Why IAS is getting into CTV and contextual


It’s no secret that ad tech players are hedging all connected TV bets.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, from the transparency of the media buying process to simply counting audiences, which is ultimately not so simple. But CTV is the destination for viewers, and ad tech as a whole is trying to cash in on the gold rush.

To capitalize on this opportunity, ad tech players, including recent public ad verification firm Integral Ad Science, are rapidly shifting their media strategies to make CTV a priority.

“Users don’t even cut the cord – there’s no more cord,” said IAS CEO Lisa Utzschneider.

But the “cord-never” must also be counted.

And so IAS acquired ad server CTV Publica in August, less than two months after its IPO.

“CTV is the first leg of a long game,” said Utzschneider, who noted it could be a “two or three year game” or more.

The game plan

IAS began developing its plans for CTV in 2019. Utzschneider says IAS was the first verification company to launch verification tools for CTV, such as fraud detection and video playback completion.

But growing demand from marketers trying to lean into CTV led to IAS acquiring Publica last summer.

As a programmatic CTV ad server, Publica enables IAS to help publishers see which ads are running on their inventory, an area where transparency is lacking, said Ben Antier, CEO of Publica.

The logical next step, Utzschneider said, is to invest in IAS’s other most promising growth engine: contextual targeting.

Need more context

Most of IAS’s growth is currently in programmatic, and its main driver of this revenue line is a product it calls Context Control, which helps shift advertising dollars to brand-safe environments.

IAS too

The acquisition of Context gives IAS the ability to analyze video in addition to text, Antier said. IAS can score metadata Publica has access to through its publisher relationships, and then create contextual segments based on analysis of the video content.

The agreement also enables IAS to detect language and emotion in multilingual videos, Antier said.

“Overlaying this data on both the content side and the advertising side…allows us to double down on our efforts in key international markets and enrich data from both sides of the industry,” Utzschneider said.

According to Utzschneider, the number one reason marketers are hesitant to shift their linear TV dollars to CTV is because they fear they’ll have less visibility on where their ads appear. Linking its contextual and CTV strategies is an attempt to bridge this gap.

Since acquiring Publica, IAS has already started rolling out what Utzschneider called transparent metrics that combine IAS’s buy-side data assets with Publica’s video publisher-side assets to determine device type, l application, category and genre.

The goal is to give marketers a “better understanding of where their ads play in programmatic CTV,” Utzschneider said.

Fixed trust issues

But, there is still some reluctance on the side of buyers.

“Buyers are not yet fully considering CTV due to a lack of trust and transparency,” Antier said.

Neither IAS nor Publica are involved in buying or selling inventory, which puts the combined company in a “unique position to address both parties while remaining completely technology and media agnostic,” it said. declared Antier.

Shoppers may also be a little nervous about fraud in CTV. A scam discovered by IAS competitor DoubleVerify early last year used server-side ad insertion (SSAI) to generate a large amount of fake CTV inventory.

But according to Antier, SSAI “will bring [TV] into the next era of advertising.

“SSAI enables seamless flow of content and ads across any device and ensures the flow is secure,” Antier said, noting IAS and Publica’s involvement with the IAB Tech Lab, which works to develop industry solutions for CTV that also prioritize privacy and security.

Facilitating the CTV media buying process, which was also part of the rationale for IAS’s acquisition of Publica, should also help improve the viewer experience by addressing a major viewer peeve : repeated advertisements.

“Technology can prevent [overfrequency], but if you don’t get the request, you’re just going to run slates or internal announcements,” Antier said. “So the goal is also to increase the number of advertisers able to buy that inventory, which also allows publishers to maximize yield.”

There’s no reason both sides of the supply chain can’t win, Antier said.

“As we build the right standards to increase the security of the ecosystem, and bring the right contextual tools to marketers, many more players are going to lean into the CTV programmatic space,” Antier said.


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