In the fast-changing television ad market, many brands have an eye on new video ad offerings, but remain big believers in the power of traditional TV. That's where a4 Advertising offers an innovative strategy: combine linear TV with over-the-top (OTT) buys to extend marketing dollars and connect with more viewers.
"In an environment where consumption is shifting constantly, that's how you maximize reach," noted Caitlin Monaghan (pictured at top), a4's vice president of national advertising. a4 Advertising, the in-house sales organization for New York-based cable operator Altice, uses a household-based approach to execute multiscreen campaigns for local and national brands. In 2015, Altice acquired former New York-area cable operator Cablevision, giving it access to critical set-top box data, which a4 deploys for targeted, addressable ads. Now, a4 Advertising uses data from MVPD providers nationwide, as well as other first and third-party data, to craft buys that span broadcast and cable networks and OTT.
a4 Advertising builds optimized linear TV plans that are built on a target audience and enhanced with data that ranks networks and dayparts for their delivery of the intended audience. In conjunction, they build a complimentary plan for buying ads on OTT platforms, delivering even more targeted consumers.
Monaghan said broadcast and cable TV play a vital role in the ad ecosystem. "Linear TV is an extremely efficient medium. It's the most efficient medium because of its reach and it is very powerful," she said.
With optimized linear TV and OTT, a4 Advertising can improve targeting and effectiveness. "There's a lot to be gained by combining the two," Monaghan said.
The overall approach is to begin with a detailed audience. It works like a layer cake: a4 Advertising uses linear TV as a base, and creates an optimized linear plan to figure out which households are most likely to receive a message, which creates a foundation for reach. Additional users are then reached by OTT, which targets the low or never-exposed households on linear TV that are instead picked up via OTT.
This method is more effective than utilizing them separately, Monaghan explained, because that could result in repeat or missed consumers. For example, if there were 10 available households, planning and buying linear TV and OTT in silos could reach six of those combined. Using its data and analytics, a4 Advertising scores the 10 households from high to low probability to receive an ad. Then, they target low probability homes with data-informed OTT buys to try and increase reach. "Now, you might reach eight out of 10 homes and you've extended your reach," she said.
Recently, a4 Advertising has been working with clients in the education vertical that are looking to grow their customer base. Seeking reach, the company had been buying TV, but felt they were still missing potential consumers. A mid-campaign review proved this to be right, so a4 Advertising stepped in to shift some optimized TV dollars into different networks and dayparts, and added more OTT to increase incremental reach.
But a4 Advertising is aware there are still more available households to target, said Monaghan. Some marketers might worry they're duplicating audiences and increasing frequency rather than reach, but Monaghan turned that notion on its head. She contended that if a user has multiple exposures, the frequency can solidify brand awareness and spur action. "I don't think overlap is a bad word. It can keep you top of mind," she said.
What about marketers who are considering buying digital/video or social media over OTT? OTT delivers more engaged users says Monaghan. Many online and mobile users are browsing content and can gloss over ads or use ad blockers. OTT employs direct IP addresses to deliver ad messaging to specific households, increasing the precision and accuracy of an ad delivery.
"When you sit down to watch a show, it is very purposeful. Also, many viewers are accustomed to ad breaks," she said. "You know that the consumer is going there to watch something that they love and are more likely to consume the ads."
To determine the right mix, a4 Advertising takes its brand partners through a multi-step process. First, they review the campaign's goals and budget, and then allocate resources for TV and OTT. Typically, 70 percent of the available dollars go to linear TV and about 30 percent to OTT. Over the course of a three-month campaign flight, they'll refine the mix every 2-4 weeks. Along the way, a4 continues to evaluate and score additional households for possible OTT exposure, which could be added. "That way a4 Advertising is growing the OTT pool and extending reach," Monaghan explained.
After an initial buy, a4 uses its analytics to refine its methods and typically conducts a review mid-campaign. Sometimes, the reach is optimal, and they stay the course. In other instances, a brand might increase its OTT use to reach incremental homes.
With marketers under pressure to prove ROI, Monaghan said that kind of support is a difference-maker. a4 Advertising offers a full team, including linear TV experts, client services specialists, data analysts and tech support.
"Especially in today's world, where there is so much uncertainty that having a team behind you that you can call up and you're having constant conversation, that's a huge benefit," she said. "In this current climate, you need to be flexible."
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