SmileDirectClub CMO Shares How the Company Is Experimenting With Connected TV Ads

Brand is incrementally increasing the amount it spends on streaming services

John Sheldon, CMO of SmileDirectClub, speaking at Challenger Brands Summit. Sean T. Smith for Adweek
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Key insight:

SmileDirectClub has been investing more of its advertising spend on connected TV platforms in hopes of reaching cord cutters.

Speaking at Adweek’s Challenger Brands Summit in New York last week, SmileDirectClub’s chief marketing officer John Sheldon said the six-year-old company began experimenting with connected TV ads two years ago. Since then, the investment in the experiment has grown from roughly 2% of the brand’s overall TV spend to more than 20%. Sheldon said the shift is in part due to the fact that reaching the 18-to-24-year-old demographic on linear TV is difficult.

“From an overall targeting standpoint, that audience specifically lives in a connected TV world,” he said.

He said the company, which sells clear aligners, teeth whitening kits and other dental products, uses two strategies to purchase connected TV ads: via CPM deals with platforms like Hulu as well as programmatic ad buys that target specific audiences.

“We do those in parallel to help us really optimize our spend. With one, we can be really targeted. The other is telling a much broader story,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re distributing our messaging in a way that’s going to be most effective.”

However, Sheldon said the downside to this approach is that these disparate ad buys can end up targeting the same customer back-to-back.

“Sometimes, they both find the same customer pretty close to each other. The different retargeting rules really only work when you’re doing one or the other and not both. So occasionally we run across that issue, but we work really hard to separate those and prevent that from happening,” Sheldon explained.

At the moment, Sheldon said SmileDirectClub is experimenting with interactive ad formats on connected TV platforms, which let users do things like offer up their email address if they want to learn more about a product or service being advertised.

In the future, Sheldon said he wants to see more ad inventory in the 15-second range become available. Right now, he said the “overwhelmingly majority” of inventory available in connected TV comes in the form of 30-second spots, making it difficult for SmileDirectClub to deliver “shorter, snappier” ads in a tighter format.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.