Ad-insertable OTT streaming video has become the go-to channel for many political ad buyers this cycle. Part of that appeal has been the growth of streaming due to the pandemic. Nielsen found in a recent report that video streaming increased six percent year over year to become 25 percent of viewers’ total usage of TV in the second quarter of 2020.
One of the promises of OTT was that it delivered digital-style targeting with the reach of television. But a new report card by the non-profit Mozilla gave Fs for transparency to several large OTT services including Roku, Hulu, Tubi, CBS All Access and Sling TV. YouTubeTV was the only platform to earn a better grade. It received a B.
“I agree with a lot of this assessment,” said Casey Bessette, a senior media buyer at Sage Media Planning & Placement, Inc., a Democratic media planning and research firm. “While streaming services do offer an abundance of targeting options to advertisers, that you couldn’t find on linear television, there are definitely issues when it comes to transparency.”
She noted that digital vendors aren’t required to report spending the way TV stations are, and they don’t have the same strict standards for disclosing information about the organization paying for the ads and the executive officers behind it.
While CBS All Access and YouTubeTV got As for how they handle political ads, Bessette said the buying experience varies considerably by platform.
“The ability to target down to zip code levels with these vendors in invaluable for a political campaign, but some vendors are not able to target beyond age, gender and geography,” she said. “Things like education level, income and voting history is not available on all of these platforms.”
Lindsey Kolb, a VP of Digital Strategy at Rational 360, said Mozilla got it right by giving high marks to Hulu and YouTubeTV.
“They have great targeting and great quality inventory for political ads. However, as a political advertiser looking for inventory, I have gravitated towards platforms that have fewer restrictions,” she said.
If Kolb were writing the report card, she said where Mozilla grades platforms with Fs for transparency, she would swap in A grades for advertisers.
“It may be an F to people who are not political advertisers worried about ad transparency, but for political or issue-based advertisers, we look at this with a different lens,” she said. “Fewer restrictions on political ads are actually better for the advertiser.
“One of the best parts of running ads through programmatic or OTT vendors is that you can get around the political ad transparency rules or bans on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.”