In today’s media landscape, video content is everywhere. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have revolutionized the way we consume short-form video, capturing audiences with their quick, engaging, and often viral content. Streaming TV has also gained significant traction, especially among cord cutters, offering a vast array of long-form content ranging from binge-worthy TV series to blockbuster movies and niche documentaries.

Ninety-three percent of marketers consider video an important part of their strategy, but with so many options, where do you start? How do advertisers tap into this market?

OLV vs OTT. What about CTV?


There are many ways a viewer may see a video ad. This blog discusses the differences between online video, over-the-top, and connected TV and can help you determine which option is best for your campaign.

What is Online Video (OLV)?


Online video is a video ad seen on a website or mobile app. There are a variety of positions this ad may be found within a site’s content. Instream ads will play in the pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll positions, but outstream ads, typically popping up in the corner of a website, are also OLV.

OLV ads have two main pros: they’re clickable and they’re cost-effective.

“Being highly scalable, this placement also has the ability to run very granular targeting for more niche audiences,” said Shalyn Mulholland, Vice President of Sales at Division-D. This means if you have a specific audience you’re trying to reach, you might consider using OLV for your campaign.

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However, this placement may also yield lower completion rates than others and doesn’t necessarily include the premium content CTV and OTT are known for.

What is Over-The-Top (OTT)?


OTT is video content accessed “over the top” of broadcast providers. Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and other streaming apps are all OTT services, regardless of whether the content is viewed through a smart TV, gaming console, phone, or laptop.

This placement combines some of the best parts of OLV and CTV. Some of the inventory (depending on device type) is clickable, allowing you to drive traffic to your site. It also includes premium inventory on popular streaming apps where viewers are often more engaged with the content.

“A huge pro to OTT advertising is the ability for a viewer to click through,” said Jessie Boudreau, Account Executive at Division-D. “So many clients look to run CTV advertising but also want in-depth reporting metrics with it. It’s hard to have any insight with non-clickable CTV placements. Including OTT in the mix, we can report back on more insights.”

Drawbacks to this placement may include the tradeoff between CTR and completion rate. You might think this placement is the best of both worlds, allowing access to long-form content while still giving viewers the option to click through. However, clicking on the ad results in an incomplete view, and optimizing both metrics can be tricky.

What is Connected TV (CTV)?


CTV is similar to OTT, except it exclusively serves on television devices. This format is different than advertising on traditional cable, however, since ads are only displayed on smart TVs. In most cases, CTV ads are not clickable, but the ads are also not skippable, resulting in high completion rates.

Advertisers like this placement because of the premium content and viewer experience. Because the ad is viewed on the largest screen, it’s more prestigious to have your ad playing during a television show or movie than while someone is playing the same content on their phone.

“Serving to Smart TVs has the potential to reach several people at a time, which is unique to this video format,” said Mulholland, which is also something to keep in mind when considering CTV.

CTV’s major drawback is the cost. It is the most expensive and also the hardest to scale, meaning it is most beneficial for branding campaigns with a wide target audience.

What to Consider When Choosing an Ad Format


Some of the pros and cons above may make your decision easier (of course, I want the most cost-effective route, or I want my ad on the most premium placements), but there are lots of things to consider before making a final call on what’s best for your campaign.

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Different video formats come at various price points. This means that $5000 will get you more impressions on an online video campaign than a CTV campaign. If it is important to you to stretch your budget as far as possible, you may consider more cost-effective placements over premium ones.



Overall campaign goals will play a huge role in which placements benefit your campaign the most. A campaign focused on brand recognition and video completion rate will want to lean more towards CTV, while OLV is more beneficial to direct response campaigns looking to drive traffic to a website.

“Completion rates can often be lower with OLV because they are skippable/clickable ads,” said Anna Milecki, Account Executive at Division-D. “Whereas with CTV, we always see high completion rates.”



Your target audience could also help determine what placements you to consider. If your product is more niche, it will be harder to find scale for that audience on CTV, and even if you do, the cost of those audiences may outweigh the benefit of long-form content on a larger screen.

“With a more niche targeted audience, OLV is much more scalable,” said Milecki. “For the CTV side of things, more broad audience and branding/awareness goals tend to fit best.”

Creating a Well-rounded Digital Ad Campaign


You might find it hard to decide between formats because you want to capitalize on all the pros. Luckily, a well-rounded campaign consists of multiple placements, so if your budget allows for it, we recommend testing any strategy you’re interested in.

Don’t let the fear of a viewer seeing your ad in multiple places keep you from utilizing several placements. “Familiarity builds trust, which is critical to driving engagement,” said Mulholland.

Split Testing


By testing multiple placements, audiences, ads, etc., you can evaluate performance and make a call on how to continue with future campaigns based on what produced the most desired results. This is especially helpful if you’re new to video advertising and have no idea where to start, even after reading this blog.

Sequential Messaging


Sequential messaging typically starts with an upper-funnel branding placement, like CTV, and later retargets the viewers who saw that ad with additional placements, like OLV or even display.

“Not only are you exposing the viewer to different types of creatives and messaging, but we’re able to put your brand or product back in front of your target market in a different experience than prior,” said Boudreau. “We can serve them in a whole new environment, further driving them down the sales funnel and encouraging brand consideration.”

OLV vs OTT vs CTV: Final Thoughts


Ultimately, each format can drive great results for your brand. While traditional cable and linear TV ads have their place, the digital shift in viewer preferences towards streaming video content cannot be overlooked. OTT platforms provide an unparalleled opportunity to deliver targeted ads to audiences engaged in streamed content. By leveraging the ability to watch OTT content across various devices, advertisers can reach niche markets with precision, offering a more customized and relevant viewer experience.

CTV takes this a step further by combining the immersive experience of traditional TV advertising with the personalization of digital strategies. With more viewers switching to smart TVs and devices for streaming video, CTV allows your brand to interact with audiences in a dynamic, engaging manner.

This format is especially beneficial for brands looking to transition into the digital realm, offering the familiarity of TV with the added benefits of digital targeting and interactivity. By focusing your resources on OLV, OTT, and CTV placements, you can ensure your brand remains at the forefront of digital advertising trends, effectively reaching and engaging modern, tech-savvy audiences.

Ready to get started, or still have some questions?

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Division-D is a leading full-service digital media partner, specializing in programmatic, search, social, and influencer marketing to deliver superior results for advertising agencies and brands. With over 20 years in business, our dedicated team of 100+ digital media professionals operates from eight national offices, ensuring widespread coverage and comprehensive support for our clients.

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