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The Art of Advertising: A Guide to Crafting CTV Ad Creative

For years, TV advertisements have had one goal: To appeal to the largest audience possible. With the rise of connected TV, though, advertisers have an opportunity to connect with viewers in new ways — from hyper-personalization to QR codes and more.

Finding new ways to connect with audiences creatively can pay dividends — research from Kantar shows creative quality accounts for 50% of campaign effectiveness. But crafting the perfect creative in the CTV space can be tricky. Ad specs vary from publisher to publisher. Creative capabilities are evolving. How can advertisers keep up?

From frame rates and aspect ratios to best practices and more, we’ll dig into everything connected TV advertisers need to know to develop their best ad creative yet.

What are the types of CTV ads?

In-stream video ads

One common format is In-stream video ads, where a publisher displays an ad within video content that can be either skippable or non-skippable. Viewers have the option to click through skippable in-stream video ads after a few seconds. In contrast, non-skippable ads mandate that viewers watch the entire ad before proceeding to the video content.

Advertisers also commonly refer to in-stream video ads as, pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads.

As their name implies, these ads vary in their placement. Pre-roll ads are shown before the main video content, mid-roll ads are inserted in the middle of the video content, and post-roll ads play after the video content.

Interactive Ads

Interactive ads are a more recent addition to the CTV world and show promising results. According to Innovid, interactive CTV campaigns drove a 5.42% engagement rate, compared to .07% for mobile and PC. This type of ad, displayed as in-stream or in-bank, includes interactive formats, such as interactive overlays, carousel ads, and companion banners.

Today’s interactive CTV ads often include a scannable QR code, where viewers can be sent to a website or sent more information via text or email. Other interactive ads allow viewers to make a purchase straight from the ad.

While interactive CTV ads are similar to interactive videos, the two contain different interactive capabilities. Interactive videos on desktop browsers or mobile allow for interactive elements like form fills, product scrolls, and more. On the other hand, interactive CTV ads leverage QR codes, clickable elements, and other similar features.

Best practices for your CTV creative

Pay attention to rules and restrictions

You may need to follow certain rules and restrictions depending on who you’re advertising to and what you’re advertising.

For instance, if you're targeting children with your ad creative, you’ll need to follow regulations related to child-friendly content, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. If you’re promoting alcohol, you must include a “drink responsibly” tag. Those looking to upload pharmaceutical ads must submit substantiations of any claims made at the same time they upload their creative. And, of course, nudity, violence, curse words, and other similar content are almost always rejected by publishers.

Advertisers must also follow guidelines surrounding certain call-to-actions. Publishers do not accept immediate call-to-action messaging, such as “stream now” or “DVR now.” Rather, advertisers must use language like “now streaming” or “set your DVR.”

Get personal

Connected TV’s robust targeting capabilities enable advertisers to reach viewers at a granular level. Whether you’re reaching millennials in the Midwest or car owners in their early 20s, your ad campaigns should speak to each audience. To do this, try personalizing your creative according to who you’re trying to reach.

When it comes to personalization, doing it right engages your audience and boosts conversions. According to McKinsey & Company, 78% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from brands that personalize.

But watch out: Personalization done wrong can turn viewers off and come across as creepy. Be smart about the data you use, how you use it, and how often you hit users with personalized ads.

How can marketers personalize their ad creative to millions of viewers? Dynamic creative optimization (DCO) makes it possible. This ad technology produces hundreds of thousands of creative variations before launching a campaign. It then determines in real time what variation of an ad to serve to a viewer based on a campaign’s targeting parameters.

Be mindful when repurposing creative

Many advertisers fall into the trap of repurposing digital creative to cut costs on a new CTV campaign. What most are not aware of, though, is that creative specifications for CTV are unique, and optimizing creative for mobile devices or desktops won't seamlessly translate to the big screen. There are several reasons why, including:

  • Video format: CTV ads are designed to be viewed horizontally, while mobile ads are designed to be viewed vertically. With this in mind, advertisers must make sure self-recorded testimonials and any other typically vertical videos must be horizontally formatted instead.
  • Context: Viewers watch CTV ads in a more passive setting, while digital video ads are typically viewed in a more active setting, such as browsing the web or using an app. Advertisers need to design CTV creative with a passive viewing experience in mind. Advertisers must craft a compelling story and a strong call to action to get viewers to engage with your ad beyond the TV screen.

