Friend not Foe: How contextual advertising can be a consumer’s new best friend

Friend not Foe: How Contextual Advertising can be a consumer's new best friend

Jorge Poyatos, Co-CEO at Seedtag, discusses why brands need to be moving away from cookie based behavioural targeting, instead choosing to leverage the power of contextual AI.

Global content consumption doubled in 2020, and in 2021 it has shown no signs of slowing down. As consumers, we have access to an incredible amount of articles, videos, social media pages and all kinds of media that can publish ads alongside it. Today, you will rarely see content without an ad – and if you are lucky, that ad will be somewhat relevant to you. However, while it may be nice to be greeted with advertising that we can relate to, more often than not it will come from brands leveraging your data to understand your interests.

In a post-GDPR world, consumers are more conscious of data privacy than ever before. The bottom line is that they don’t want organisations gaining access to their information – a claim reinforced by the fact that 96% of iOS 14.5 users in the US are blocking ad tracking. Organisations are now beginning to cater to these consumer feelings. Apple’s new ad blocking privacy feature has clearly gone down well with customers and all major browsers are expected to have blocked the use of third party cookies by late 2023.

Developing a Cookieless Approach

We’re in a privacy-first world and brands must cater to that if they wish to stay relevant. They need to find ways to serve responsible ads in a sustainable manner, creating non-intrusive personalisation to target audiences. And it all starts with developing trust.

Brands need to be moving away from cookie based behavioural targeting, instead choosing to leverage the power of contextual AI. Similarly to behavioural targeting, contextual advertising works to place ads on relevant content. However, rather than leveraging cookies, contextual targeting utilises machine learning to provide human-like understanding of the content. This delivers the most relevant and engaging communications without the use of cookies.

Building Trust the Right Way

In a world where consumers are more conscious of their privacy than ever before, organisations need to make a conscious effort to build trust with their audiences. According to research conducted by Clear Channel, only 34% of consumers feel like they trust brands, even though 81% of respondents admit that trust is the deciding factor in their purchase decisions.

It’s clear that there is a lot of work to be done. With that said, there are steps that brands can take to help keep their audiences feeling secure, safe in the knowledge that their data is safe. Contextual targeting can play an important role, and it also presents an opportunity for brands to improve favorability by moving away from cookies and third party data.

According to a 2020 McKinsey report, 71% of respondents claimed that they would stop doing business with a company if they felt their data was being compromised. Instead, by leveraging contextual targeting, brands can not only create a feeling of trust from their audiences, but they can also deliver relevant ads without needing their private information.

Doing More With Contextual

Contextual targeting improves the overall effectiveness of an ad, as well as the experience felt by audiences. By considering sentiment, sub-categories, brand suitability and brand safety, marketers can serve ads that are better tailored towards relevant audiences. Contextual targeting also improves ad recall and purchase intent through enhanced sentiment analysis. With ads being kept away from blacklisted sites and inappropriate content, brand safety is ensured completely.

Cookies help advertisers to understand behavioural data and the browsing history of the audiences they are targeting. Ads are shown based on specific audience segments that are selected by advertising teams. However, without genuine knowledge of what their customers respond to, there is a likelihood that ads won’t specifically resonate with target audiences. Behavioural advertising doesn’t account for multiple people using the same device. It is also worth noting that this tactic also leads to targeting based on stereotypes, which eventually results in typecasting people into groups. Ultimately, what might seem to be accurate tracking based on browser history and cookies, ads can quite easily become mistargeted.

When ads are irrelevant, not only does the messaging fail to capture interest, but it also damages the user experience – with consumers left feeling annoyed by mistargeted messages that are now following them around the internet. Conversely, when advertisers leverage contextual targeting – which is based on the true, genuine interest of the user in real time – they can rest assured, safe in the knowledge that their campaigns are reaching relevant audiences who can relate to the ads they are being served.

A Consumer’s Best Friend

Brands should be embracing a cookie-free future – one that avoids behavioural targeting and complements the user experience with truly personalised messaging. In that regard, contextual targeting is the true winner. Without the need to rely on third party data, and with a heightened focus on creativity, context and relevance, contextual advertising can deliver highly effective, targeted campaigns that build consumer trust and improve the user experience.

By Jorge Poyatos,