Contextual 2.0: opening a human path for digital advertising


In launching The Drum’s digital advertising focus, we lay the groundwork for what went wrong with digital advertising and explore the true frontier of contextual advertising 2.0 innovation.

Invasive, boring, irrelevant – ask consumers what they think of digital advertising right now and chances are you’ll come across these words. A recent Harris poll commissioned by GumGum found that more than a third (38%) of consumers feel “chilled” when brands use technology to track their internet browsing habits to deliver ads relevant to them, and 31% feel “violated”.

If the goal of advertising is to deliver relevant and engaging ads that capture consumers’ attention and inspire them to act, then as an industry we have over-complicated that goal by focusing on tracking every move. people. There has to be a more humane way forward.

With the imminent end of third-party cookies, we have an opportunity to rebuild the digital advertising landscape for the benefit of all parties: advertisers, agencies, ad technology providers, publishers and, most importantly, the consumer.

“Advertising has to be a bit intrusive to grab attention – but it has to be in a likeable way in the right format, in the right place,” says Sophie Wooller, director of digital transformation at Croud.

The evolution of contextual intelligence

Amid ongoing privacy and identity challenges, contextual advertising is making a comeback. Of course, this is nothing new; it is the oldest form of targeting known to the media. Even before the advent of the Internet, advertisers adopted contextual targeting, wanting to position themselves alongside relevant editorial content from magazines and newspapers.

Then came the Internet and the buzz and excitement of that very first AT&T banner ad on in 1994 (clicked by 44% of people who saw it) quickly faded as consumers became more aware of how their data was being shared.

Fast forward to today and web3 puts consumer data back in the hands of the customer. Contextual intelligence is a scalable solution that does not require the use of any personal data. This puts it in a strong position to stand the test of time as data privacy regulations grow.

The problem is that many contextual solutions today have not evolved over time. Contextual 1.0 still sees digital environments in black and white – focusing on keyword-based ad placement. This “blind spot” lacks the ability to truly understand the full interaction of image, video and text on a web page, which raises all sorts of issues for advertisers in terms of security and reliability. brand suitability. The Internet today is much more dynamic, with the rate of consumption of video, images and audio increasing dramatically.

Contextual 2.0 – from black and white to technicolor

The difference with Contextual 2.0 is that it views digital environments in Technicolor, giving advertisers more opportunities to deliver dynamic, eye-catching and relevant ads.

“Contextual has come a very long way,” says Peter Wallace, senior vice president of EMEA advertising sales at GumGum. “Now we’re talking about content-level analysis; natural language processing to understand the sentiment of text, computer vision to understand what’s in the imagery, and all of these are inherently privacy compliant.

Plus, it’s scalable in that it can be applied across a host of established and emerging platforms, including CTV, OTT, and even the Metaverse. Arguably, says Wallace, it has the potential to become a “ubiquitous targeting methodology for many different media channels.”

Meet consumers in the right frame of mind

Consumers today don’t just interact with content on a single channel – their online journeys alternate between mobile, laptop, TV and more. No two days or moments are alike. So instead of leveraging consumer behaviors from 30 days ago, advertisers should respect them in their current mindset.

“The capabilities of contextual are about identifying micro-moments for users — that sporadic consumption that a lot of people’s behavior leads to,” Wallace explains. “The context is a gateway to identify that micro moment for that user.”

The GumGum study found that most UK consumers (65%) would be more likely to buy a product from an online advertisement that is relevant to the web page they are viewing at the time and more three-quarters (79%) are more comfortable with this approach.

By embracing the combination of context, creativity and attention – not the targeting of personal data – advertisers have the opportunity to find a better and more human path; one that is based on a foundation of respect. It’s time to put that scary past behind us and embrace contextual 2.0.


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