CTV, OTT… What does it all mean?


1st December 2022

If you’re wondering what CTV and OTT mean, you’re not alone. Essentially, CTV and OTT are both new ways to watch TV digitally, without the need for cable or an aerial like we had in the olden days.

CTV is a device that connects to a TV to enable the user to stream video. An Xbox or PlayStation, Amazon Fire Stick or Apple TV are all examples of CTV.

OTT is a way of streaming TV or watching videos directly from the internet on any platform. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are all OTT services. 

There’s also linear TV, which is the dinosaur-era technology that involves watching a scheduled programme when it is broadcasted on the channel that is broadcasting it. Think ITV’s 1981 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited with Jeremy Irons (now available on ITVX, another VOD service – that’s video on demand).

All these new ways of engaging with media simply mean that consumers are using all kinds of different media and platforms and, as viewers have abandoned traditional TV watching, advertisers have followed.

Digital streaming methods also offer advertisers a more effective way to engage with audiences and greater control over who they speak to and when. Instead of the scattergun approach of TV advertising on terrestrial channels, the data-informed approach of marketing via OTT and CTV enable greater precision and targeting.

With CTV and OTT, advertisers can get a feel for the consumer’s likes, dislikes and engagement through tracking, registration information and IP addresses. However, account sharing and much fiercer competition online can make it tricky to stand out in the busy world of CTV.

And despite the hype, linear TV still maintains the largest audience share as even those who are confident using a range of streaming methods will still put on and watch the TV. This is even more so the case for viral shows like Love Island, which at its peak pulled in millions of viewers every night for an entire summer.

CTV continues to attract vast amounts of ad spending as both established and upstart players seek to grab some of the available ad space. Its main lure is that, unlike any other platform, CTV platforms must provide advertisers with a method to identify whether a viewer is actively looking at their ad and engaging with the display, rather than having it on in the background.

But for many data-driven growth marketers, CTV simply doesn’t offer the in-depth insights into measurement, attribution and targeting that other platforms provide. Further issues with privacy – as in any emerging digital technology – have given pause to CTV-focused campaigns as brands remain wary of legal grey areas when it comes to data gathering.

And of course, advertisers don’t want to spark a rush for adblockers. When ads came surging onto every website before, many internet users were simply able to block them with a quick and free extension. 

As with any new marketing technology, the trick is to tread carefully; think about your customers, your strategy, your goals and your brand. Or you can always ask us to do all that for you – we’re really good at it.

To learn more about CTV or find out how we can kick-start your next digital campaign, get in touch.

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