As we began planning our fourth annual (and now virtual!) SpotX Connect, I started thinking about all that we’ve learned from the many ways our industry has adapted and shifted priorities this year. Our 2020 theme, Sightlines, focuses on how the four key lines of sight — hindsight, oversight, insight, and foresight — come together to form a complete view of what we have faced this year, the progress we’ve made as an industry, and the opportunities that lie ahead.
As 2020 has unfolded in a way that few could have predicted, we must pause and reflect on all that’s happened thus far. So, it’s only natural to start by examining hindsight.
We’re grappling with a global pandemic, economic upheaval, and powerful social movements. I’m sure you can agree that our industry has been impacted, too. Yet, when we look back, we can see glimmers of hope in creativity, accelerated trends, and new ways of working.
We have a unique view into the media landscape at SpotX as we’re privileged to sit at the intersection of content creators, advertisers, and their audiences. Watch the video below or read on to see how this position has helped us identify six clear lessons stemming from the events of this year.
1. Advertisers that follow consumers to CTV will win
Our 2020 global research report, “CTV is for Everyone,” shows that CTV has progressed beyond its newbie status and achieved mass adoption. Can you guess what the median age of CTV viewers is? It might surprise you that it’s 45. And CTV viewership is diverse from age to income to ethnicity to household type. Looking back, the pandemic has underscored the shift to CTV and advertisers continue to take notice. In fact, according to the IAB, CTV spend is projected to grow 19% from last year and will continue to increase through 2021.
2. CTV has proven a can’t-miss opportunity to reach voters
Given CTV’s growth, we’re not surprised to see political campaigns leverage the power of CTV like never before. With in-person campaigning and rallies suspended or scaled back, reaching voters through digital channels took on a new urgency. According to a recent study by Centro, over 60% of the agencies and consultancies surveyed identified CTV as a key channel for digital campaigns this election cycle. With more households tuned into CTV, buyers have unparalleled targeting and scale opportunities in both local and national races. Data-layered and geo-targeted campaigns reach potential voters when it matters most. After this election cycle, we have no doubt that hindsight will show CTV was a cornerstone in winning strategies across the nation.
3. Evolve your data strategy to prepare for the death of the cookie
As the third-party cookie crumbles, companies across the industry are evolving their audience data strategies to identify and connect with their audiences in a privacy-compliant way. First-party data is more and more valuable. Publishers are starting to activate their data to help advertisers reach their audiences, in many cases leveraging their supply-side platform (SSP) partnerships. We’re also seeing buyers look beyond cookie-based environments and investing more in CTV, as well as expanding their use of contextual targeting.
4. The ability to reshape creative messages — quickly — is paramount
Brands were forced to react quickly to unfamiliar situations and rapidly evolving consumer behavior. To remain relevant, many advertisers had to adapt their messaging and creatives. We saw two main approaches. The first was to take a promotional, performance-based approach with ads that shared a timely message and encouraged consumers to continue to spend. The message is reframed, but the goal of the ad remained revenue generation. The second approach was to double down on brand awareness to deliver a non-commercial message. These ads show a dedication to social responsibility, and, if produced in an authentic way, can build goodwill that can translate into brand loyalty.
5. Overcome uncertain programming schedules with programmatic guaranteed
Was there anything an advertiser could count on in such an uncertain time? Programmatic guaranteed certainly was, as it played a key role in a year that demanded adaptation from the market. New content premieres, live sports, and even the upfronts were all in question. Programmatic guaranteed offered security and assurance to advertisers as they locked in their campaigns. Media owners also turned to programmatic guaranteed to ensure predictable revenue for the rest of 2020. Its fast growth, fueled by times of increasing or fluctuating demand, will surely continue into next year.
6. SPO deserves your attention
Our final hindsight reflection, supply path optimization, continues to take center stage. While historically SPO has been driven by the concept of rate efficiency and the need for transparency, the conversation this year was focused on the value of deep partnerships. Now the promise of SPO is to drive unique value from a select group of trusted partners focused on premium inventory, first-party data, and technical innovation. More than ever, marketers are challenged to prove ROI for every dollar spent and it’s clear just how important it is to have the right partners who can scale and deliver against your target audiences.
Working in ad tech, our ecosystem prides itself on being nimble and disruptive. The events of this year have been an opportunity for businesses to reset and rethink the norm. Personally, I’ve been so impressed by the inventive ways that advertisers and media owners have quickly responded to meet new challenges. As we consider the lessons we’ve learned thus far in planning for 2021, I believe we’ll all be prepared for a stronger future.
Kevin Hunt is the SVP of Global Marketing at SpotX, overseeing global brand strategy, creative, digital, media, content, PR, events, and experiences. Kevin joined SpotX as a Product Manager and led a team with a mission of bringing transparency to digital video advertising. As chief brand steward, Kevin is now focused on bringing SpotX’s innovation to the world. When not at work, you’ll find Kevin exploring the food scene in San Francisco (and beyond) with his husband and their English Setter, Franklin.