Emerging Trends in CTV Creative

How can CTV advertisers ensure their creative stands out from the crowd? To engage audiences, it’s important to understand emerging creative trends in the connected TV space.

User-Generated Content

Did you know that a whopping 79% of consumers agree User-Generated Content (UGC) significantly impacts their purchasing decisions? It's a growing trend you can't afford to ignore when crafting your CTV creatives. By incorporating UGC into your ads, you can create an authentic and relatable experience that truly connects with your viewers.

Imagine featuring real user-generated videos or photos in your ad, showcasing genuine customers' enjoyment of your product or service. It adds a level of credibility and trust that traditional advertising simply can't match. Another powerful strategy is encouraging viewers to share their own content on social media using a branded hashtag. This not only amplifies your reach but also turns your audience into active participants in your brand story.

Dynamic/Personalized Creative

As we mentioned before, connected TV offers advanced targeting capabilities, enabling advertisers to reach tailored audience segments with precision. To make the most of these efforts, more and more advertisers are personalizing their creative to each target audience. Common use cases we see include:

  • Geotargeting: Here, advertisers craft creative that is geo-specific. For example, if a viewer is in the vicinity of a particular restaurant, the ad can highlight that specific location and showcase relevant menu items or limited-time offers.
  • Retargeting: In this scenario, advertisers develop creative that drives conversions. If the user visiting the site browses through the women’s category, the subsequent connected TV ad can display women’s fashion or related products to encourage the user to make a purchase.
  • Behavioral: Behavioral targeting works best with creative that aligns with the viewer’s interests. Think of a fitness company. Based on the viewer's behavior and interests, the ad can dynamically showcase relevant fitness products or equipment. For example, if the user had searched for dumbbells, the ad would feature a set of dumbbells.
  • Contextual: When advertisers contextually target users, they can craft creative tailored to the context of the content the user watches, including what the user is watching, when they’re watching it and more. A user watching a show about healthy cooking, for instance, may see an ad for a kitchen appliance that promotes healthy eating habits.
  • Creative optimization: Using whichever creative performs best most often in the scenario that you don’t know which creative out of multiple is performing best.

QR codes

To better engage audiences, advertisers are taking their creative to the next level by adding scannable codes to their ads.

QR code usage first surged in popularity during the midst of the pandemic. Now, these scannable codes are taking on a new form in the world of connected TV. Rather than encourage viewers to take action after an ad, QR codes allow viewers to take action the moment a brand has their attention — from making a direct purchase to navigating to a brand’s site and beyond.

QR codes are not only engaging, but they’re also trackable. Advertisers can use these codes to measure lower-funnel metrics, such as conversion rates, and provide attribution for their TV campaigns.

“You have a phone in your hand. You have a TV in front of you,” said Curt Larson, chief product officer at Sharethrough to Adweek. “It’s the only way you can bridge those two worlds.”

CTV Creative Advertising Specs: What Advertisers Need to Know

When developing ad creative, advertisers must be both creative and technical. Your ad creative can be unique, thought-provoking, and visually stunning, but it won’t make it to the big screen if the aspect ratio, audio, or resolution is off.

While each publisher has their own unique set of spec requirements, we can boil down connected TV ad specs to the following.

  • File size: 1.78 GB Max
  • File type: .mp4 or .mov
  • Resolution: 16:9 / 1080p
  • Bitrate: 15-30 Mbps (15,360 - 30,720 kbps)
  • Frame rate: 23.976 or 29.97
  • Audio bitrate: 192 Kbps

Still need to find a specific set of video ad spec requirements? We’ve compiled a list of the most common CTV platforms and their specs.


