Our world has changed rapidly in the last two decades as technology has evolved and improved many things. One of the major shifts is how people consume media, especially television.  

This trend isn’t going anywhere but up. According to a recent report from research firm Nielsen, streaming accounted for 26% of viewership so far this year, up 6% from last year. They also estimate that by the end of this year, that number could be up to 33%. 1

In short, the way we watch television has changed. And for marketers, that means the way we advertise using television is changing too. 

What is Over-the-Top Advertising? 

Over-the-Top Advertising - or OTT Advertising - is advertising that is delivered directly to viewers over the internet through streaming video services or devices. This could include advertising through services like Hulu or streaming networks such as NBC or ABC. It could also be advertising directly through devices such as Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire Stick.  

The term “over-the-top” means that these ads are bypassing traditional TV providers by giving advertisers the ability to reach audiences directly through streaming services. This gives advertisers a lot more freedom when it comes to pre-planned broadcast schedules or geographic limitations. It is a brand-new way to advertise. It provides you a channel for reaching a lot of people in a short amount of time. This form of advertisement is popular among larger companies because it's more cost-effective and reaches a wider audience. 

How Does OTT Advertising Work? 

There are three main ways that marketers can take advantage of OTT advertising:


With programmatic OTT advertising, marketers use automation software to purchase digital ad space that is targeted to a specific audience. These ads are then executed using user algorithms that are customized to the unique goals of the brand. Programmatic OTT advertising has automated a lot of the traditional advertising processes that were in-person and time-consuming.  

Benefits of programmatic OTT include it being more cost-effective and it allows you to measure specific outcomes as you’ll have access to real-time data. 

Platform Direct 

Platform direct is when marketers go directly to platforms to buy advertising. Platforms may include Roku, Vizio, Samsung, or other makers of Smart TVs. While one of the most straightforward ways to purchase OTT advertising, it does limit your reach as it doesn’t allow for cross-platform advertising. In short, only Vizio owners will be able to view ads you purchase directly from Vizio, greatly limiting your audience.  

Publisher Direct 

Like platform direct, publisher directly involves buying advertising directly from the source. In this case, you would be purchasing from a publisher such as Hulu, Sling, Crackle, etc. While this allows for a wider reach than platform direct, it still limits the reach to those viewers who subscribe to the publisher’s streaming service.  

How to Buy OTT Advertising 

Purchasing OTT advertising can be complicated for the newcomer since most platforms are separate entities from one another.  

The first thing you need to do to get in on the OTT advertising action is to invest in creating high-quality, affordable video content. You want to create a variety of consistent content that can work across multiple devices and platforms.  

When creating your content, remember some best practices that will make your ad more successful:

  • Make sure your content can be opened across multiple devices (phone, tablet, etc.) 
  • Keep ads that can’t be skipped to 30 seconds or less 
  • Make sure your content’s look, sound, and feel are all in line with who your target audience is and what they’re looking for in an experience 

Partnering with a professional media strategist like MBI can help you navigate the complicated waters of OTT advertising to boost your brand’s engagement with your target audience. MBI has a team of experts ready to help you find the right way to advertise based on your business’s unique needs. Contact one of us today to discuss how we can help your business create the perfect media strategy.