Contextual advertising leads the way in a post-cookie reality

Personalized marketing has never been more important to advertisers. Targeting platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated in identifying prospects and making real-time adjustments in content delivery and offers. At the same time, the pending elimination of cookies as a key behavioral indicator of personalization has marketers trying to figure out what’s next.

Many advertisers are fed up with cookies’ poor performance in determining behavioral intent while also concerned that their placements are falling prey to poor viewability and fraud. Meanwhile, their customers are increasingly wary about data privacy, deploying campaign-defeating ad blockers. But moving beyond the cookie, with its behavioral analysis model, brings with it new dilemmas.

As cookies begin to phase out, brands and marketers will face a period of transition, adopting new technologies to target consumers. As they form new working relationships, and change their offerings or try to enter new markets, it’s vital to have the right privacy conversations that ease client apprehension.

To give marketers clearer direction for their digital marketing, Dentsu conducted a study in partnership with GumGum comparing contextual intelligence with behavioral analysis. The study found thatcontextual intelligence performs vastly better than behavioral analysis as a targeting methodology. It’s also dramatically more efficient in reaching message-engaged prospects.

The Dentsu study concludes that contextual technology—serving relevant ads based on a real-time determination of a web page’s content—enables the cost-efficient placing of well-tailored assets that attract interest and consideration.

That’s the “context” in contextual intelligence.

Relevance as a driver of efficiencies

The study, “Understanding Contextual Relevance and Efficiency,” details how contextual intelligence enables the programmatic purchasing of digital advertising based on appropriate categories of relevance. For example, a tech advertiser might place ads in The New York Times online technology section, paying a high CPM for impressions or, through contextual intelligence, find other high-performing tech sites across thousands of websites and pay a much lower CPM.

Similarly, a flour or baking powder manufacturer might consider Bon Appétit or any of hundreds of other cooking enthusiast sites.

Contextual analysis assures—through machine learning and natural language processing—that a website’s content is relevant to both the brand’s message and site visitors, and finds well-performing alternate sites at lower costs as well.

A close look at advertising efficiencies

The Dentsu study sought to determine three efficiency metrics: Could contextually driven asset placements lower CPMs, could the approach reduce cost-per-click (CPC) and could the technology improveviewability—that is, whether much of the content, video or ad is seen, even for a brief time?

Four Dentsu clients representing different industries participated in the test: a major tech company, a major cosmetics company, a big-box retailer and a direct-to-consumer retailer. Live campaigns were run for each of these advertisers using GumGum and three other contextual intelligence vendors, and the results were compared with similar behavioral targeting campaigns. One million impressions were served for two weeks (complete details are included in the study).

The study demonstrated that:

  • Analyzing CPMs, contextual intelligence impressions cost 29% less than behaviorally targeted impressions using cookies.
  • Cost efficiency as measured by CPC found that CPCs of contextually placed ads were 48% lower than behaviorally targeted CPCs.
  • For viewability, the study found that contextual intelligence reduced the cost per viewable impression by 41% compared with behavioral ad placements.

When matched head to head against three other contextual vendors, the GumGum Verity Contextual Intelligence platform outperformed them all: In the campaign, 71% of pages were verified as “relevant” to visitors by GumGum. Just 42% relevancy was determined for the other platforms.

Recent advances in contextual targeting have made it a viable and efficient alternative to behavioral ads, using computer vision and natural language processing to better understand unstructured data like text, images and video. This makes it an extremely sophisticated and cost-effective alternative to behavioral technology.

The future of contextual intelligence

As behavioral analysis is phased out as a targeting methodology, there’s a growing industry appreciation of contextual intelligence’s power to produce highly efficient results thanks to its ability to place relevant, compelling content and other assets in front of interested eyeballs.

The Dentsu-GumGum study cited another important factor: brand safety and security. By ensuring that a web page’s content is relevant to the advertiser and its target audience, advertisers can be confident that their messages do not appear next to inappropriate content.

When brands are damaged, we all suffer. With brand safety now reaching epidemic levels, we need a comprehensive understanding of how these issues occur in the first place and impact the brand ecosystem.

We are in the midst of a data privacy revolution High-profile data breaches and a lack of transparency have left consumers wanting more control over how their data is collected and used. Data privacy must evolve, and quickly. Brand safety and consumer privacy go hand in hand.

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