OTT vs. CTV Healthcare Advertising: Are They the Same? (+ 3 Helpful Tips)

OTT vs. CTV Healthcare Advertising: Are They the Same? (+ 3 Helpful Tips)

CTV and OTT healthcare advertising are great ways to show the relationship between advertisers and the new digital world. There’s an exciting new ecosystem growing with an addressable audience; viewers of streaming TV in the US could surpass traditional pay-TV viewership within five years.1 On the flip side, however, there’s confusion surrounding the technology. For example, a study found that most marketers have different definitions of OTT technology.2

See what I mean? When this happens, even the savviest digital advertisers can’t reap the benefits. So, let’s clear the air about OTT vs. CTV healthcare advertising.

Are CTV and OTT Technology the Same Thing?

Yes and no. Tom Fochetta, VP of Advertising Sales at Samsung Ads, writes: “I think of OTT as a delivery mechanism for video content. On the other hand, CTV refers to that video over IP on the largest screen in the home.”3 This is how an industry expert delineates between the two. But let’s make it even more apparent.

What’s CTV?

CTV is a device with a built-in connection to the Internet or a television paired with a device connected to the internet. Notice the words in bold: device. In the simplest of terms, CTV is merely the device you use to stream and watch content. For example, you watch content via a Playstation connected to your TV or via a Samsung Smart TV.

Additional Examples of CTV:

  • Xbox (a device connected to a TV)
  • Fire TV Stick (a device connected to a TV)
  • Roku TV (a device with a built-in Internet connection)

What’s OTT Technology?

OTT is content delivered via standalone services that go over the top of traditional content providers — think cable. Notice the words in bold: standalone services. If it’s easier, you can also replace “standalone services” with “apps” and/or “streaming services.”

Additional Examples of OTT:

  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Netflix (not ad-supported)

What’s the Difference Between CTV and OTT & What Are the Healthcare Advertising Implications?

I get it. CTV and OTT sound like one and the same. After all, you can watch Manifest on a Roku TV (CTV), but you can also watch it by going directly to Hulu’s website (OTT). However, there’s a difference: CTV is a subset of OTT, i.e., CTV is the device in which you watch the content. OTT is the method (app or streaming service) for delivering it.

While there’s a difference between CTV and OTT, there’s nothing wrong with grouping them when you’re thinking about your HCP campaigns. Why? Because HCPs don’t look at them differently.

Think about it: When an HCP wants to watch their favorite show, they don’t first ask themself if they’re going to watch it via CTV or OTT. All they care about is consuming the content in an ad-supported environment (unless they pay to upgrade). All you should care about is engaging them on the big screen.

For you, both CTV and OTT have extensive (and growing) audiences. By 2022, the number of CTV and OTT users will eclipse 200MM and 197MM, respectively.4,5 Both ecosystems also offer immersive and full-screen ad types (more on them in a minute) capable of generating high completion rates. Finally, they both have unmatched targeting capabilities that allow you to activate laser-focused campaigns aimed directly at your target list of HCPs.

Examples of CTV and OTT Ad Types

Now that you better understand CTV and OTT and what the technology means for your healthcare campaigns, let’s dive into real-world applications. This starts with an overview of common ad types.

Commercials: Ads that naturally weave in between the viewing experience. Just like commercials on linear TV, commercial ads across OTT and CTV are generally :15 or :30 seconds in length.

Homescreen: Ads that HCPs see when they’re on the home screen or scrolling through content.

Interactive Ads: Ads with a layer of interactivity that give HCPs the ability to use their remotes or other devices to learn more about your product or service. For example, an ad that clicks through to a branded website or one that shows a QR code that redirects an HCP elsewhere.

Pro Tip: While CTV and OTT share many commonalities, there are still intricacies and nuances you have to consider. Therefore, if you want to get the most out of CTV and OTT healthcare advertising campaigns, it’s essential that you partner with a programmatic expert.

3 Tips to Remember When Using CTV and OTT Healthcare Advertising

We’ve talked about the difference between CTV and OTT, the healthcare advertising implications (and why the difference doesn’t really matter), and some common ad types. But, before you get started, keep these final three tips in mind:

#1: Trust Your Data

CTV and OTT advertising is still the new kid on the block, which means challenges persist. For example, siloed ecosystems mean that measurement across different CTV and OTT providers isn’t perfect. That said, don’t let this small degree of uncertainty prevent you from allocating part of your budget. With the right HCP audiences supporting your campaign and a strong programmatic team backing you up, targeted campaigns and even attribution are both possible.

#2: CTV & OTT Shouldn’t Be Standalone Tactics

Despite the hoopla surrounding CTV and OTT advertising, these ads shouldn’t stand on their own. 9 of 10 times, CTV and OTT ads should be a part of an existing HCP programmatic advertising strategy. An effective HCP campaign requires other components, including but not limited to video and mobile ads.

#3: Experiment as Much as Possible

No one knows the perfect recipe for engaging HCPs across CTV and OTT, but don’t let that stop you from trying to create it. Experiment with different ad types, dayparting, and targeting methods to determine the best way to generate a return on ad spend (ROAS). Additionally, use NPI-level reporting to measure your campaigns on a granular level and continuously optimize.

Above all else, remember that CTV and OTT are the future of healthcare advertising. This is where HCPs spend their time outside of the office. So now’s your chance to establish yourself as the leader and first mover.


  1. Rowan M. The State Of OTT Advertising In 2020: Strong And Gaining Momentum. Forbes. Published April 21, 2020. Accessed August 10, 2020.
  2. Benes R. Marketers Are Split on How They Define OTT. eMarketer. Published May 17, 2019. Accessed August 10, 2020.
  3. Paoletta R. OTT? CTV? OMG What’s The Difference? Ad Exchanger. Published November 19, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2020.
  4. Verna P. Connected TV Advertising. eMarketer. Published August 23, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2021.
  5. Stoll J. Number of OTT subscribers in the U.S. 2017-2022. Statista. Published January 13, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021.

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