Make Connected TV Your Priority

This holiday shopping season’s biggest opportunity is on Connected TV—discover how SteelHouse Performance TV can help you make the most of it.

    The 2020 SteelHouse Holiday Marketing Guide

    Throw Out Your Old Holiday Playbook

    Welcome to the Holidays: Time For a New Approach

    This isn’t the time to rehash last year’s holiday strategy. Just sticking to a basic “search, social, and display” ad strategy will end up leaving money on the table. Why? Because new consumer trends have emerged out of this year’s craziness that have changed the advertising landscape.

    The most notable media consumption change is that streaming television has thrived.

    Millions of consumers are stuck indoors and seeking entertainment, which has resulted in an explosion of streaming TV time.

    Meanwhile, record numbers of consumers are turning to ecommerce; shopping levels during the first wave of COVID-19 (April and May) were higher than the peak of the 2019 holiday shopping season (November to December).1

    And 66% of consumers plan on spending more online for their holiday shopping this season.2

    These massive shifts in consumer behavior call for a new addition to your holiday strategy: Connected TV (CTV) advertising. It’s set to be a key difference maker for advertisers this busy holiday season—our goal for this guide is to teach you how to make the most of it.

    This year's connected TV opportunity

    Connected TV's Rise in 2020

    Ecommerce had its strongest ever holiday shopping season last year, making up 13.4% of total holiday sales and driving over $135B in revenue.3 This year is projected to be even bigger for ecommerce sales, but it’s not the only consumer trend gaining momentum.

    Even before the pandemic, Connected TV was gaining steady user adoption. By 2023, US household adoption was expected to reach 82%.4 When COVID-19 hit, it accelerated CTV’s adoption across the board.

    Connected TV in the COVID-19 Era

    • 0%

      Year-over-year increase in CTV viewing time5

    • 0%

      US households with at least one CTV device6

    • 0%

      US households with at least one CTV service7

    Ad-Supported Streaming is Thriving

    You might think of Netflix, Disney+, or other subscription services when you think streaming TV, but it's ad-supported content that dominates total streaming viewership. Nearly ¾ of 18+ streaming viewers watch ad-supported services.8


    Watch subscription only


    Watch ad-supported


    Watch ad-supported most

    And while Disney+ grabs headlines for its number of subscribers, it’s lagging behind in viewership. In separate research published by Reelgood, Disney+ accounted for just 4.8% of total streaming time.9

    More ad-supported services are coming online, with NBCUniversal’s Peacock the latest to launch. And with Forbes estimating Hulu generates $7 per month in ad revenue per ad-supported user,10 publishers have a heavy incentive to offer more ad inventory in Q4.

    Connected TV Ad Spend is Pacing Higher

    US advertisers spent nearly $7B on Connected TV ads in 2019, and this year it’s expected to be closer to $9B.11 With streaming TV’s explosive growth in viewership this year, we expect that number to pace even higher for 2020.

    Case in point: Per SteelHouse data, after an initial 12% decrease in CTV ad spend at the outset of the pandemic (March and April), it surged 106% in May and June—and hasn’t given up any ground since.12

    COVID-19 Connected TV Ad Spend Impact

    Advertisers Are Shifting Budget to Connected TV

    A majority of marketers (59%) report plans to increase spend on Connected TV in the second half of 2020, beating out non-CTV/OTT video ads (56%), and even social (56%).13

    The opportunity is so alluring that many marketers will shift budget from multiple existing ad channels. And while many will pull from existing TV budgets, over a quarter of marketers are using digital budgets instead. We expect that number to grow in Q4 since CTV’s targeting and reporting capabilities function like a digital channel.

    Marketer Survey: Which ad budgets will you reduce to increase spend on CTV?14

    • 0%

      Broadcast TV

    • 0%

      Cable TV

    • 0%

      Desktop/Mobile Video

    • 0%

      Non-Video Ads

    Connected TV Tips & Strategies

    How to Tap Into Connected TV This Holiday Season

    More ad inventory is coming online, ad spend is up, and your competitors will likely be active on Connected TV this holiday season. You can’t afford to be absent on CTV in Q4—so what’s the best way to use it and maximize your return on ad spend?

