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Apr 09, 2024

As over-the-top (OTT) booms, are advertisers keeping up?

Dayna Lang
Author Dayna Lang

You often hear brands tout the importance of short, targeted ads. Too many marketers treat over-the-top (OTT) the same way they do digital advertising on social media or YouTube. Many of these marketers need to remember the importance of narrative. 

When we examine what makes effective linear TV commercials, we look at the characters, the story, and the humor. Too often streaming ads focus on targeting and forget to tell a story – and yes, you can tell a good story in less than 30 seconds. 

OTT, also known as streaming TV, refers to any content watched on a streaming video service via the internet. This can be through larger services like Netflix and Amazon Prime or through smaller networks like Twitch. What all of these platforms have in common is that they bypass traditional cable television and connect directly with the audience. 

Over-the-top ads let marketers effectively target audiences through data collection. They also offer a unique opportunity to connect with audiences at scale since more viewers are abandoning cable in favor of streaming platforms. 

If advertisers are turning to OTT as a replacement for linear TV commercials, shouldn’t they apply the same level of creativity and storytelling?

What makes a great over-the-top ad

Every year more and more viewers “cut the cord” and leave cable TV behind. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is a growing one. Recent estimates suggest that by 2026 there will be over 3,000 million OTT viewers. The OTT market is estimated to grow to a value of $223.07 Billion. 

This presents a massive opportunity for marketers, one that many are squandering with repetitive, dull, and poorly targeted ads. So, what makes a successful over-the-top ad campaign? 

Like with all advertising, strong creatives are at the heart of success. Marketers need to invest in unique and interesting campaigns that use strong storytelling and impactful visuals. They need to apply the same levels of creativity they do for TV commercials – if not more. 

OTT ads present the best of both worlds – the targeting capabilities of digital advertising and the time slots and audience engagements of television. This makes it easy for marketers to ensure their ads air during relevant programs. 

Marketers should place ads alongside relevant content, taking advantage of contextual targeting principles. This increases the chance your audience will watch the ad, engage with it, and eventually convert. 

Ads should be engaging and leave a lasting impression. Effective targeting and strong creatives are a perfect pair in OTT advertising. 

Marketers should also work to minimize ad fatigue. This can be done by tailoring ads to relevant content and not overplaying those ads. A good ad seen four times back to back becomes irritating, even if it was amazing on the first watch. 

What makes a great streaming ad 

The best streaming ads feel like commercials. What so many marketers get wrong is they create a short reel highlighting product features, instead of a narrative that lasts with the audience. 

While product features are important, they make a streaming ad uninteresting, easily forgettable, and create frustration with the audience. TV-style commercials work because they entertain and engage. 

GEICO got it right 

GEICO is diving into (and thriving) OTT. They are investing heavily and it is paying off. Creative ads like this make it obvious why the insurance giant is garnering such success.

What makes this ad so effective is its creativity and self-reflection. It partners with a Netflix movie to directly relate to the audience at home – with its target audience being families (the target viewership of this specific film). 

This ad is also funny, tells a story, entertains the viewer, and builds lasting engagement. GEICO creates an experience that audiences will remember next time they need insurance, rather than a forgettable list that pushes audiences away.

With so many viewers canceling cable TV subscriptions, marketers might wonder whether or not the glory days of TV commercials are behind them. They are not. 


Those audiences still watch TV and engage with quality ads – the issue is that so many marketers haven’t given over-the-top the attention it deserves. By bringing back high levels of creativity and reducing ad fatigue with effective targeting, brands cat harness the power of the OTT market. 


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