The User Experience of Connected TV Ads

Let me set the stage. You sit down at the end of an evening to watch your favorite program on your smart TV. An ad comes on per the usual, but you notice something different.

Rhonda Shade

This ad shows you a prompt inviting you to browse the ad. Okay, you think to yourself, why not — you take your TV menu and scroll through the ad’s content. As you get to the end frame, you see a QR code. You take your phone, which is of course sitting next to you, open your camera and — just like that, you find yourself ordering a McCafe coffee.

That is an experience you can have with an interactive connected TV (CTV) ad, which brings together “the beauty of TV with the brains of digital.” You may have heard of the explosive growth of CTV, quite possibly the fastest-growing advertising sector at the moment. CTV ad spend in the US alone reached $8 billion in 2020, thanks to the streaming boom and cord cutting that helped solidify the trend.

The question is, have you encountered an interactive CTV ad yet? And if so, how did the user experience of the ad feel to you? The possibilities for engagement and personalization of CTV ads are endless, but are you really going to interact with an ad in a typically passive setting?

Many industry players seem to think so, seeing the potential of ads that can engage viewers beyond the ad’s runtime thanks to the possibility of gamification, interaction with QR codes, TV-text-to-mobile, and other innovations. Media companies have been lining up partners and alliances to bring to market a number of new offerings to make the connection between commerce and content with CTV.

The aforementioned CTV ad experience we describe is just one of the many CTV ads we’ve developed with our partners at true[X] whose leading engagement advertising platform offers solutions in an immersive, brand-safe environment. They’ve been breaking new ground in the CTV space and their work with Sonic won an IAC award for the first-ever ad campaign to make use of the remote control’s gyroscope functionality.

BrightLine, another CTV ad solutions platform, launched their new CTV portal BrightLink last year. They’ve already developed a number of CTV ad solutions with functionality such as store locators, product galleries, games and other interactive features. In partnership with Hulu, they developed an e-commerce solution dubbed T-commerce which let viewers purchase tickets to the Warner Brothers film “Tomb Raider” using their email for checkout.

But back to our question about the user experience. Are viewers going to engage with all this new interactivity from their couch?

Apparently so. A study from Hulu showed that 66 percent of viewers described their streaming as a “lean back” experience, meaning they are watching to relax and unwind. Yet for an interactive ad unit that let’s them seek more information should they desire it or get offers via email, they may not mind “place-shifting” according to Brightline’s chief experience officer.

Data from true[X] seems to confirm that, reporting a 3.1x lift in purchase intent with CTV compared to mobile in their recent CTV Playbook. A 2018 survey found that three-quarters of consumers were interested in t-commerce — the purchasing of products straight from their smart or connected televisions.

While the possibilities for interactivity with CTV ads are new and exciting, many marketers are more focused on its ability to reach new audiences with a targeted message which is another key benefit. Marketers are starting to use creative-versioning — something we call personalized video — to deliver different messages to certain users.

While the industry is buzzing about CTV’s increased flexibility and better targeting capabilities, we’re excited about its creative potential. What audiences will want to engage with from their living room screen is yet to be seen, but people pay 3x more attention to video ads that are relevant to them and television is no different. The opportunity for marketers to approach television as a full-funnel medium is what’s on the horizon.

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Global / Industry Insight

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