Video is everywhere. Instagram is pushing Reels, families eat dinner in front of the TV, and phone games keep finding new ways to integrate rewarded video.

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 user 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.

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.

This placement has two main pros: it’s clickable, and it’s 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.

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.

Over-The-Top (OTT)

OTT is video content accessed “over the top” of broadcast providers. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other streaming apps would be included in this inventory, regardless of whether the content is viewed on a smart TV, 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 users are often more engaged with the content.

“A huge pro to OTT is the ability for a user to click through,” said Jessie Boudreau, Account Executive at Division-D. “So many clients look to run CTV 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 users the option to click through. However, clicking on the ad results in an incomplete view, and optimizing to both metrics can be tricky.

Connected TV (CTV)

CTV is similar to OTT, except it exclusively serves on television devices. Because of this, the placement is 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 above pros and cons 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.


As mentioned above, different video formats come at different 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 user 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 users who saw that ad with additional placements, like OLV or even display.

“Not only are you exposing the user 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. If you have the resources, we recommend testing any placements you’re interested in for the most comprehensive messaging.

For a more concise view of these formats, check out our Online Video one-sheeter.

Ready to get started, or still have some questions? Reach out to advertisers@divisiond.com or visit our website.

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