What is OTT Advertising?
The term over-the-top basically refers to the service used to stream digital content to a TV or similar device. The group of devices commonly classified as OTT include:
- Streaming boxes (Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Allshare Cast)
- HDMI sticks (Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick)
- Smart TV (through in-TV apps like Netflix or HBO Go)
- Game consoles
- DVR set-top boxes
- Internet-enabled smart blu-ray/DVD players
OTT advertising is much like advertising on TV, but delivered through streaming media on OTT platforms. OTT: Content that is streaming via popular services like Netflix and Hulu.
How Are OTT Ads Delivered?
Delivery of OTT ads requires consideration of how the streaming platform communicates with OTT devices—for example, via Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) or Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) tags—and the ad-insertion method, whether they will be served client side (CSAI) or server side (SSAI). The general delivery process of OTT ads is as follows:
1. An audience is created: An OTT audience is created based on the platform’s subscription data, but in some cases, they could also be enriched with additional household information. This can include first- and third-party data—the users’ preferred categories of shows or specific shows watched on the platform, for example.
2. The campaign is pushed: Audience matching starts. The platform will match the audience to the specific TV’s subscriber lists on various OTT platforms. The ads are pushed, downloaded, and buffered by the OTT devices.
3. Ads are displayed via OTT platforms: This is where, depending on the platform, OTT devices are communicated with using VAST or VPAID tags.
4. Reporting: The OTT operator sends back ad-exposure results after the campaign and the platform generates the reports for the advertiser. Typically, the campaigns are enriched with the first- and third-party data.
Client-side ad insertion (CSAI) is the legacy method, whereby ads are loaded within the OTT box itself before they get displayed to the viewer. This method does not provide an effective way for displaying ads to viewers, and is susceptible to ad blockers, but is currently the leading method in OTT devices within the advertising industry.
SSAI and Stitching
In server-side ad-insertion (SSAI) content delivery, the ads are served as a seamless stream. The process creates, in real time, a mix of ads and core content streamed to the client device frame-by-frame. Because ad blockers have no possibility to discriminate which frames are ads and which are not, SSAI is a very effective remedy for ad-blocking software.