Over-the-top video (OTT) is a uniquely attractive channel for advertisers. It combines the immersive, full-screen experience of television with the targeting efficiencies and measurement capabilities of digital.
It’s also where consumers are. OTT viewership has skyrocketed over the past year, and advertisers in the U.S. can now reach more than 84 million households via connected streaming TV services.*
In spite of OTT’s impressive growth, spending on streaming TV advertising isn’t quite keeping pace with consumer adoption. In fact, linear TV still commands about 6 times what OTT commands in terms of ad spend.** There are several reasons for buyer hesitancy–the absence of standard identifiers and a lack of “premium” supply, to name two–but one that stands out is ad fraud, which studies estimate may impact as many as 1 in every 5 OTT ads.
In order for buyers to transact safely in the high-risk OTT supply pool, it will require both sides of the transaction to demand higher standards in securing the OTT supply chain, which is why Index Exchange brought industry leaders together for a two-part discussion on this very topic.
Part One: The Buyer and Seller Perspective – The Impact of Fraud on OTT
This first session featured Mike Fisher, VP, Advanced TV & Audio at Essence, Taylor Ash, Senior Director of TV Partnerships at The Trade Desk, and Maddy Want, Product Director at Index Exchange. It was moderated by Adam Noble of Index Exchange.
This lively discussion focused on what constitutes fraud, the inventory types most often impacted, and the value yet to be unlocked by improved security standards and greater transparency.
“We’re moving away from a world where we say premium content necessarily has to be long-form programming that initially aired on linear TV, and starting to say that premium content is a spectrum not only based on the type of content, but also who the audience is for that content,” said Mike Fisher. “Three years ago, everybody was out there saying user-generated content is not premium. Today, user-generated content is premium to a subset of viewers, and we need to be thinking about that.”
Buyers may be keen to expand the definition of “premium” OTT beyond specific content qualities to better account for the big screen viewer experience and targeting; however, confidently transacting on inventory outside of the closed, TV programmer-supplied market that supports OTT today can be risky.
“If you’re starting to consider UGC [user-generated content] as premium under certain circumstances, then the people who create and prepare that content become part of the ecosystem of impacted parties,” said Maddy Want. “The unique and different relationships between publishers, channels, and content providers is part of what makes ads.txt need to be adapted to the CTV space.”
Taylor Ash agreed: “Bad actors will always be present in a growing space, which is why it’s imperative we stay one step ahead of them. This requires a multi-faceted approach.”
Access the full 40-minute conversation.
Part Two: The Ad Tech Perspective – Advancing Solutions to Secure the OTT Supply Chain
The second session was hosted by the IAB Tech Lab’s Amit Shetty, VP, Programmatic Products and Partnerships, and featured a discussion between Ben Antier, Co-Founder and CEO at Publica, Janelle de Rivera, Director of Product Management at Moat, and Rob Hazan, Senior Director of Product at Index Exchange.
The panel reinforced the importance of securing the OTT supply chain and identified the complexities of the challenges faced by buyers and sellers.
“You wouldn’t want to do online banking if there was a 25% chance that every time you did a transfer, your money vanished into the ether,” said Hazan.
Janelle de Rivera agreed, and encouraged openness in speaking about these topics to ensure an understanding of the problem at hand. “CTV is at a premium,” she noted. “Fraudsters will always follow where the money goes.”
And right now, that money is in streaming television. Connected TV CPMs are typically in the mid to high twenties, meaning wasted impressions can quickly add up to a significant dollar amount.
“If you’re able, as a fraudster, to start firing billing notifications to anybody you want, you’ve created a massive opportunity for fraud, which is exactly what’s been happening,” said Ben Antier.
The conversation then turned to how technology and improved standards can be used to meet the unique needs of this inventory.
“Now is an opportunity to bring rigor and security,” said Hazan. “Everyone benefits from a more trustworthy marketplace. We can make it infeasible for scammers to perpetuate fraud.”
Ben Antier echoed this call to action. “There’s a lack of credibility in this space,” he noted. “That’s the real issue here. That’s why all of our companies are working so hard in addressing it, because we know that we can fix this problem, and when we do it’s going to give more comfort for buyers to spend on this medium.”
A sample of the solutions discussed includes new standards and guidelines being introduced in IAB working groups, end-device signaling, cryptographic authentication of bid requests and billing notifications, and methods for identifying and stamping out non-human traffic.
Securing the OTT Supply Chain with Index Exchange
Index Exchange has been leading the programmatic industry on fraud control and transparency, and continues to be amongst the safest places to transact digital ad inventory. With the recent appointment of our first-ever VP of OTT, we are placing additional focus and urgency on our mission of securing the OTT supply chain. Today, Index is leading toward standards for eliminating OTT fraud with improved inventory transparency, authenticated supply, and sophisticated protections against invalid traffic and data leaks.
*The Trade Desk, The Future of TV Report: January 2021
**US Connected TV Ad Spending, Insider Intelligence Report, eMarketer