An Interview with Johan Kristian Holm at Video & Audio Operation Lead, GroupM

What will advertising look like in the age of CTV and digital audio? Can marketers expect to see the same levels of targeting capabilities, precise measurement and attribute than they’ve been accustomed to in the desktop world?
headphone with remote control graphic

Published May 17, 2021

headphone with remote control graphic

An Interview with Johan Kristian Holm at Video & Audio Operation Lead, GroupM

It’s no secret that our industry is in flux. The third-party cookie will be a thing of the past come January of next year. That development happens to coincide with a shift away from traditional TV and radio and into digital channels.

GroupM Video & Audio Operations Lead black and white portrait

What will advertising look like in the age of CTV and digital audio? Can marketers expect to see the same levels of targeting capabilities, precise measurement and attribute than they’ve been accustomed to in the desktop world?

To find out, Digiseg CEO and founder, Søren Dinesen, sat down with Johan Kristian Holm, GroupM’s Video & Audio Operations Lead in Denmark to talk about existing trends, advertiser needs and how those two things can meet.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

SD: What trends are you seeing today in the CTV and digital audio markets in terms of buying? Are advertisers buying inventory in the open markets?
JKH: Digital TV and radio are really different from the traditional channels, especially in terms of programmatic, where you’re not wholly sure where your ads will appear. Brand safety and brand suitability are key concerns right now, but they can be mitigated through strategies like private deals and guaranteed programmatic, which are negotiated with large and reputable publishers like Spotify. Advertisers typically know which publishers they want to work with, and they’re willing to pay for them.

For advertisers with smaller budgets, the open market can be more affordable, but also more risky from a brand safety and brand suitability point of view. That said, the performance can be just as good as private deals.
SD: If inventory is at a fixed price, does the CPC and CPA model become obsolete?
JKH: The fixed price and the format doesn’t make sense for a CPC or CPA model. Users don’t click on an audio ad, sometimes it is not possible, and CPA doesn’t make sense because of the difficulties in measuring conversions.
SD: Which types of campaigns are you seeing more of in CTV and digital audio, branding or performance?
JKH: Branding accounts for 99% of our campaigns. We see some performance campaigns, but they’re mostly charity fundraisers. Users that see the ad, are texting a specific code on SMS when donating, and this is how we can measure conversions. As I’m sure you well know, tracking across platforms is difficult in any media, and especially so in CTV and digital audio.
SD: Can you track any KPIs?
JKH: We can track some KPIs with Google Analytics, but keep in mind, most of CTV and digital audio consumption occurs in apps, which makes tracking more difficult. Mostly what we’re able to track are impressions, completion rates, and clicks if the user clicks on an ad and is taken to the advertiser’s website. This is one of the reasons why CTV and digital audio is predominantly used for branding campaigns.
SD: Even so, every advertiser wants to see some KPIs and success metrics for their CTV and audio campaigns. What success metrics do you always deliver?
JKH: Mostly reach in target groups, especially if a campaign only runs on digital media. If a campaign has a traditional media component to it then we’ll also report on incremental reach.

Reach is incredibly important to marketers, especially those who come from a traditional media background. With TV and radio budgets moving towards digital, marketers want to know how many more people they’re able to reach? This is a key interest.
SD: Sounds like the good old days of traditional TV, when marketers bought inventory based on GRPs!
JKH: That’s exactly right; we use very similar KPIs in digital CTV as in the traditional TV world. That said, we do track some traditionally digital KPIs, like cost per completed view, completion rates. But reach is still what counts.
SD: You’ll forgive my surprise. I never thought I’d see the day when programmatic is purchased based on GRPs.
JKH: True, but again, as budgets shift from traditional to digital, the people who control those budgets want to see the same KPIs that have always been important to them, and in TV branding campaigns, that’s reach.

