Getting Started With OTT/CTV Advertising
  • Suprabh Sanket

Getting Started With OTT/CTV Advertising

Updated: May 17, 2019



Over-The-Top (OTT) can be introduced as a device/service, used to stream digital content via the Internet, onto a TV or a similar device. It is a standalone product, whose functionality is different than traditional cable companies.

The devices which can be commonly classified under OTT are:

  • Streaming boxes (Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Allshare Cast, and similar ones)

  • HDMI sticks (Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc.)

  • Smart TV (through in-TV apps like Netflix or HBO Go)

  • Gaming consoles

  • DVR set-top boxes

  • Internet-enabled smart blu-ray/DVD players

Similarly, Connected TV is also a way to distribute content via the internet, but is delivered either natively on a TV (i.e. smart TV) or through an external device (i.e. Roku, Chromecast, etc.).

CTV can be broadly categorized as:

  • CTV device type: Set Top Box, TV, Game Console

  • CTV device brands: Roku, Apple, Amazon, Sony, Samsung

  • CTV device model: Apple TV, FireTV, Roku, Chromecast, SmartTV



People watching media on OTT devices cannot scroll up and down or they can’t simply close the window, skip ads, jump to another browser tab, or install an adblocker to get rid of the ads altogether — meaning all OTT units are 100% viewable.
Since, a user can’t click the TV screen, and can rarely interact with the ads in any way — meaning video completion rates are incredibly high for OTT platforms.


For now, much of the Smart TV and OTT inventory available programmatically can be accessed directly, or via Smart TV manufacturers/OTT service providers. Also, many OTT services are available to use on CTV (such as streaming a show from Hulu on a Chromecast). Buyers can access programmatic CTV supply on major CTV SSPs such as DoubleClick, FreeWheel, Telaria, SpotX, Tremor, AdapTV, AppNexus, Kritter, etc. There you can target connected TV, set top box, connected device and gaming consoles using Device Type, Brand, and Model targeting.



Before setting up ads for OTT/CTV, it is recommended to take into consideration some factors, like–

  • How the streaming platform communicates with those devices.

  • You need to check beforehand, if the ad-insertion methods of VAST or VPAID tags are compatible.

VAST tags give instructions to the player about how to handle a video ad, how it should show up in the player, how long it should display or if the user can skip it.

VPAID tags, on the other hand, make ads interactive and also adds viewability measurement.



The ads are generally pushed, downloaded, and buffered by the devices itself, so check whether the tags can be served from client side (CSAI) or server side (SSAI).

  • Client-side ad insertion (CSAI) is a method where ads are loaded within the OTT box itself (the OTT box is what the user interacts with, and the user is considered the client), before they get displayed to the viewer. Here, ads are inserted using some logic within a player or from the SDK and then the player or the SDK makes a call to an ad server like Doubleclick, SpotX or AppNexus etc.

  • In server-side ad insertion (SSAI), ads are dynamically served in real-time. It is the process of combining content and ads into a single stream of video before delivering it to the player. When using this method, buffering and ad blocking can be avoided.


Common Requirements for OTT Advertising are:

  • Use VAST/VPAID and/or a high quality MP4 file.

  • Use high resolution creatives. This is particularly important because they’ll be appearing on large, HD-enabled screens. Make sure that the video resolution is at least 1280 x 720 pixels, with a 16:9 aspect ratio. (There are some publishers that require specific creative specs, like 1080p, 2500-3500 kbps bitrate, etc.)

  • It is recommended to use 15 and 30 second non-skippable creatives as they have the most demand in the marketplace. To serve creatives of different lengths, you will need to reach out to your publishers and SSPs.


Limitations you may encounter include:

  • You may not be able to include segment pixels in your in-line VAST code, as they will not load in the SDK.

  • Targeting features like, above-the-fold (ATF) or Post-Roll might not be available.

  • Currently, there is no support for third-party ad serving and measurement so there might be measurement discrepancies.

  • Audience Targeting features like lookalike, remarketing, demo, age/gender, conversion tracking, in-market targeting, interest segment targeting, etc. are not supported in OTT.

  • As of now, there is no support for cookies or Flash, which limits an advertiser’s ability to properly target viewers and attribute conversions so Frequency Capping may not work.

  • Due to the closed nature of most OTT devices, digital ads and third-party tags from other platforms may be incompatible.

  • You might not be able to optimize towards goals like CTR or CPC. Instead, you can use relevant KPIs to optimize towards, such as completion rate, CPCV.

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