    Treat it as a direct-response performance channel. SteelHouse Performance TV, our CTV ad solution, is built to drive the best performance possible for your campaigns, regardless of your goal. It leverages a combination of preferential pricing, audience and device targeting, and a top-tier ad experience to make an impact.

    For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be looking at CTV strategy through the lens of Performance TV.

    Unlock Connected TV's Performance Potential

    Just running ads on CTV doesn’t immediately make it a performance channel. You need a platform designed to specifically optimize toward your business goals. This is the secret ingredient other CTV solutions are lacking.

    Performance TV combines goal-oriented optimization technology, exclusive pricing, and top-tier inventory to generate the best possible results for your campaigns.

    Automated Media Buying

    Just supply your budget and goal (no bids required), and it automatically optimizes your campaign thousands of times per day.

    Living Room Quality PMP

    We’ve negotiated preferential pricing on top-tier streaming inventory to ensure your campaigns deliver better returns.

    2020 SteelHouse Performance TV Benchmarks

    While ultimately campaign performance will be determined by your industry and specific goals, Performance TV puts you in the best position to achieve them.



    Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)



    Site Visit Rate



    Cost Per Completed View



    Cost Per Site Visit

    Top 5 Ways to Maximize Performance

    Regardless of whether you’re trying to drive site traffic or revenue and conversions, we recommend an approach that taps into the top, middle, and bottom of your sales funnel. SteelHouse Performance TV offers a combination of campaign tactics and features that are designed to engage your audience every step of the way.

    Here are the top 5 ways you can use Performance TV to seize this year’s opportunity.


    Use Prospecting to Reach Valuable New Users

    It’s important to reach new audiences in the run-up to the holiday season because shoppers tend to seek out brands they’re already familiar with when it’s time to buy. Performance TV helps you reach those new audiences thanks to its full integration with the Oracle Data Cloud, the world’s largest CTV audience provider.

    You can leverage Performance TV for prospecting campaigns that are not only effective at raising awareness, but also drive highly qualified site traffic that converts. And with television ads topping the list of ad formats for brand recall, they’re some of the most effective prospecting ads you can deploy this holiday season.

    Top 5 Keys to Prospecting Success

    1. Launch Multiple Campaigns

    Run a campaign with a focus on gift-giving, and another for shoppers in-market for themselves to reach multiple audiences and assess which performs better.

    2. Start in September

    You’ll want to raise awareness in the early parts of the holiday shopping season. Make prospecting a heavy focus in September, October, and into November.

    3. Competitor Conquesting

    Target audiences that have shopped with your competitors to not only reach shoppers interested in your offering, but also steal market share from your rivals.

    4. Make it Direct-Response

    Prospecting on CTV drives an efficient cost per visit because it prompts viewers to take action; give your ad a strong CTA to drive site visits and conversions.

    5. Audience Extension

    Performance TV serves related display ads on web and mobile once they’ve seen your CTV ad, allowing you to immerse your audience across multiple devices.


    Retarget Your Newfound Site Visitors

    By leveraging Performance TV for driving new site traffic, you’ll have an enormous retargeting pool to tap into. Take full advantage of it by deploying Performance TV retargeting campaigns, which function just like digital retargeting except they use HD video ads streamed over television.

    Performance TV retargeting is an enormous opportunity to take advantage of CTV’s direct-response nature. With only 10% of marketers15 seeing video ads as a lower funnel strategy, you have a competitive advantage with CTV retargeting since it’s something your competition may overlook.

    Top 5 Keys to Retargeting Success

    1. Get Aggressive

    Since these shoppers have already visited your site but haven’t decided to convert, offer this group of shoppers more aggressive promos to convince them to buy.

    2. Ramp in November

    Launch your retargeting campaigns to target shoppers in the run-up to Black Friday, and then keep them running all the way into the New Year.

    3. Increase Budget

    Dedicate 30% of your budget to retargeting up until November 21st, then increase to 70-80% in the last week of the month and first two weeks of December.

