CTV: The Next Frontier

2019 was a busy year for CTV, or Connected TV, as Apple TV+ and Disney Plus entered the streaming Olympics. More consumers are continuing to cut ties with linear TV (think standard television sets with ads and scheduled shows) and embrace internet-backed entertainment. These new launches mean big things for consumers, streaming competitors such as Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, and most importantly, advertisers. These new platforms will continue to revolutionize when, why, and how messages are communicated to potential consumers – and if advertisers aren’t kept up to date with these new trends, their messages won’t be enjoyed, let alone received. Keeping up with CTV – or staying ahead of it – will bring profitable rewards for brands willing to tackle ad-free frontiers.

CTV is a murky field chock-full of questions. How do messages reach consumers through TV nowadays? Are ad-free platforms here to stay? What are advertisers supposed to do? These are questions being considered as linear TV quickly fades into the background. But as consumers, we trade in this confusion for excitement. Ad-free entertainment is pretty incredible, especially considering we can binge watch hours of TV shows without distraction. But what happens if ads start appearing one day? Will CTV be as luxurious as it is now? The future of TV is an open field that is slowly but surely being constructed. Read on to learn more about this new mode of entertainment and how it’s evolving, especially with the most recent launch of Apple TV+.

What is CTV? And what’s so special about Apple TV+?

CTV is any TV device that is connected to the internet. It can be a smart TV, a game console device with TV or streaming viewing options, or any TV that offers streaming viewing in the form of Netflix, Roku, Hulu, YouTube, and so on. Some of the platforms routed to consumers through CTV (in this case, Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+) do not allow ads. Others, such as Hulu, are ad-free if you choose to pay more per month. Otherwise, ads are there. And these ads, transpired to consumers through internet-backed devices, can be powerful. If consented, advertisers can analyze data about CTV viewing habits and programmatically place targeted ads to those watching in seconds. With more relevant ads being placed in front of consumers, the annoyance associated with traditional TV is removed.

Programmatic ads sound incredible for advertisers and consumers. Unfortunately, the new Apple TV Channels and Apple TV+ platforms are entirely ad-free. In fact, the brand isn’t even collecting any data about streaming. Instead, recommendations are served solely based on a so-called “combination of human curation and on-device processing.” Ad-targeting for non-existent ads, in other words, isn’t even possible. And the viewers for Apple TV+ keep growing, especially as those purchasing new Apple devices get an entire year of viewing for free. For advertisers hoping to advertise, doing so via Apple devices gets a bit tricky.

How can advertisers reach CTV viewers on ad-free platforms?

For now, ad-free platforms are untouchable. Ad-supported CTV options, however, are incredibly profitable, especially with the use of programmatic content. So,it isn’t all doom and gloom from here. According to the Trade Desk’s Co-founder and CEO, Jeff Green, all streaming providers will need to explore ad-funded models in the near future. Linear TV viewers are shrinking and more streaming platforms are being launched. Pricing is now a leading factor for consumers when it comes to deciding which services to subscribe to. And by being ad-supported, a platform is able to serve content at a much lower price per month.

With profits from advertisers, streaming platforms will also have the ability to launch more compelling, original pieces of content for viewers. Bringing in ads, (especially programmatic ads)  means major rewards for streaming services, streamers, and streaming advertisers. It’s because of these favorable outcomes that CTV advertising is expected to surpass $10 billion by 2021. Though things may be a bit confusing now, the future of connected TV is incredibly promising. Learning more about it now rather than later is integral. Coming across this post, combined with past blog posts regarding Emerging Digital Channels and Advertising with Connected TV, are strong steps in the right direction.

