’s recently launched OpenWrap OTT – which combines header bidding and ad podding capabilities – allows publishers to take advantage of competition between open exchanges and deals. With a header bidding solution, the system can determine the highest bidder that fits the criteria for the impression. Having one UI gives publishers oversight of the whole competitive bidding landscape across the different SSPs that they may work with.
For OTT publishers, combining this with server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology means they can recreate a TV-like experience for their viewers. They can determine all the rules for an ad pod – which ads are going to be shown and when – and deliver them seamlessly into the content stream, just like a commercial break on linear TV. OpenWrap OTT allows publishers to pre-fetch the ads, hold them for a short period of time, deliver them, and report back to all advertisers when they ran and what content they ran against.
The Unsung Hero
Reporting is often an unsung hero. It’s not sexy like money or better user experience, but having controls, reporting, and a dedicated team supporting you through a single platform is a real game-changer for publishers. Without that, publishers would have to create API connections with all partners, pull them into their own reporting infrastructure and have it push something out. And often, home-brewed solutions become increasingly complex, or multiple sources of data come in at different times of the day, which can prove to be a frustrating house of cards to manage. We’ve seen it in the desktop, mobile and video worlds, but there is a lot of opportunity right now for OTT publishers to avoid the pain others went through in the past.
Originally published in Brand Equity