Five Observations about CTV Ad Buying

Whether it’s the serial killer biopic on Netflix, the true crime podcast comedy on Hulu, or the epic fantasy prequel series on either Amazon or HBO Max, the big zeitgeist TV shows are on streaming services. And those streaming services, if they weren’t built to be ad-supported in the first place, are adding ad-supported tiers.

Advertising on connected TV (CTV) platforms, which are how most viewers access those streaming services, is big business. Insider Intelligence forecasts ad spending on CTV platforms will reach more than $43 billion by 2026, more than double its forecast for 2022. With such explosive growth projected, HUMAN and TripleLift wanted to know more about what those ad buyers thought of the platforms poised to make such big gains. We asked CTV buyers how important fraud protection was to them, and if it registered highly on their radars, we dug into what specifically concerned them and how they were addressing it.

Our full report, Fraud on Connected TV: Buyers’ Perceptions and Plans, is available now, but here are five of the big takeaways:

  1. SSAI is still viewed with suspicion. Server-side ad insertion (SSAI) is a technology that allows video ads to be stitched together with the content and delivered as a single file to the video player or platform. Think ads interrupting a YouTube video, as an example. More than half of survey respondents, all of whom said they had responsibilities for CTV ad buying, believed SSAI to have a high rate of fraud. This topped the list, beating out home screen banner ads, video wrapper ads, resold inventory, and pause ads.

    It’s not an outlandish fear, either. It wasn’t all that long ago that HUMAN’s Satori Threat Intelligence and Research Team published an investigation into ICEBUCKET, an SSAI fraud operation that made up 28% of all CTV traffic observed by the Human Defense Platform at its peak. There’s still room for the industry to improve its viewability into this type of advertising, and advertisers clearly would welcome the enhanced metrics.

  2. Walled gardens and PMPs aren’t impenetrable. One of the more common myths about advertising on CTV is that private marketplaces are more free from fraud than the broader CTV world. It’s rational to think so; after all, these platforms theoretically aren’t accessible to cybercriminals.

    But in reality, PMPs are no less susceptible to sophisticated fraud than the open marketplace, and buyers have caught on. A full 75% of buyers surveyed acknowledged that these platforms are impacted by fraud. Despite that, the same buyers rated buying exclusively through walled gardens and private marketplaces as the most effective tactic in preventing fraud on CTV platforms.

    Never say advertisers can’t be cynical.

  3. Buyers are polarized on the importance of fraud prevention. We asked buyers how much fraud prevention influenced their decisions when choosing partners, and the short answer is that nobody was ambivalent. On a scale of 1-7, 82% of respondents fell either within the 1-2 (it doesn’t influence me much at all) or 6-7 (it influences me a ton) groupings.

    One group in particular, the Innovation buyers (those who advertise on the bleeding edge of technology), rated fraud prevention lowly. The irony is that fraud follows money, so the tactics they pioneer today are tomorrow’s cybercriminal targets.

  4. Data breaches are of particular concern. Every data breach these days makes headline news. With much of the public narrative focused on how businesses manage and collect personal data, it’s no surprise that buyers are especially worried about personal data breaches. What may be slightly more surprising, however, is the list of possible fraud models respondents ranked as less alarming than data breaches: Incorrect Reporting & Measurement, Delivering Impressions against Unauthorized Inventory, Spoofed or Misrepresented Inventory, Lost Budgets, and Bot Traffic.

    These are all big topics in the industry, to say the least. And even though data breaches outranked all of them, that’s not to say concern levels on the others were lacking. Indeed, all six forms of fraud rated fairly closely to one another.

  5. Working groups like the Human Collective might be the best way to fight back. A whopping 70% of respondents said a resource-sharing and working group like the Human Collective would be very or somewhat effective in combating fraud on CTV platforms. And the Digital buyers, the ones who expressed the greatest paranoia about fraud in their campaigns, responded the most enthusiastically to the idea.

    The Human Collective’s work is already paying dividends to this end. Just read the PARETO and Scylla disruptions demonstrated collective protection in action.

As spend on CTV platforms and new frontiers continues to grow, buyers will naturally grow cautious and circumspect while balancing that worry with a need to get in front of new audiences. That imbalance is where fraud can live, and it’s why HUMAN and TripleLift teamed up for this research.

Read more about buyers’ expectations and concerns in the full report and in TripleLift’s blog about the research.