    4. Focus on Products

    These shoppers already understand your brand, so make your offering the focus with ads that highlight your products.

    5. Retarget Everywhere

    Performance TV retargeting campaigns also serve dynamic display ads on web and mobile that feature products viewed by your shoppers.


    Immerse Shoppers With Audience Extension

    Ads streamed on television are great at grabbing user attention, and generate 32% more ad recall than the next closest device.16 Performance TV ads serve exclusively to television screens to tap into that effect.

    But holiday shoppers tend to jump from device to device. It’s a best practice to have related display ads (both in message and aesthetic) running on web and mobile to ensure you deliver a consistent message across multiple channels. SteelHouse Audience Extension is built with that in mind.

    Extend Your Audience

    SteelHouse Performance TV is equipped with Audience Extension, which serves related display ads to viewers who have seen your ad on CTV.

    Enhance Performance

    By combining CTV and display ads in a single campaign, you drive better performance than just display alone. Here’s how a leading home supply retailer’s Performance TV retargeting campaign stacked up against display-only retargeting.17

    • 0%

      Better ROAS

    • 0%

      More unique site visitors

    • 0%

      Lower cost per visit

    • 0%

      Fewer impressions per single site visit


    Provide a Living Room Quality Experience

    Performance TV’s Living Room Quality doesn’t just unlock preferential pricing and inventory, it also taps into viewing habits to deliver a top-tier ad experience that prompts user action.

    Even though viewers can watch Connected TV on mobile or desktop devices, the vast majority watch it on television. This is good news for advertisers, because nearly 90% of viewers use a second digital device while watching TV,18 and 65% use a second screen to look up brands advertised while streaming.19 Living Room Quality is designed to leverage that viewer behavior and drive better campaign performance.

    You Only Pay for True CTV Ads

    It only serves ads to TV screens (not mobile or desktop) to ensure your campaigns are only paying for true CTV inventory.

    It Only Serves Ads on Top Networks

    Ads are served on streaming networks like Hulu, ESPN, Bravo, FOX Sports, and over 150 others, ensuring your brand is paired with premium, brand-safe content that elevates your brand perception.

    It Leverages Second-Screens

    By only serving on TV screens, Living Room Quality allows viewers to take immediate action.

    If a viewer sees a CTV ad on mobile or desktop, they won’t exit out of their stream to visit your site.

    But if they’re watching on TV with their phone in-hand, they’re more likely to navigate to your page.


    Track Every Cross-Device Journey

    Connected TV advertising requires accurate cross-device measurement—shoppers aren’t converting on their TV screens after all.

    SteelHouse uses Cross-Device Verified Visits, which is our proprietary technology that measures any user visits to your site following a completed in-view display of your ads, in a window of time defined by you. It’s fully integrated into Google Analytics, so you can measure and verify your performance using the leading 3rd party analytics platform as well.

    How Cross-Device Verified Visits Works


    User completes an ad (considered viewable by IAB standards) on a household device


    User visits advertiser site on any household device within Verified Visit window


    User converts within conversion window


    Advertiser Success Stories

    Successful Performance TV Holiday Campaigns

    The holidays can be tough, but the right approach can make them a whole lot easier. Let’s take a look at how this top brand handled the holiday shopping season last year with Performance TV.

    Mrs. Fields Cookies

    Mrs. Fields Cookies

    As a leading gourmet cookie and gift retailer, Mrs. Fields typically sees major growth during the holiday season. After all, who wouldn’t want to be gifted freshly baked cookies? Even Santa loves them.

    Their Holiday Approach

    Mrs. Fields built up their retargeting audience pool ahead of the holidays with a Performance TV prospecting campaign. Their targeting strategy included finding new customers interested in sweets and desserts, frequent delivery-service users, and holiday shoppers and gift givers.

    They then scaled up their retargeting efforts to capitalize on the high-quality, net-new traffic driven to their site by Performance TV—resulting in better ROAS performance even with an increased budget.


    “Connected TV represented a big opportunity for us during last year’s holiday shopping season. It proved to be an effective strategy for us because we were not only able to generate strong returns with the Performance TV campaign, but it enhanced our retargeting as well.”