At the same time, we’re working hard to show advertisers what else is possible with digital, including higher brand lift and brand recall rates. The digital solutions we have today offer a more exact way to measure metrics like brand lift and brand recall rate via control groups and surveys. It’s still expensive to do that work, mind you, but it’s much more accurate in that we know who’s seen an ad in digital. We don’t know that with traditional TV.
SD: How do you track that? Are audio ads skippable?
JKH: Actually, most audio isn’t skippable at all, but the tracking requires a bit of effort. We can track campaigns via our ad servers or device ID. The challenge is scale; there’s not a lot of measurable inventory. We rely on third-party measurement companies to help us measure more, but as we’ve been discussing, advertisers see CTV and digital audio as channels to reach audiences at scale. Measurement just hasn’t caught up yet.
SD: Is this a long-term or forever problem for CTV and digital audio? Can marketers expect it to be resolved?
JKH: To be sure it’s a difficult hurdle to overcome, especially when you compare it to all the things we’ve been able to measure in the desktop world. We need to do a lot of calculating in order to measure things like reach, conversions, brand lift and all those metrics that brand managers care about. Privacy is adding additional wrinkles to measurement, so now we’re at a stage where we need to temper our measurement and tracking expectations a bit until the industry can figure these things out. We’ll get there at some point, but for now we need to accept that we can’t measure everything.
hammer knocking in behavioral and in-market

SD: Let’s switch gears to targeting. What types of audience data are available for targeting in CTV and audio today? Can advertisers target on contextual, geo positioning, household characteristics, third-party behavioral, or in market data?

JKH: Honestly, there’s not much. It’s mostly demographic data like age and gender, with some geo-location targeting mixed in, but even then, many publishers offer regional targeting as opposed to city-level targeting. We have a lot of challenges targeting based on in-market intent, interest and behavioral data.

Many of our advertisers are moving towards first-party data; sending their CRM list to their publishers to see if you can get a metric and exclude or include them based on it. But it’s still early days, and a lot of this is still in beta testing. As a result, most campaigns are targeted broadly.

SD: TV and radio are inherently contextual. Can you target based on topic?

JKH: Sure, but reach is an issue because not all publishers have enough CTV inventory to get the scale advertisers want and need. With streaming services, it’s more a matter of affinity than context. In other words, is this streaming platform a good fit for our brand? We’re making progress with the contextual part, but we still have some hurdles to overcome.

It’s really a challenge with digital audio because that channel is highly fragmented between podcasts, audio streaming, and digital radio, which itself is incredibly difficult to do contextual targeting. You can target, say, by a specific playlist, but that’s about it.

Podcasts offer more contextual relevance, however. You can target, say, true crime podcasts or food podcasts. But even that is pretty difficult, and reach will always be a challenge to achieve.

SD: What about in the open market? Can you piece together an audience here and there?

JKH: There are some audience buying capabilities available. For instance, if you buy inventory via the Google platform you can buy Google Audiences, but again, you won’t see a huge decrease in budget. We certainly can’t spend large budgets that way. The death of the cookie will exacerbate that challenge.

SD: How will the death of the cookie affect CTV and audio?
JKH: Well CTV and audio have always been predominantly apps-based, so we never had cookies in those environments. It’s true that some people prefer to watch TV or listen to audio via their web browsers, and in those cases we’ve been able to measure and target. Of late we’ve noticed a steady decline in our ability to target and measure those people, but they’ve always been a minority.
SD: Which platforms would you recommend to someone who is new to digital audio and CTV?
JKH: I like DV 360. They’ve made a lot of investments in CTV over the past two years, in large part because they’ve seen the direction in which budgets are flowing. We also use Xandr and Adform. Adform in particular has invested a lot in CTV, especially in the audio part.
SD: We work with Adform and Xander, but we don’t segment via the cookie; we segment the event, and we segment at the bidder level, which applies mostly in the open market. We can segment at the ad-server level but typically it’s at the bidder level.
JKH: That sounds to me as if you can segment private deals and guaranteed programmatic. Is that true? If so, how do you segment?
SD: It is true. And we segment by IPs, which, as it happens, are carried throughout all digital devices and all digital events. Once a user opens a browser or app and it connects to the internet, an ad unit will appear inside the video or player. That’s what Digiseg segments on.
JKH: Sounds like it may give us better opportunities to target a specific type of group. It would be cool if we could target more narrowly, and home in on a specific type of group.
SD: I think it will. Thanks for sharing your insight with our readers!

Boost engagement – Increase viewability – Drive conversions – Deliver ROAS.

Our audience experts
will get you started

Book an intro meeting

Our Xandr Specialist is waiting for you

We're ready to find the audience just for your campaign

Let us know what platform is missing

Our integrations and platforms are always expanding. So please let us know if you can’t find the integration you are looking for