Connected TV ads need to deliver a better user experience and show more repsect to the viewer, says GumGum’s Ken Weiner.

This should surprise no one doing business in the CTV market: Connected TV advertising is an unstoppable freight train. CTV spending rose 57% last year to $15.2 billion and is projected to more than double over the next few years. More importantly, 76% of video buyers consider CTV a “must buy” in their media planning budgets, as CTV allows them to leverage data not available within linear TV. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that CTV advertising still doesn’t always deliver a great advertising experience to consumers.

We’ve all seen it – streaming video that’s not produced with ads in mind and is interrupted by a weird break every 10 minutes – or worse, the ad break happens mid-sentence during important dialog. It’s maddening. There is also plenty of content that’s created without commercial breaks in mind so there are no natural places to insert any ad breaks. It’s excruciating for viewers and not a great experience for brands either. How do we evolve a better user experience and respect the viewer?

The need will only become more urgent as more content comes online (including movie catalogs, live content, and Netflix-native series that need to be monetized, for example).

Fortunately, there are ways to fix this problem and our industry has the technology to do it. Here are just a few of the things every platform, publisher, and advertiser should be doing to deliver an impactful and user-friendly experience through CTV ads:

Avoid linear ad formats: If the video stream was not produced with ad breaks in mind, simply don't insert linear ads. Respect your viewers and find alternatives like overlays and squeeze backs instead.

Explore non-linear ad formats like overlays: Advertising overlays in CTV appear over the top of the video (in a corner or along the bottom of the screen) rather than randomly interrupting a show with a traditional ad. Research shows they are less intrusive and four times more memorable than video ads. Not bad for a format that also costs less too and drives 72% in savings where a traditional video ad on average costs $0.57 and an overlay ad average cost is $0.16. Overlays can also contain actionable elements like QR codes or a short text number to increase viewers’ consideration and conversion rates.

…and squeeze backs: Another non-linear ad option, a squeeze back is a process that reduces the size of a video or image (the TV display) to allow logos, text crawls, or graphics in the display area. Squeeze backs may be used during the closing credits to promote upcoming content – or anything else. As a result, brands can use a more general creative video with a custom squeeze back frame to tailor an advertising message to a specific audience or location. This saves the company time and money by not having to create multiple custom advertising videos and buy specific placements. CTV advertising technology can place these squeeze back frames and create multiple versions in a matter of minutes (saving time and money).

Use contextual targeting: Contextual targeting leads to a better, less interruptive ad experience. Full stop. The basic premise of contextual advertising is putting the right ad in the right context to meet the consumer in the right mindset, to deliver impactful and relevant ads. We found that contextual video ads increase brand recall by 70% and are more than twice as memorable. A premium automaker for example, used a contextual ad to showcase its PHEV vehicles and saw ad recall jump twofold and engagement increase 43% over non-contextual ads. So even if the CTV experience is a little rocky, the contextual nature of the ad can help.

Re-engineer content for ad breaks: Yes, some of the best CTV content is not designed for ad breaks – yet. But as advertisers, programmers, and platforms ask for it, it could become the norm – so ask! All new content can be produced with ad breaks in mind and where there’s demand, there’s a market.

Tap into the power of artificial intelligence: Already AI can help determine the right places for an ad break with scene detection, and eventually even lead to smart, in-video product placement that’s (hopefully) delightful, and not just creepy. In the future, you can imagine how it could also detect which advertiser is about to run programmatically, even when advertiser information isn’t provided by a buyer. Or it could let publishers use controls and business rules to handle deduplication, competitive separation, frequency capping, advertiser block lists, category block lists, and more. Bottom line: AI is a largely untapped but hugely promising way to solve CTV’s placement problems.

After all, experiences that are memorable and engage consumers also monetize well, and that’s a winning proposition for CTV advertisers, platforms, publishers, and content creators alike.