  • Maximum file size: 10 GB
  • Seconds duration: 15 or 30 seconds
  • File type: .mov or .mp4
  • Frame rate: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30 fps
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: 10 - 40 Mbps


  • Maximum file size: 100 MB
  • Seconds duration: 15, 30 or 60 seconds
  • File type: .mp4
  • Frame rate: 4:3
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: 15 - 30 Mbps

Amazon Prime Video

  • Maximum file size: 500 MB
  • Seconds duration: 15 or 30 seconds
  • File type: H.264, MPEG-4 or MPEG-2
  • Frame rate: 29.976
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: 8 Mbps


  • Maximum file size: 10 GB
  • Seconds duration: 15, 30, 60 or 90 seconds
  • File type: .mov or .mp4
  • Frame rate: 23.98 (23.976), 24, 25, 29.97, or 30 fps
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: 10-40 Mbps


  • Maximum file size: 10GB
  • Seconds duration: 6, 15, 30, 45 or 60 seconds
  • File type: .mov or .mp4
  • Frame rate: 23.98, 25, or 29.97 (based on native frame rate)
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: Greater than 15 Mbps


  • Maximum file size: 135 MB
  • Seconds duration: 6, 15, or 30 seconds(45 and 60 seconds by approval only)
  • File type: .mov, .mp4, .mpeg, .mpg or .mxf.
  • Frame rate: 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97p, 50i or 59.94i fps.
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Bitrate: 25 mbps

What exactly do these terms mean? From file size to bit rate to VAST tags and more, the world of ad creative can be incredibly technical. It’s important to understand common terms used so that you understand the guidelines and requirements in place when uploading your ad creative.

  • Aspect ratio: The proportional relationship between the width and height of the video ad. Common aspect ratios for CTV ads are 16:9 (widescreen) or 4:3 (standard).
  • Bit rate: The amount of data used to represent a video stream. Higher bitrates generally result in higher video quality but also require more bandwidth. Bitrate is measured in kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps).
  • Frame rate: The number of individual frames or images displayed per second in a video advertisement. It determines the smoothness and fluidity of motion within the video.
  • Master ad: The number of individual frames or images displayed per second in a video advertisement. It determines the smoothness and fluidity of motion within the video.
  • Mezzanine file: An intermediate or master file that serves as a high-quality source for creating various versions and formats of the video content. Publishers typically ask for this file when they want to be in charge of transcoding.
  • Metadata: Additional information associated with the ad creative, such as title, description, keywords, or categories. Metadata helps with ad targeting, contextual relevance, and searchability.
  • Resolution: The number of pixels in each dimension of the video ad. Common resolutions for CTV ads include 1920x1080 (Full HD) or 3840x2160 (4K Ultra HD).
  • Transcoding: The process of converting a file from a higher resolution to a lower resolution.
  • VAST: A standardized XML-based format used to deliver video ads to video players or ad servers in digital advertising ecosystems. VAST tags provide instructions to the video player on how to display and execute the video ad.
  • VPAID: A standard protocol that enables interactive and rich media experiences within video ads. It’s important to note that VPAID has been deprecated and will be replaced by Open Measurement Interface Definition (OMID) and Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID).

Unleash the Power of CTV Creative

In the ever-evolving landscape of connected TVs (CTVs), mastering CTV creative is absolutely vital to staying ahead of the curve. By implementing these valuable tips and tricks, you can craft compelling creatives that leave a lasting impression and truly stand out.

Investing time and energy into your ad creative is just one piece of the puzzle. To ensure optimal results, advertisers must leverage the right technology to deliver their creative to the right audience. That's where Simulmedia's TV+ platform comes into play.

At Simulmedia, we understand the significance of reaching the right audience with your CTV campaigns. That's why we've developed TV+, a cutting-edge full-funnel advertising solution powered by data science. With TV+, you gain the ability to effectively plan and buy audiences on CTV, ensuring cost-effectiveness throughout the entire process.

Ready to take your CTV advertising to the next level? Don't hesitate to speak with one of our experts.