Quality and Quantity: Why Curation is Table Stakes for CTV Advertising Success

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Curation has promised to simplify and refine programmatic trading for many years, yet it has struggled to take off in a digital ecosystem where buyers are largely content maximising scale and minimising CPMs. But in CTV, where prices are high and supply is low, curation has emerged as table stakes to navigating advertising’s newest premium channel.

To understand why curation is vital to campaign success on CTV, first we need to take a look at how the supply chain on the channel is fundamentally different from its digital counterparts.

Direct and guaranteed deals lead the way in CTV trading

CTV may be a newcomer to the advertising ecosystem, yet it leads in direct deal execution. Despite resembling digital advertising in its technological underpinnings, the majority of programmatic campaigns on CTV go through private marketplaces or programmatic guarantees, with deal IDs used as the basis for securing the terms of the transaction.

This is partly a matter of heritage. Unlike digital advertising, where the focus is often on scale, performance, and driving CPMs as low as possible, TV is seen as a premium channel by brands and consumers alike — perhaps the most premium. It is perceived as a channel worth spending money on, and this reputation is being carried over to CTV as broadcasters make their digital transition.

For media owners and streaming services, deal IDs are a way to maintain the high CPMs of linear TV on their growing CTV wings or, if they’re streaming newcomers, to set a price floor that reflects big-screen prestige. There is also simply far less supply in CTV than there is in digital display. When supply is constrained, costs go up, and when costs go up, both ends want more security and transparency over their transactions.

Then there’s the fact that big-screen video creative is also more expensive to produce, so it makes sense to commit resources to guaranteeing their placement rather than leave it to the mercy of open programmatic algorithms. Brands that are accustomed to the one-to-one trading of linear TV are likely less comfortable navigating open supply chains.

With higher stakes and higher costs throughout the supply chain, curators have carved out a central role as mediators for quality.

How does curation give advertisers an advantage on CTV?

Programmatic curation presents advertisers with a refined selection of inventory chosen by the curator to simplify the buying process and improve end-to-end transparency.

In digital advertising, where an unoptimized campaign might be scattered across tens of thousands of properties, curation’s selling point is primarily as a quality filter. It costs more upfront than open auction bidding but promises improved KPIs and efficiency by removing low-quality placements — which might also pose a brand safety risk.

In CTV, curation’s purpose is flipped. Here, the problem is not wading through an overwhelming quantity of placements but getting a foot in the door of multiple quality placements. The direct and guaranteed deals that make up the bulk of CTV ad trading are more time and resource-intensive to plan, negotiate, and execute across various publishers. Even on the low end, a single campaign may involve conducting a dozen or more such deals with nearly as many publishers.

Having a curator sit in between and navigate these complexities allows brands and agencies to maximise the reach of their premium video campaigns while trusting the curator to do the heavy lifting of campaign execution, troubleshooting and optimisation.

Curators benefit from being able to craft a single deal across multiple publishers, which furthers the rationale for buyers to work through these service providers rather than a multitude of publishers. This is especially valuable when individual OTT and streaming channels each come with their own planning and performance tracking tools, or in regions such as Europe, Central America, or Southeast Asia where campaigns might be scattered across multiple countries with relatively small populations (compared to the USA or India) that have region-specific broadcasters and streaming platforms.

The curators themselves can differentiate their services by the types of channels, regions, or demographics they cater to. Brands and agencies' due diligence is reduced to choosing the right curator. Publishers benefit too, as they can boost their scale without undermining their CPMs through custom price floors, which may help smooth out some of the shakier transitions we’ve seen when broadcasters make the jump from linear to OTT.

What’s next for CTV curation?

Curators of CTV bring a sense of security — the comfort of having an expert in the room — to a channel that is still a work in progress. Changes in its technology, guidelines, and best practices occur at a fast pace, not to mention the frequent mergers and acquisitions that might upend who buyers are trading with from one day to the next.

Even experienced digital teams are uncertain as to how their own agency colleagues are executing campaigns on CTV, making it a channel that is still being figured out on the job, where skills and knowledge from digital aren’t as easily transferred over as many might expect.

Yet consumers are enraptured by CTV, and as such total ad spend continues to be poured into the channels and away from linear, display, and social. Those wanting to get into CTV ad buying still have plenty of opportunities to do so, but those entering now are practically the late majority — a far cry from securing an early adopter advantage. To expedite this transition for brands and agencies, curation is a natural solution, a true quality and quantity experience.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Lotame. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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