    Matt Edstrom

    VP Marketing, Mrs. Fields Gifting and Licensing

    The Results

    October (Before Performance TV Prospecting)

    Display Retargeting


    Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)

    November/December (After Performance TV)

    Display Retargeting


    Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)

    Performance TV Prospecting


    Return On Ad Spends (ROAS)


    Cost Per Visit


    Verified Visits

    The Lure of Connected TV Inventory

    The Fall Will Likely Break Viewing Records on Connected TV

    TV viewership traditionally rises in the fall and reaches its peak during the winter when everyone is stuck indoors. The pandemic has kept people indoors all year—and with flu season coinciding with the holiday shopping season you can expect indoor-hours to rival those of winter’s.

    Meanwhile, traditional broadcast networks have moved their best content to streaming to join streaming-exclusive shows, and their premier fall lineups will also be available. Top quality content has made CTV’s inventory a huge advantage over other digital channels—you won’t be able to pair your ads with programming like this on social or YouTube.

    The Handmaid's Tale
    Downton Abbey
    Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    30 Rock
    Little Fires Everywhere
    Rick and Morty
    Castle Rock
    It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    Star Trek
    Fresh Off the Boat
    The Good Wife
    Parks and Recreation
    This Is Us

    Inventory Brings Viewers In, Targeting Brings Them To You

    While the quality of programming inventory will attract droves of viewers, the real secret to Performance TV’s effectiveness is its audience-first targeting.

    Its targeting isn’t based on programming, but rather the audience watching it. It’s completely programming-agnostic, meaning your ads find your audience regardless of what show they’re watching. For example, if you’re trying to target outdoor enthusiasts, you’ll reach them whether they’re watching Discovery’s Man Vs. Wild, or Bravo’s Top Chef.

    How to Target Valuable Audiences

    Go After These Actionable Holiday Audiences

    You can follow every campaign best practice imaginable, but you won’t see success unless you’re targeting the right shoppers. We’ve assembled a list of recommendations and audiences found within the Oracle Data Cloud, which is fully integrated into Performance TV, that will give you the best shot at driving site traffic and conversions.


    Go Big

    You’re going to want to create a large targeting pool in order to grab as many of those prospective holiday shoppers as possible, so tap into 3rd party audience data.


    Target Valuable 3rd Party Audiences

    Seasonal audiences should be a priority, and this year you should consider “stay-at-home” targeting as well. Search for these audiences in Performance TV’s audience builder, and add them to your campaigns.

    Black Friday & Cyber Monday Shoppers

    Search Terms: Black Friday, Cyber Monday

    You need to get your ads in front of users who have historically been active during the major shopping events, whether it’s in-store or online.

    Black Friday & Cyber Monday Online Spenders

    Search Terms: Black Friday, Cyber Monday Online Spenders

    Online shoppers are projected to spend big this year, and with this segment traditionally spending 2X the average on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it will be valuable.

    Holiday Shoppers By Vertical

    Search Term: Black Friday (Your vertical here)

    You can search for users who have historically purchased products from your specific vertical. So whether you’re an outdoor or apparel brand, there’s an audience for you.

    Top Holiday Spenders

    Search Term: Top Holiday Spenders

    People are spending record amounts online this year, so be sure you’re going after users with deep pockets.

    Online Gamers

    Search Terms: Video Games, Platforms and Consoles, Nintendo, Xbox

    The gaming industry is booming and offers outlets to people stuck inside—if your offering aligns with these types of shoppers, they could be good to target.

    Health Enthusiasts

    Search Terms: Exercise & Fitness, Exercise Equipment, Gyms & Sports Clubs

    Shoppers are trying to avoid the dreaded “Quarantine-15” weight gain during lockdown. Fitness shoppers won’t be waiting for their New Year’s Resolutions to buy.


    Combine Everything with In-Market “And” Statements

    You want to ensure you're maximizing your reach when trying to drive new users to your site. Add as many audience segments as possible, and then combine them with an in-market “and” statement. This will net plenty of shoppers who are actively seeking to buy this holiday season.

