How Streaming Services Can Stand Out From Their Rivals

MediaLink's Christopher Vollmer talks OTT's upcoming 'marketing onslaught'

Hulu's sizable presence helped make OTT a hot topic at last week's Cannes Lions festival.
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With a number of streaming services expected to launch in the next year—including offerings from Disney, WarnerMedia, Apple and NBCUniversal—whenever ad industry insiders gather, OTT ends up being a major part of the conversation. The topic was certainly front and center at last week’s Cannes Lions festival, where Adweek caught up with Christopher Vollmer, managing director at MediaLink.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Adweek: We’re not too far out from upfront presentations and even on that stage we heard so much about connected TV. How do you think that conversation played out at the Cannes Lions festival this year, and is there an opportunity for creatives in the connected TV space?
Vollmer: I think so. I think that’s essential to the growth of that part of the business because it’s a more personalized, more on-demand viewing environment. It’s actually potentially a very compelling platform for creatives, particularly younger creatives, to strategically express themselves differently and to achieve that scale that they haven’t been able to do before.

There are compelling ad experiences. As we know, there are already signs of subscription fatigue in terms of how many services users will take. I think if you can be more effective and limit the advertising and then turn up the innovation on the format, then I think you have a better combination to get the brand message in front of the right person at the right time. That’s going to require a lot of the creative talent at a place like this. The sooner that happens here, I think that actually would accelerate the growth of the sector overall.

You’ve mentioned Hulu has been dominating the conversation here in Cannes. Do you think they’ve captured the audience here in a certain way, or do you think they are kind of the standout streaming platform?
Hulu’s momentum with brands is accelerating for a handful of key reasons. Hulu has an expanding user base with meaningful scale now at about 28 million subscribers. It has premium content from the networks and its own high-profile originals. The viewing is in the living room and it’s brand safe. Hulu is further benefiting from taking a consumer-first approach to its advertising experience.

On top of having a low overall ad load, the company has launched unique new ad formats that are designed for streaming behavior. Hulu is introducing frequency caps so consumers avoid seeing the same ads too many times and brands do not generate too many wasted impressions. The OTT environment is addressable, so Hulu has the targeting that brands want, too. As a result, companies are shifting more of their budgets from traditional TV to those streaming platforms and elsewhere.

Given subscription fatigue, the numerous streaming services already offered and the new ones expected to enter the field this year, how do you make a name for yourself as a new streaming service?
These multiplatform, multibrand portfolios that the big companies have, I think we’re all going to see a marketing onslaught from them. It’s already happening, but they’re going to point all their distribution channels at getting their OTT, connected TV, AVOD, SVOD offerings out in front of consumers and try to do that in a way where they get, ideally, in the right place at the right time at the right users.

I think the companies that have offerings that are integrated into these larger portfolios are at a massive advantage versus the handful that are independent and have to figure out a way to make it in there otherwise. There still is room for platforms that are really associated with brands and  [have] a user experience that is perhaps very unique around different kinds of content or different kinds of experiences. That might be another place where companies with a right to win around a specific audience, they can really deliver on a superior kind of fan experience. That’s content, community and some kind of activity around that fan passion point.

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