In contextual  targeting, advertising media are controlled on the basis of the content of a website using linguistic elements. The advertisements themselves are selected and served by automated systems based on the context of what a user is looking at. Contextual advertising helps a brand understand what a consumer might like without needing personally identifiable information. Results of a new study show that digital advertising campaigns that employ contextual targeting are more cost-efficient than behaviorally targeted campaigns.

Amidst a wave of data privacy regulation and third party cookie phase-outs that have digital advertisers scrambling for solutions to maintain campaign efficiency and scale, contextual targeting has frequently been touted as a data privacy-friendly alternative to behavioral targeting––but until now the viability of that claim has gone largely untested. Tech and media firm GumGum published a case study called Understanding Contextual Relevance and Efficiency: A Comparison of Contextual Intelligence Vendors and Behavioral Targeting. Findings seem to give credence to the promise of contextual as results indicate that digital advertising  campaigns that employ contextual targeting are more cost-efficient than behaviorally targeted campaigns. The study was sponsored in partnership with Dentsu Aegis Network and conducted by an independent third-party researcher.

Contextual Targeting
GumGum CEO Phil Schraeder.
It is fabulous to finally see a head-to-head contextual-behavioral match up and get hard data behind contextual targeting’s value.

“Machine learning-backed contextual targeting has been a central tenet of our offering since the get-go, so to some degree, from our perspective, this study states the obvious, but it is fabulous to finally see a head-to-head contextual-behavioral match up and get hard data behind contextual targeting’s value,” said GumGum CEO Phil Schraeder. “There are plenty of doubting Thomas’ about contextual as an answer to the cookie’s death and this ought to give them some faith.”

While the study was principally designed to better understand the overall effectiveness of contextual intelligence in comparison to behavioral, it also sought to benchmark four of the top contextual intelligence vendors in the industry. For the study, Dentsu Aegis Network ran live campaigns for four of its major brand clients, including Sephora, across four contextual intelligence vendors, as well as by leveraging behavioral targeting. The campaigns utilized the same brand safe inventory. The campaign served 1M impressions, which were measured for cost efficiency and content relevance.

We needed to gauge the effectiveness of the numerous emergent contextual intelligence offerings.
Contextual Targeting
Brian Monahan, Global Client President and Head of US Ventures for Dentsu Aegis Network.

“In a world with diminishing access to audience targeting, as responsible partners to our clients, we need the most robust understanding of potential best practices and tools available for success,” explained Brian Monahan, Global Client President and Head of US Ventures for Dentsu Aegis Network. “Beyond value-testing contextual, we also needed to gauge the effectiveness of the numerous emergent contextual intelligence offerings. This study gave us both of those things––and the results are compelling.”

Indeed, the study found that, taking into account CPMs, the contextual Intelligence vendor in-demo impressions (eCPM) cost 29% less than behaviorally targeted in-demo impressions, with GumGum Verity™ impressions costing somewhat less (36%)––and overall that for CPC and vCPM the costs of using contextual targeting were lower than behavioral (48% and 41% respectively).

 

For the study, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings Reporting, Xandr, GumGum, MOAT provided the cost efficiency measurement of impressions. Appen, a third party vendor specializing in human annotation of urls, measured content relevance.

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