From ‘Over-Contextualising’ To Updating Creative: Everything You Need To Know About Contextual Advertising

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With Google pressing ahead with its plan to deprecate third-party cookies in the near future, it seems many marketers are now looking at contextual advertising as a way to meet consumer expectations in an increasingly privacy-focused world.

Despite the newfound popularity of contextual advertising, it is not a new principle. In fact, advertisers have been placing ads alongside relevant content for decades.

Speaking at IAS and B&T‘s ‘Targeted Advertising in an Evolving Consumer Privacy Landscape’ event in Sydney on Thursday, OMD chief digital officer Sian Whitnall suggested that the advertising industry could have been talking about contextual targeting “10 years ago”.

The difference between now and then, however, has been the development of contextual-focused technologies, such as AI and natural language processing, which help ensure brand safety is a top priority no matter where an ad is appearing.

Contextual advertising in a privacy-first ecosystem

Although contextual advertising is far less reliant on personal data than third-party cookies, consumers are unlikely to know exactly how they’re being targeted.

This means that ‘over contextualising’ is now a very real risk for advertisers.

“There’s an increasing desire by the consumer to be more in control of their privacy, which means it’s really important to control the level that the consumer believes you are utilising their data – whether you are or not – to communicate with them,” said Whitnall.

“If you over contextualise your creative, are consumers going to start questioning the data that your brand is using and how responsible they are with it?”

Working in the heavily regulated financial sector, Lendi CMO Zara Cobb understands the importance of providing customers with control over their data.

As a result, Lendi has invested less in cookie-based solutions and more in data targeting and retargeting, as well as contextual.

“We’re probably overly-invested in customer privacy and we probably overreacted on our side in that we’re very careful in how we use that data,” she explained.

As well as respecting privacy, contextual advertising also allows Lendi to synthesise these principles across the entire customer journey.

“Not all content is made equal, so we need to filter out what’s applicable and what’s not,” Cobb said.

“For us as a brand, we need to stitch that together with the overall customer journey and customer story that we want to tell.

“How do we make sure we’re in the right places at the right time, but really talking to the right reasons why that customer will choose us.”

What it means for creative

A common question when it comes to contextual targeting is whether or not advertisers should be specifically updating their creative.

According to The Trade Desk’s senior director, trading Lachlan McDivitt, advertisers need to be “balancing customisation with complexity” when it comes to the creative used for contextual advertising.

“If you have the opportunity to automate and you can measure the variations in creative messaging, then you can do really powerful things,” he said.

“But you need to consider the impact on the consumer. I don’t think it’s necessarily audience versus context – they’re two data points on a bid request and they’re your two most important data points – but when you can make creative around that and assign the right value is important.”

The upcoming changes around third-party cookies from Google, coupled with plans for a Unified ID has created the potential for a divided ecosystem.

For News Corp GM commercial operations Jason Denny, this puts an even greater emphasis on the importance of creative.

“At some point in the future, the reality is that within the open web, there’s going to be the anonymous web and there’s going to be verified and identified web,” he said.

“How is that going to change the creative process and creative assets? I think it’s going to usher in a resurgence to the creative that gets pushed forward and advertised to our platforms, but also the ad units that go into that space.

“Those are the strategies that are going to go hand-in-hand with contextual targeting, especially for any strtaegy when you’re tackling the anonymous web.”

Brand safety

Unfortunately, a common theme across the web in recent years has been the proliferation of hate speech and toxic environments.

This of course creates an inherent challenge for contextual advertising in the form of brand safety.

IAS country manager, ANZ Jessica Miles suggested that marketers communicate across the wider business to address some of these concerns.

“The most important thing is that the marketing team speaks to their risk and compliance team.

“The reason why, is the risk and compliance team understands what’s right for the brand and what’s not right for the brand.

“Once you understand the baseline of what’s okay for your brand, and what type of content you can appear against, then you can implement solutions that help you move away from unsafe content and target towards content that is suitable.”

She added that this conversation should be continued with publishers and media partners once these limits have been established and an appropriate vendor has been selected.

To find out more about IAS and contextual advertising solutions click here.

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