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Cookieless Contextual Targeting

If you are a digital marketer or publisher, recent moves by Google and Apple that limit user tracking as well as consumer privacy legislation including GDPR and CCPA, aren’t news to you. However, it should be a reminder to get back to the basics and focus on the value exchange with users: Earning the privilege of engaging them via contextually relevant content will lead to the opportunity to establish a marketable relationship with data-driven personalized experiences tailored to satisfy their wants, needs, and interests.

What is Old is New Again

88% of marketers say that collecting and storing more first-party data is at the top of their priority list within the next 6 to 12 months, according to a recent study published by Merkle. But what is the best way for marketers to target users with whom they have not established a first-party relationship? The answer lies in targeting content and context rather than users. 

Contextual is the oldest form of targeting. It is based on the faith that content can be consistently targeted to demographically tailored audiences. So, rather than buying run-of-site impressions that theoretically deliver 100% off a publisher’s audience, an advertiser can target their media buy on ad impressions surrounded with content most relevant to their target audience. Think of car dealers purchasing space in the Automotive section of the local newspaper, or a clothing retailer buying space in the Fashion or Arts sections. For modern digital advertisers, it might be ads for kayaks on a YouTube fishing channel, or an island getaway ad on a travel site. Ultimately, contextual targeting delivers relevant ads by analyzing the consumed content, not the person consuming it, thus not relying on audience targeting.

Types of Contextual Targeting

Some of the types of contextual targeting worth mentioning are categorical contextual, keyword, and semantic contextual targeting.

  • Category contextual targeting is when ads are targeted to pages that fall into pre-assigned categories.
  • Keyword targeting is when ads are targeted to sites that match specific keywords.
  • Semantic targeting, a more advanced form of contextual targeting, involves using machine learning to understand the meaning of each page of content, rather than purely identifying matching keywords on a page.

Benefits of Contextual Targeting

Utilization of this vital piece of intelligence to activate first-party data yields many benefits for marketers, including the following:

Addresses brand safety and suitability concerns with AI assistance. If there were any annoyances with programmatic and its many nuances that follow, it would be a brand’s vulnerability to fake news and discrediting in association with keyword tracking. For instance, if a book called “Intro to Skateboarding” was advertised during a time before contextual targeting AIs were invented, the product’s ad could populate on pages that had negative sentiments toward the sport. Fortunately, AI technology has become much more intelligent and knows how to filter out negative sentiments when associated with such products as skateboards, especially considering that natural language processing allows for a deeper understanding of the context and sentiment within the media before populating it with ads.

In addition to texts analysis, marketing AI can now scan images, audio, and video to understand their meaning.

It does not rely on third-party cookies. Times are changing, and online privacy is evolving with it. The CCPA, GDPR, and IDFA are just some of the small acronyms that are making an enormous splash on how the marketing industry collects netizens’ information. And with Google withdrawing its third-party cookie use by 2022, this should add fuel to the flames that will draw more change into the approach by which marketers engage their prospects to gain first-party data without invasive PII collection.

That is How the Cookie Crumbles⎼⎼Activate Your First-Party Data

In our practice, Leverage Lab helps marketers and publishers responsibly collect and leverage first-party data of users in which they have a direct relationship. We feel this is the way forward as privacy legislation evolves and third-party tracking wanes. We are equally adamant that contextual targeting is a key to establishing early trust as marketers court audiences for a first-party relationship. They are compatible tactics in a holistic audience strategy. And both are future-proofed as neither is reliant on third-party cookies. Now is the time to learn how to utilize contextual targeting so that marketers can avoid getting caught flat-footed now that third-party cookies are phasing out. The priority is to ensure all members of publishers’ audience have opted in properly so that ads can be personalized and that publications are leveraging their ad inventory in a GDPR and CCPA-compliant manner. 

Although growing first-party data is a necessary first step towards adapting to a third-party cookieless world, it is not a “one and done” solution that will provide the full scale needed to launch effective advertising campaigns.

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