Contextual Targeting: The Cookieless Solution Marketers Have Been Searching For?

Contextual Targeting: The Cookieless Solution Marketers Have Been Searching For?
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Tim Beard is the managing director for APAC at Silverbullet, with over 25 years’ experience helping organisations implement and manage digital technologies. In this piece, he explains how contextual targeting can unlock a new layer of intelligence and prepare marketers for a cookieless future.

We’re witnessing a global paradigm shift, in which privacy concerns, coupled with the cookie’s demise, is forcing marketers to rethink how they target their customers. While this presents many challenges, it also presents fresh opportunities for marketers to discover more intelligent contextual targeting tactics.

The increasingly privacy-savvy consumer is now rejecting the third-party cookie, with a report revealing 64% of cookies are rejected, either manually or with an ad blocker – and this was prior to new privacy legislation being implemented. On top of this, 46% of phones now reject around 79% of cookies, and cookie-based metrics often overstate reach by 30–70%

As we all know by now, by 2022, Google will phase out the third party cookie, something Firefox and Safari have already achieved. Given Chrome accounts for more than 60% of web browser usage, this is a big deal for marketers and advertisers, particularly those who use programmatic.

For many marketers, using cookies to track and target particular behaviours with advertising around the web has become second nature, but many aren’t prepared with the knowledge or tools to adapt to the new ways of working.

Empowering marketers with a new layer of intelligent marketing

Marketers now need to find a more innovative solution to target audiences without the third-party cookies, and contextual targeting is emerging as the front-runner. In fact, a recent Silverbullet survey of UK Chief Marketing Officers found 65% of CMOs have partnered with third-party companies to understand how to make more effective use of cookieless solutions, such as contextual targeting.

Defined simply, contextual targeting is a way to target relevant audiences using keywords and topics derived from the content around ad inventory, that doesn’t require a cookie or another identifier. Contextual targeting as a concept isn’t something new, but the way it is being undertaken now, with artificial intelligence and natural language processing is set to become a game-changer.

Advanced contextual targeting analyses text, audio, video and imagery to create contextual targeting segments which are then matched to particular advertiser requirements, so that advertising appears in a relevant and appropriate environment. So for example, a news article about the Australian Open may show Serena Williams wearing sponsorship partner Nike’s tennis shoes, and then an ad for sports shoes could appear within the relevant environment. In this instance, the environment is relevant to the product.

Why brand safety is more important than ever

Brands are now having to pull ads regularly because they appear in inappropriate contexts, with 99% of advertisers concerned about their ads appearing in brand-safe environments.

And there is good reason for this concern in today’s age of hyper-policism, fake news, click bait, and racism. Studies have shown ads that appear near negative content result in a 2.8 times reduction in consumers’ intent to associate with these brands. Additionally, two-thirds of consumers, who previously indicated high purchase intent for a brand, were less likely to buy the brand after being exposed to the same company’s ad appearing with inappropriate content; plus the consumer’s perception of that brand went down by seven times.

The power of contextual targeting ‘beyond text’

Some advanced contextual targeting tools even have video recognition capabilities, where they can analyse each frame of video content, identify logos or products, recognise brand safe images, with audio transcript informing it all, to provide an optimum environment for marketing within and around that piece of video content. This includes, importantly, every frame within the video, and not just the title, thumbnail, and tags. This same type of analysis is also applied across audio content and imagery, to ensure the site as a whole is brand-safe.

For instance, a contextual targeting tool can analyse a video that contains images of a beer brand, identify through the audio & video that it is a brand-safe environment, and inform the marketers that it is an optimum channel for and marketing content about beer to appear to the relevant target audience.

Older tools might only analyse video titles or audio, and don’t delve deeply into imagery, meaning ads could end up in an inappropriate environment. For example, the title of a video might be innocuous and deemed ‘safe’ by an older contextual tool, like ‘How to make great beer’ however the content of the video itself might be severely inappropriate, such as a video of underage teenagers making beer – now brand advertising in that environment is something no marketer can currently afford.

Solutions like 4D, for instance, have built an industry-first contextual marketplace that enables select technology partners to plug in their proprietary algorithms as an additional layer of targeting, and partners such as Factmata offer brands protection from racist, inappropriate or toxic content and can be applied to ensure brand safety and suitability are managed correctly.

Building better brand-safe environments beyond the cookie

Contextual targeting has actually been shown to be more effective than targeting using third party cookies. In fact, some studies suggest contextual targeting can increase purchase intent by 63%, versus audience or channel level targeting. Plus, consumers targeted at the contextual level were 83% more likely to recommend the product in the advertisement, than those targeted at the audience or channel level.

This is because reaching consumers in the right mindset in the right moment makes ads resonate better, and therefore improves purchase intent far more than an irrelevant ad following consumers around the internet.

In a cookieless future, contextual targeting has a number of clear advantages: It does not require third-party cookies and the privacy concerns these now entail, it ensures brand safety, it informs programmatic, and it improves ROI on advertising spend.

Moving forward, contextual targeting will allow marketers to get back to what it is they should be doing – forging a real, authentic and empathetic connection with consumers in the right place and at the right time. As marketing goes ‘back to the future’, contextual targeting will be the smarter and safer way forward to drive better, more meaningful marketing messages at scale.


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