    Audience Builder - Target Audience Criteria

    Holiday Creative Tips

    Build Creative That Prompts Action

    Whether you’re running Performance TV ads, or display creative with web retargeting or Audience Extension, ‘tis the season for compelling creative that prompts users to take action.

    Performance TV

    • Viewers can’t click to convert on their TVs, so include a visual and audible call to action to get them to your site.
    • Keep your logo and URL persistent throughout to tap into the ad channel’s direct-response nature.
    • If you only have one video for your holiday campaign, change up your Audience Extension display ads more frequently to avoid creative fatigue and highlight key shopping days.


    • Call out the specific shopping event your ad is tied to. If it’s a special promo for Cyber Monday, let your audience know.
    • Ensure your offer is front and center, and any promo codes are included in every scene of your ad.
    • Keep it festive with holiday imagery and tap into people’s excitement around this time of year.
    • Q4 is extremely competitive, so be sure you’re utilizing any ad elements that catch the eye—video and animation will do the trick.

    Tips for the COVID-19 Era

    The pandemic has resulted in a wide range of challenges for advertisers to solve, but there are steps you can take to prepare your campaigns and creative in Q4.

    Keep Shipping Top of Mind

    This year has been marred with logistics issues, and shoppers will be wary of getting gifts on time. If you’re not struggling with supply or delivery problems, integrate that into your creative message so shoppers will feel confident enough to convert.

    Promoting your gift card options can pay dividends; it can sidestep any shipping concerns, while also giving last-minute shoppers a chance to convert without worrying about not having a gift ready for the holiday.

    Brick and mortar retail has suffered as window shoppers and in-store browsers have been in short supply. Recreate that experience through your creative; feature a wide assortment of your product catalog to make shoppers aware of what you have on offer.

    Filming video content has been a challenge for everyone, from Hollywood studios to advertisers. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders can disrupt live video shoots, but there are other ways to create compelling video ads and get them live on Connected TV.

    • User Generated Content

      Do you have fans sharing their love of your brand on social media? Use those to create video ads that showcase customers evangelizing your brand.

    • Motion Graphics

      You don’t need actors to tell your brand’s story—put together a visually interesting ad by combining product imagery and animated ad copy to grab user attention.

    • Stop Motion

      Get creative with your product offering and find fun ways to show them off. Stop motion animation is not only visually interesting, it makes your products the focus.

    Important Dates to Remember for 2020

    2020 Holiday Marketing Calendar

    Now that we’ve covered how to make the most of this year’s opportunity, let’s take a look at when. Here’s every important date you need to know.


    November 2020 Marketing Calendar

    December - January

    December 2020/January 2021 Marketing Calendar
    • Thanksgiving
    • Black Friday
    • Small Business Saturday
    • Cyber Monday + Cyber Week
    • Hanukkah
    • Free Shipping Day
    • Green Monday
    • Super Saturday
    • Christmas Eve
    • Christmas
    • Post-Christmas Sale

    Trend Snapshot: 2019

    2019 Holidays: By the Numbers

    With the surge in ecommerce in 2020, we expect this year’s performance data to eclipse 2019’s and for the trends below to play out on a much grander scale. Combined with advertisers driving more site visits and conversions with Connected TV, this holiday season is poised to be huge.

    Let’s take a look at how consumers shopped online last year using data pulled from the SteelHouse network. Keep these trends in mind for your strategies this year.

    Trend Snapshot: Q4 Overall

    Month after month, key site metrics moved up as the shopping season wore on. The data indicates opportunity rises as time moves forward; there’s little incentive for advertisers to take their foot off the gas until the new year.


    34% of advertisers’ total yearly revenue was generated in Q4.


    Both consumers and advertisers kicked into high gear, with key metrics and ad spend all jumping more than 20%.


    Revenue surged 36% higher MoM, due in large part to Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.


    While growth slowed vs. previous months, December’s site visit, conversion, and revenue numbers were highest.

    Ad Spend

    Advertisers did well to match each month’s opportunity with increased spend, except for December where it dropped 17% vs. November.

