Contextual Advertising: an answer to a Cookieless world

  You have probably noticed that contextual advertising has been trending in recent  months. With the adoption of the EU’s GDPR policy and Google announcing the deprecation of third-party cookies on Google Chrome, many marketers turned their attention to contextual targeting believing that it will become crucial in the future of digital advertising. This article will look into what exactly contextual advertising represents and how cookieless digital advertising may still turn out to be an advantage for marketers. Please note that the purpose of this article is not to compare contextual targeting with behavioural advertising, but mainly to introduce contextual advertising and analyse its benefits supported by research data.

What is contextual advertising?

   Contextual advertising works by matching the content of the ad to the content of the website. Instead of using data on the user to show targeted ads, the automated systems will display ads based on the content of the webpage. For example, on a blog about travelling you might see a luggage ad or a travelling agency ad. On a technology publisher you may see ads for the latest smartphones and so on. 

   Despite it being so widely publicised in the last few months, the concept of contextual advertising is not a new one. Just think back to when we were still buying magazines. It was very common to see an ad for children’s toys in the children’s section or an ad for kitchen appliances in the recipes sections. The practice of contextual advertising had been used for a while before being abandoned for the more sophisticated audience behavioural targeting. So what we are witnessing now is a return to conceptual advertising as opposed to the introduction of a new practice. And nowhere is this change more important than in programmatic buying. 

   So what are the strengths that contextual advertising is bringing to the table? 

Strengths of contextual advertising

  As Exchangewire explains, one of the most important advantages for advertisers is related to brand safety. It is well known that the online world is populated with negative content, i.e. websites containing misleading information, unsafe content, fake news etc. For example, a study conducted in the UK by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and the Brand Safety Institute (BSI) revealed that more than 85% of consumers would reduce or completely stop buying a product if it had been advertised on websites promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories or misinformation. 

  It’s no wonder then that brands want to avoid being associated with negative content on the internet. This is where contextual advertising can come to the rescue. Research has shown that when using contextual targeting, brands are not only being associated with safer and more relevant content but their ads also integrate better from a visual perspective. This increases brand favourability by as much as 22%. 

  Studies have also proved that contextual advertising can generate a stronger emotional response from viewers. When asked, 59% of participants in this research are in favour of being shown ads that relate to the content of the webpages they visit. 

   Last but not least, another study published in the Journal of Advertising Research entitled Impact of Media Context on Advertising Memory has concluded that media-context factors lead to “higher recall and recognition for advertising”. In other words, consumers are more likely to remember ads if they are displayed in an environment that is contextually relevant. 

Final thoughts

   As we can see above, contextual advertising offers a viable alternative to targeting with cookies and can add great value for any media strategy. Whilst being efficient and not relying on the collection of personal data, it still has a focus on quality and aims to reach the target audience in the best possible environment. Contextual targeting allows marketers to meet their audience in the most receptive moment, i.e. when engaging with content related to the advertised product. And, as contextual advertising is served programmatically, marketers can review the metrics in real time as well as optimize them to obtain maximum results.