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Tags: Data, Publisher, Cookies

Updated: May 2, 2023

Contextual data and advertising targeting based on it is one of the methods that we believe will gain an increasingly important role in publishers' data strategies in the future. In this post, we examine contextual targeting from the perspective of publishers and discuss the opportunities that contextual data can offer. Additionally, we address the ethical questions that have recently sparked debate around contextual targeting. Finally, we contemplate the future prospects of contextual targeting.


Opportunities of contextual data for publishers

Contextual targeting is based on understanding the meaning of content. In practice, ads are shown to audiences who are reading or watching content related to the advertiser's products or services in some way. According to a study by Lumen Research, contextual advertising can be up to four times more effective than behavior-based targeting. Contextual advertising is also extremely useful for brand advertising, as it can enhance brand recognition and credibility and provide an opportunity to ensure that ads do not appear next to "inappropriate" content.

Leveraging contextual data offers publishers the opportunity to gain advantages from several different perspectives, such as:

  • Inventory value: Contextual targeting offers publishers ways to increase the value of their advertising inventory. Targeting ads based on content relevance and topics enables improvements in advertising efficiency. This, in turn, positively impacts the attractiveness of the inventory and eCPM prices.
  • A better understanding of content and users: Utilising contextual data helps publishers better understand the commercial value of their content and optimise ad space pricing accordingly. For example, publishers can analyse whether ads displayed alongside articles related to automobiles pay more or less than ads shown alongside spring fashion content. With a better understanding of content value, content strategy, and pricing can be optimised more effectively from a commercial perspective.
  • Privacy and data protection: Contextual targeting does not require the collection or use of personal information, so it can help publishers comply with privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA.
  • Reduced reliance on third-party cookies: Contextual targeting offers a future-proof alternative for ad targeting as the industry moves away from third-party cookies.

Through contextual advertising, publishers can create added value for both advertisers and users. Advertisers benefit from more effective and targeted ads, which can lead to better results and returns. Users, on the other hand, encounter more relevant and less disruptive advertising, which can improve their experience with the publisher's services.

There are several content analysis technologies available in the market that can be relatively easy to adopt and integrate with ad tech platforms. However, it is important to pay attention to the quality of the partner. For example, consider the system's ability to understand different languages and word definitions in a broader context, as well as the flexibility to create custom taxonomies.


Ethical perspectives and AOP's open letter

Ethical aspects of utilising contextual data have recently been brought up for discussion. Publishers have expressed concerns that technology companies may capture their contextual data without consent. The debate involves the question of whether third parties have the right to scan website content and conduct content-based data business without the data source benefiting from or even being aware of this activity.

Adexchanger, for example, wrote that publishers are frustrated with brand safety and verification services that use indexing tools to collect and sell contextual signals from websites as contextual ad products without publishers' consent.

The same issue is addressed in an open letter published by the Association of Online Publishers (AOP). The letter aims to stimulate discussion and seek more equitable practices to promote cooperation and understanding. AOP urges ad buyers to protect publishers' interests by purchasing contextual segments only from suppliers with publisher licensing agreements that authorise the commercialisation of contextual data.

Digiday also covered the topic, reporting that The Guardian announced its collaboration with contextual advertising company Illuma. According to the article, the companies have entered into an agreement under which Illuma pays The Guardian for the targeting data it collects and sells.

It is uncertain whether it will be possible to get verification companies (such as IAS or Double Verify) to pay for something they currently receive for free. On the other hand, publishers are dissatisfied with the current situation and are looking for a fairer solution that would give them a better understanding of who is buying what, how content is classified, and whether it has positive or negative effect on them.

One thing is for sure: the current situation is not sustainable in the long run, and the development of the situation is being closely monitored with interest.


Future prospects of contextual

The future prospects of contextual targeting are promising, and many experts believe it will play an even larger role in advertising targeting. The development of artificial intelligence and machine learning enables increasingly accurate and diverse contextual analysis, which can further improve the effectiveness and relevance of advertising. In addition, tightening privacy regulations and restricting the use of third-party cookies further emphasise the importance of contextual targeting and make it an attractive alternative for advertising targeting.I

n the future, publishers can leverage contextual data not only for advertising targeting but also for content optimisation and user experience improvement, which can open up new business opportunities and promote sustainable growth in the industry.

If you want to know more about content classification and enabling content-based targeting, don't hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to provide more information!

Suvi Leino
By: Suvi Leino

Responsible for marketing and communications at Relevant Digital.


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