    Q4 Metrics Month-Over-Month Comparison

    Trend Snapshot: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Week

    The two week stretch from November 25th to December 8th is the biggest shopping event of the year. And while Black Friday and Cyber Monday may get all the headlines, it was Thanksgiving Day that really stood out.

    Average Order Value

    Shoppers didn’t wait for Black Friday to start spending big. Thanksgiving Day’s average order value was 31% higher than the two week average, and eclipsed the more popular shopping events.

    Thanksgiving Day AoV vs. Other Shopping Days


    Unsurprisingly, Black Friday was top for revenue during the two week stretch, with Cyber Monday not far behind. Thanksgiving Day beat the shopping period’s average revenue by 28%, and if Black Friday and Cyber Monday are excluded, it beat it by 76%.

    2019 Thanksgiving & Cyber Week Revenue Impact

    Site Visits & Conversions

    Cyber Week was top for both site visits and conversions, but saw a drop in average order value. This indicates shoppers buy big as soon as they can, then go hunting for smaller purchases as time goes on.

    Cyber Week Site Visits, Conversions, & AoV vs. Thanksgiving Week

    Key Takeaways from 2019

    The 2019 holiday shopping season was a major success for advertisers, and the data suggests there are opportunities to seize this year.

    Ad Budgets Were Exhausted

    Despite December generating the highest number of conversions, revenue, and site traffic, ad spend dropped 17%. Advertisers exhausted their budgets during the Black Friday and Cyber Week stretch and weren't able to maintain them to take advantage of increased consumer activity.

    It’s important to reserve or add budget for the final stretch of the shopping season. Improved shipping times and logistics have made shoppers comfortable buying at the last minute. And while shipping times may prove to be an issue this year due to COVID-19, it's likely this behavior will still continue.

    Shoppers aren’t waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday anymore—they’re shopping right from the Thanksgiving dinner table and they’re spending big. Ensure your campaigns are ready to take advantage by featuring big-ticket items since Thanksgiving Day’s average order value is highest.

    With gift cards in hand, shoppers shift from gift-giving to shopping for themselves pretty quick. Have campaigns ready to launch immediately after Christmas with a self-shopping message to drive end-of-year performance and claim your share of gift-card spending.

    Key Findings & Recommendations

    2020 Holiday Marketing Guide: Summary

    2020 has seen immense change for both advertisers and consumers alike. While we can examine 2019’s trends for possible opportunities, 2020 presents a unique scenario that requires an ambitious approach. Here’s a summary of the things you need to remember in order to make this a very merry holiday shopping season.

    Key Findings

    Q4 2019

    Q4 was big business for advertisers, with the three month stretch generating 34% of the year’s revenue.

    Ad spend dropped 17% in December despite peak levels of site visits, revenue, and conversions, suggesting advertisers are missing an opportunity to compete.

    2020 has seen advertisers flock to Connected TV in the wake of the pandemic; after a 12% decrease in CTV ad spend at the outset of the pandemic, it jumped 106%.

    SteelHouse Performance TV campaigns have delivered strong averages on ROAS (4.36X), site visit rate (1.87%), cost per completed view ($0.04), and cost per site visit ($4.60).

    Top Recommendations


    Start prospecting campaigns as early as September, and ramp them up in October and November to ensure you’re at the top of shoppers’ consideration set.

    Keep budgets strong all the way until the new year—there are a lot of conversions and revenue up for grabs late in the shopping season, so you need to stay competitive.

    SteelHouse Performance TV turns CTV into a performance ad channel.

    Leverage Performance TV for performance, prospecting, and retargeting on CTV to ensure you’re driving qualified site traffic and conversions.

    COVID-19 and a surge in ecommerce can make shipping delays a concern for shoppers; highlight on-time delivery or gift card options to allay those fears.

    Recreate window-shopping and in-store browsing with creative that recreates those experiences and shows off the breadth of your catalog.

    Video ads perform better—especially on Performance TV. Find alternative ways to produce video ads to ensure you tap into that opportunity.

    Make Connected TV Your Priority

    This holiday shopping season’s biggest opportunity is on Connected TV—discover how SteelHouse Performance TV can help you make the most of it.