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What is Contextual Targeting and is it Smart Enough for Today’s Advertisers?

by Michael McNulty, May 18, 2021

The race is on to find solutions for the cookieless future and everyone is talking about contextual targeting. As a tried-and-true ad solution that’s been around for more than two decades, contextual targeting enables you to make better consumer privacy decisions than cookie-based targeting by finding your audience through content signals instead of ID-based targets. It also provides an improved ad experience because consumers only receive ads that are relevant to the content they’re browsing online. 

Here’s a primer on why contextual matters today, how it works, and why you should be adapting this alternative targeting tactic to stay competitive as the ad industry learns to live without cookies.

What is contextual targeting?

Contextual targeting is a way to target your audience using keywords and topics instead of cookies or mobile IDFAs. Contextual ads complement the environments in which consumers are surfing or shopping, and they can improve purchase intent by 63% because of their relevance to the overall consumer experience. They also increase brand favorability by engaging consumers with personalized ads.

How does it work?

Contextual solutions use real-time context-based signals to make bidding decisions. They analyze text, video, and imagery to create contextual targeting segments in real-time that are matched to advertiser goals. Web page content around ad inventory is evaluated based on multiple criteria, including safety, suitability, and context. This means that your ads appear only in the most appropriate environments. 

Why is contextual having a comeback?

Contextual was previously one of the dominant forms of advertising. Before the technology matured over the years, it was perceived as a purely upper-funnel tactic for extending reach. Its performance was also lower when compared to targeting with third-party cookies. This is because cookie-based targeting used specific user-level behaviors such as items left inside their shopping cart or a user’s specific location, which enabled brands to hyper-target and retarget users. Whereas contextual used keywords to find relevant pages to place ads on and find an audience. As the ad ecosystem gears up for a dramatic shift toward protecting consumer identity, contextual is once again the leading ad solution that can provide you with a brand-safe, privacy-compliant future. 

The contextual “comeback” is gaining so much momentum that investments are expected to surge to $447 billion by 2027. (eMarketer)

How is it different today?

Marketers have access to more data points than ever before to craft your audiences and reach campaign goals more effectively. Rich sources of privacy-compliant, cross-channel data allows you to have a better understanding of your targets’ interests and lifestyle. Sophisticated machine learning and A.I. provide a more granular understanding of where and how content is being consumed, what your audience sentiment is, and the specific insights you need to inform ad creative, ad formats, and the targeting channels that will drive performance scale.

Who benefits the most from leveraging contextual?

Advertisers and trading teams need access to non-ID based insights that can turn into actionable campaign strategies. Depending on the goals of your campaign, you can use contextual to capitalize off strong in-market brand awareness, or if you’re intent on stealing market share away from your competitors, competitive conquesting contextual is the way to go. Contextual is also a high performer when it comes to prospecting or reaching incremental users by aligning with broader, real-time industry trends.

What makes one solution better than another?

Many of today’s solutions give you 1:1 targeting visibility, but only on the networks of the publishers they’re integrated with. With a smarter, more holistic solution, you can reach past the blind spots and across a broader range of keywords, categories, and publishers. Many contextual providers are also only focused on the actionability of segments. But smarter contextual solutions enable you to go outside of the endemic content category and into a holistic view of the audience’s interests.

An Epsilon survey found that 80% of respondents were more likely to do business with a brand that offers personalized experiences, and 90% find personalization appealing.

Is there really such a thing as “smarter” contextual?

Yes. When it comes to reaching consumers with contextual relevance, competitive marketers need more than just conventional keyword targeting. You need access to a wide range of targeting solutions informed by real-time signals that enable you to keep pace and adapt with your targets interests. You need more options that include both extensive off the shelf and customizable targeting solutions that can enhance consumer connection across a spectrum of different strategies and use cases. And last but not least, you need a streamlined workflow that offers you and your team with seamless tools to create, manage, and instantly activate powerful targeting solutions so you can thrive in a cookieless environment.

How should I prepare for a future without cookies?

In preparation for the post-cookie world, Amobee has a 7-year history of building contextual targeting capabilities that leverage our own research and insights engine, Brand Intelligence. We use cross-channel data intelligence across the web, social, and TV, combined with real-time and historical analytics for immediate insights and instant targeting activation across all screens. As the industry looks for innovative contextual solutions, Amobee is ready to deliver with an increased focus on performance and streamlined efficiency.

For more information on getting started with Amobee Smart Contextual, contact us at solutions@amobee.com

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