The Return Of Contextual Targeting
21
October
2021
  Reading time:  
3
min
What happened to contextual targeting over the last few years? The rise of behavioral targeting made digital advertisers overlook this once dominant form of advertising. With the emergence of big data, advertisers have relied on tracking-cookies allowing access to personal data on an unprecedented scale. Yet, the upcoming third-party cookie phase-out pushes advertisers to find alternative means to ensure identification and reach of relevant audiences. Although Google postponed the end of the cookies system to 2023, the transition to a cookieless world will not be a one-off switch. In this context, digital advertisers are bringing back into the fold the long thought outdated contextual targeting approach.

WHAT IS CONTEXTUAL TARGETING?

A PROVEN KEYWORD-FOCUSED TARGETING METHOD

Contextual targeting consists in selecting specific keywords to serve online ads next to editorial content that includes those keywords. 

However, context is not limited to keywords: it can be either text, image, or video content displayed on a page. Think clothing brands and sport: a video ad for training shoes placed alongside an article on a sports newspaper website. Thus, contextual targeting allows to drive awareness by targeting niche markets in campaigns that are served programmatically. It also provides advertisers with a flexible targeting methodology. In fact, they can either narrow or widen the contexts targeted in reaching relevant audiences using in-context and out-of-context phrases.

Contextual targeting


In other words, contextual targeting aims at targeting a customer through a specific moment or mindset to increase receptiveness to the ads shown. Unlike behavioural targeting based on tracking pixels and cookies, contextual targeting displays ads that resonate with the content actually seen by the user.

WHY HAS CONTEXTUAL TARGETING BECOME SO RELEVANT AGAIN?

Consumers developed higher expectations regarding advertising

Consumers reject content they either judge intrusive or irrelevant to their online experience. In fact, they have increasingly been using ad blockers: 43% of internet users worldwide said they used one in 2020.

Contextual placements lift the value of advertising, for cookie-based targeting may result in displaying ads on unadapted environments. Indeed, consumers want to be exposed to advertising that matches their interests and in relevant environments


In a report released on July 2021, IAB Europe asked consumers about their feelings toward contextual advertising:

  • 69% would be more likely to look at an ad if it was relevant to the content they were reading.
  • 67% said they are open to viewing relevant ads from new brands.
  • 44% have tried a new brand due to seeing a relevant ad alongside a piece of content they were consuming.


Thus, marketers are jumping on the wagon as 74% make contextual advertising their priority strategy for the cookieless future.

CONSUMERS AND ADVERTISERS FIND COMMON GROUNDS IN CONTEXTUAL TARGETING

One other point is that contextual targeting matches with brand safety demands of all the brands. In-context and out-of-context phrases can be used to show products/services of sensitive categories in adapted environments only. As a cookieless solution, contextual targeting has the potential to solve compliance issues surrounding the use of personal data. Through user consent-based targeting, it is not only an ad, but an industry that gains legitimacy in the consumer’s eyes.


Contextual advertising enables consumers and advertisers to work hands-on towards a privacy-safe and relevant advertising experience in two ways:

  • By preserving the balance between consumer privacy concerns and advertisers’ need for relevance and precision in their message.
  • Data shared with the consumer’s consent provides advertisers with valuable first-party data and a cookie-free targeting method meeting privacy demands.

WHAT EVOLUTION CAN WE EXPECT?

In the absence of a one-fit-size-all solution, contextual advertising is expected to thrive in the upcoming cookieless advertising. As a matter of fact, estimations are that $412B will be spent on contextual advertising by 2025.

Innovation requires both time and consequent investments, so the market may take years before finding game changing targeting alternatives. In any case, contextual advertising cannot remain the only targeting strategy available for digital marketing campaigns. 

Contextual Targeting can and most probably will be an important part of future campaigns but should be combined with other approaches still under development (mostly technological developments). As a matter of fact, one should not forget that contextual targeting has been used for many years already by programmatic players. 

The key in a performing programmatic approach remains the combination of various approaches and tools in order to permanently adapt to the expectations of the audiences. Let’s keep our eyes open!




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