Marketing Trends: Instagram vs. TikTok

TikTok is an app that is quickly growing in popularity across the globe. The word “growing” doesn’t even come close to capturing TikTok’s hype – the app, launched by China’s ByteDance in 2016, has been downloaded over 1 billion times globally. This new entertainment outlet thrives off of short videos that are trendy and humorous. For brands, however, this transparency is intimidating. In a world full of 15-second videos where people are dancing, creating DIYs, performing skits, and being hilariously strange, how does brand advertising fit in and where does it belong? TikTok is Gen Z’s paradise and 66% of users are under the age of thirty. The opportunities are immense for those companies aiming to communicate with today’s youth. To avoid marketing out of fear and confusion, in other words, means not speaking to the 500 million people who use the app each month. The following outline can help your brand prepare for the massive marketing opportunities on TikTok, (which, spoiler alert: are very different from the advertising methods used on Instagram).

How Does TikTok Work?

For users and creators, TikTok is simple, fun, and appealing. The app merged with the short-form video app, Musical.ly, in 2018, and has since continued to be used by the same audience. Everyone has their own profile and users can follow others, but what’s most unique about the app is its ‘Discover’ page. This page serves content, (or short-form videos under 15 seconds) that the app thinks the user will enjoy. Following people isn’t necessary, in this case, as everyone is automatically provided a stream of enjoyable, relevant content based on videos they’ve liked or shared in the past. From there, they can scroll through their ‘Following’ or ‘Discover’ pages and view content without a single distraction. No searching for profiles is necessary and the app, unlike Vine, doesn’t just put the focus on the “most liked” or “most viewed” videos. It’s an individualized entertainment experience on TikTok; not a popularity contest. The user is the focus from day one.

Dance trends and hashtag challenges are popular on TikTok as well, and it’s common to see different creators using the same songs to recreate content with millions of likes. Anyone can go live whenever they please, which also provides free range for users hoping to connect with their individualized audience. TikTok is like a playground in that anyone can do whatever they please, whenever they want. But unlike other apps, the judgment and pressure to be perfect is nowhere to be found.

How Can a Brand Advertise on TikTok?

To connect with the 13-24 year old users on TikTok, a brand’s marketing team has a few options. Companies can create their own profiles and issue fun, relevant videos themselves, (NFL teams have been great at this in 2019) but that requires staying on top of TikTok’s trends at all times. It’s worth the time and energy, however, in that trends keep the app afloat. Regurgitating popular content in new ways will catch a user’s attention and, most importantly, bring your brand’s video into that highly coveted ‘Discover’ page mentioned earlier. Influencer partnerships can also be pursued, but it is key a brand provides these users with free reign. Yes, the goal is to create a viral meme that puts your product in the limelight, but these content creators are the ones who know what their followers like and understand how they prefer being talked to. Pushing a polished, ad-oriented video on an influencer will not work. The video must be authentic, natural, and unscripted in order to catch on and, as a result, increase sales. 

In-feed ads can be purchased by companies if desired, but it’s the hashtag challenges created by advertisers that stand out the most. In this scenario, a brand puts out a video with a dance challenge or other task-oriented dare that encourages users to recreate it. They come up with a branded hashtag for the movement, mention it in the video’s caption, and tell users to add the same hashtag to their own videos. Learning more about Elf Cosmetic’s recent challenge – a great success for the brand – can give advertisers a glimpse into the incredible hashtag opportunities that run amuck on TikTok.

Instagram v.s. TikTok Trends: How are They Different?

Unlike content on Instagram, TikTok’s videos aren’t polished. They don’t follow a theme, they aren’t edited, and they are anything but complex. The videos are real, and many are filmed in bedrooms, backyards, and kitchens. Glitz and glam don’t define an influencer on TikTok. Instead, it’s the talent or personality of a user that makes them stand out amongst the rest. Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and Instagram’s Discover page are comparable, but TikTok’s trends are extremely unique. The same strategy used to market on one app cannot be used for the other. Instagram’s ban on likes may make the polished app of the past more natural, so it will be interesting to see how the two compare in the near future. An unstripped, un-pressured version of Instagram may make it a picture-oriented version of this newer short-video app. In the meantime, however, the trends vary greatly and it is critical for marketers to begin exploring TikTok to feel these differences, understand their impact, and create one-of-a-kind marketing strategies based on findings. Time is ticking (tick tock!) and there are millions of users right around the corner who are ready to see what you come up with.

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