Insights from the Creative Studio: A Deep Dive Into Connected TV Creatives

Illustrative graphic of a person watching TV

The video advertising landscape has shifted a great deal with the introduction of connected TV (CTV). With a significant growth in the number of CTV owners and viewers, there is an equal increase in availability of ad placements for marketers to leverage. Now we’ve entered into a familiar equation: with more ad availability, comes more ads, and a higher chance yours may get lost in the noise. So, you want to ensure your brand stands out from the competition.

Thankfully, CTV creatives have specific advantages that set them apart from other ad formats, particularly video ads. As more advertisers are hopping onboard to integrate CTV into their marketing tactics, we want to ensure that the channel is used to its full potential.

The StackAdapt Creative Studio has taken a deep dive into CTV creatives and has compiled some insights to consider when building your ads.

Use Creatives You Have Today

All marketers are familiar with SWAT: Sell What’s Available Today. Why should that be any different for your ads? If you have assets, use them!

A well-known advantage of CTV is that advertisers can use video ads from existing campaigns. That means you can repurpose linear TV assets or adapt existing video assets for your CTV campaigns. The transition is seamless when it comes to using ads from linear TV, all you need to do is implement the creatives to the new digital campaign.

When it comes to existing video assets, remove any click attributes, and you are ready to rock with a new CTV creative. It’s easy to simply reuse what you have available if you are looking for a quick turnaround on a CTV tactic, but keep in mind, there are CTV-specific ad attributes you can use to your advantage, if you have the time and means of building new creatives.

Use Sound to Your Advantage

We know that desktop and mobile banner ads are silent. On the other hand, in-banner and outstream video ads can have sound, but are automatically muted when an impression is served. The user has the option to unmute and have sound on, but of course there is no guarantee they will unmute—or even have their volume high enough to hear it. To mitigate the loss of sound, it is suggested that video ads have layered captions, which can be read when on mute. 

Similar to in-stream video ads, CTV ads are shown within other video content, so you can be assured that volume is on and the ad is unmuted. So use sound to your advantage. Sound, both music and dialogue, will ensure your brand’s voice literally gets heard. You can influence how your prospects perceive and remember your brand through your choice in audio—you want to create ads that will reinforce positive brand recall.

Choosing the right sound is part 1—part 2 is deciding how you will leverage sound to enhance your ad. It may suit your ad to have the music fade in at the end to invoke a calm and reassuring mood towards your brand. Or, if the majority of your ad includes dialogue, background music may be distracting, consider adding small sound effects instead to help emphasize specific points.

Sound should be strategically implemented in your ad to complement the feelings you are trying to evoke with your desired audience. Instead of telling your audience what you want them to feel, aim to bring the visuals and audio together to help tell your story.

Use Strong Imagery to Tell a Story

Powerful stories, whether they have dialogue or not, can be told with great images or animations that influence emotion. In fact, there have been many impactful ads that have said nothing at all—they let the visuals do the talking. So if a voice-over is not available to you, you can get creative with your messaging, and make a strong statement through imagery. I know I will never forget the Apple ad from the release of the iMac G4—the only dialogue or text in the ad is actually the final CTA (call to action).

Great storytelling is compelling. It can impact attitudes and behaviours and can captivate your users as you deliver your brand messaging. And, if they’re interested in your story the first time, they’ll likely be more receptive to future content. Keep in mind, audiences also crave repetition. Having a recurring theme in your ads tends to bring the audience back to the way they felt the first time they connected emotionally to your content—again, enforcing effective brand recall.

As part of your imagery and messaging, it’s important to be relevant with your content, to tell a great story that the audience can connect with. For example, speak to current events to connect with your audience. Johnnie Walker tends to rely on this storytelling style—the “This Land” ad that was launched near the end of the 2016 election.

It successfully blended the election with their brand messaging, telling a strong story about their history and their ongoing relationship with their customers.

Use An Appropriate Call to Action

Much like linear TV ads, CTV is an ideal ad format for awareness campaigns. This is due to the fact that it leverages video—which as we’ve learned is an effective medium to tell a story and influence emotion. Unlike traditional video ads that are shown on a desktop or mobile device, when you can easily indicate what the desired action is with a button like “Click Here to Shop!”, you cannot click a CTV ad. You need to ensure your overall campaign strategy considers this and determine what the CTA is in the ad, without expecting a click.

First, answer the question: are you using CTV as an upper funnel or lower funnel tactic? As an upper funnel strategy, your messaging should encourage the viewer to learn more. Consider repeating the name of the company, have the logo appear or show the website URL with a prompt like “Visit Today,” for example. While sitting in front of the TV, your audience won’t click through to purchase a car, but you can plant the seed and suggest which model might be right for them—who knows, they likely have a second screen on hand. This is how traditional TV ads were made—to bring awareness to a product or brand.

As a lower funnel strategy, CTV can tell a story to encourage the audience to relate with the brand or product—allow the audience to picture themselves in the main character’s shoes. This tactic attempts to actively engage with the viewer, rather than just introducing or talking about the brand or product. If you show the audience what it is like to own the product, it will be much easier for them to imagine themselves interacting, using and enjoying the product. You want to be proactive and illustrate how the product or service can solve everyday problems.

How CTV Adapts Old School Theory to New School Channels

Why do we remember great commercials from the 90’s so distinctly? Whether it’s because of a jingle or a comedic piece you just couldn’t forget, you were left with a positive feeling that made you remember it. Impacting the way that a user feels is a crucial element of traditional TV ads that can be incorporated in CTV ads as well—after all, they are still watching a video ad in the middle of their (streamed) television programming and on a big screen. Delivering your message in a way that communicates your brand’s values is the key to any successful campaign. As with any medium, you are adapting the message to match the device.

Audiences watching CTV are hoping to be entertained—so your ads need to meet that expectation. Not only that, your campaign should integrate well in your overall digital strategy. As CTV campaigns are served programmatically, they have the same targeting, optimization and reporting capabilities as any other campaign. The new norm for a holistic campaign strategy has become, native, display, video and CTV as a single voice to deliver a memorable and holistic customer experience.

One of my favourite quotes from Carl W. Buehner is: “They may forget what you said—but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Making sure the medium matches the message throughout all your campaigns but knowing the differentiators with CTV can be used to your advantage. With these tips, we hope your CTV campaigns can not only provide a lasting impression, but help you drive your audience lower down the purchasing funnel.

Want to run exceptional programmatic campaigns? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.

Jessica Uttley
Jessica Uttley

Senior Director of Creative Services


Jessica is passionate about helping brands get the biggest bang for their media buck by utilizing innovative and data-driven ad design. She is a keen and rapid learner, thriving on challenges that call for fast, creative solutions.