By Caroline Hugonenc, Global VP Insights and Research, Teads
In the past few years, data privacy has suddenly become a hot topic, reaching into national press and is no longer just the concern of industry specialists. With everyone becoming more aware of the impact of data use, both personally and at a corporate level. Whether it’s the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, or Apple’s latest updates, privacy is now an international talking point. In an attempt to address data privacy issues, by mid 2022, third party cookies will cease to exist on Google Chrome. This step taken by the world’s most popular browser follows similar moves by Safari and Firefox and hopes to give people more control over their data, but it doesn’t come without its challenges for advertisers and media buyers.
The end of cookies is only the beginning of a new era
When thinking about this topic, it’s important to remember that while cookies have been a consistent part of online advertising for a long time, the ecosystem is not dependent on them. Cookieless does not mean advertising-less, personalization-less or relevancy-less. Cookieless simply means two things:
- The need for a transition towards responsible and sustainable advertising for our industry
- That it’s time for non-intrusive personalization to be the new norm, starting with the end-user’s experience and trust.
If we assume point one as a given, then we need to consider how to approach non-intrusive personalization. One of the available solutions is contextual.
Why should contextual alignment matter?
It’s worth pointing out that targeting ads via the content they’re seen in shouldn’t just benefit brands, but also the end user experience as well. Ads that are contextually aligned make sense to readers. Once someone decides to read an article (whether it’s about honeymoon plans, the latest tech release or piece of local news), they’re in a certain mindset. By aligning ads with that mindset means that the message should be amplified and therefore create real uplift and impact for a brand’s campaign.
It feels more in tune with the consumer’s values and interests, without concerning them that their personal data has been shared with too many additional parties.
What are the main challenges to overcome when it comes to Contextual?
With the death of the cookie, many will be turning to contextual as a solution for agencies and advertisers. But using context to maximise the impact of advertising is not easy to do, with a few key challenges in particular to be aware of:
- Accuracy. Many contextual solutions today rely heavily on keywords, which makes sense at a glance. But over reliance on single triggers can lead to false-positives and questionable accuracy that wouldn’t match the results seen in this study.
- Granularity. Broad contextual targeting can prevent amplification of the marketing message or proper engagement with the right audience
- Placement. Most contextual today exists across UGC content, which inherently has issues around accuracy and standardisation. This is in stark contrast to professional content which has long had agreed standards and 3rd party solutions.
- Actionability. It’s one thing to have a partner who can outline the benefits and implement an overall use case, but using contextual beyond the obvious will be an important distinction when evaluating contextual partners. Not all platforms will be able to go beyond intuitive planning and move towards actionable insights.
Testing media partners across all four of the above is critical for advertisers looking to leverage contextual as part of their planning strategies in future. Partners who have a proven track record will of course fare better, but scale is also important when it comes to context. Those partners who are processing large volumes of content, over a long period of time, will be best placed to understand content consumption and therefore the audiences that are reading them.
But is contextual targeting really effective?
Consumers have evolved to anticipate disruptions over recent years which has led to greater battles for attention among advertisers, viewing attention as a valuable commodity in driving KPIs. As Bournemouth University’s ‘Attention Please’ white paper notes, quality attention is not best measured by time spent viewing as ‘we routinely spend lots of time doing things without paying much attention’.
This is why, at Teads, we have been conducting AB tests using our proprietary Brand Pulse solution to evaluate the impact of contextual targeting on advertiser’s KPIs. Our Brand Pulse methodology compares answers (up to) 3 questions served within our inventory on a control versus exposed basis.
For the contextual AB tests, we essentially run two Brand Pulse tests, one with contextual targeting and one without, then compare the difference in brand uplift. For example, if the brand uplift for ad awareness in the non-contextual study was 7%, and the ad awareness uplift using contextual targeting was calculated as 13%, the brand uplift of contextual targeting would be calculated as 86%. While our testing is in the early stages, the results of our contextual testing prove exciting:
The above results are based on data from 8 different campaigns across verticals and regions, and an average has been taken.
Contextual targeting should no longer be considered as a plan B, but as a true solution to deliver media effectiveness
As discussed, media buyers are facing the next evolution in digital, as the cookie is removed as a targeting tool. So with this study we’ve looked at one of the key solutions in the marketplace that delivers a level of continuity.
Contextual targeting can feel like it’s a deprecated and old approach, but we’ve shown the technology has evolved to make it highly viable and worth consideration. Over time, improvements have been made that allow us to solve for the main challenges of accuracy, granularity, alignment, placement and actionability.
This study has confirmed that, leveraging contextual alignment with a partner who has the right depth and breadth of technology, can deliver outstanding media effectiveness.
Case Study with Nestle and UM
The above theory was recently proved in a campaign with Nestlé and UM in Spain, successfully quantifying the effectiveness of contextual targeting.
Nestlé launched its new Nesquik Intenso range for young adults in November. A new offering without additives or artificial sweeteners and sold in a 100% recyclable container. For this campaign, two pieces of video content were optimized by the Teads Studio team for mobile environments; highlighting the packaging, the product and its key features.
The campaign ran in November and December 2020, and various segmentation strategies were used: socio-demographic data, interest data and contextual targeting were used to identify which environments, and content, the ad should run in.
We will continue to bet on finding innovative forms of segmentation that help us achieve our goals, especially now that the end of third-party cookies is near and we all need to adapt to remain effective. It is a time of transition and it is important for us to test alternatives and be ready for a world without cookies from 2022 . – Ramón Ruiz, Media and Consumer Relationship Manager Nestlé.
During the campaign, a Brand Pulse study was launched, which aimed to quantify the branding effectiveness of the different targeting segments used. More than 250 respondents exposed to the campaign were questioned, in each of the different targeting segments: socio-demographic data, contextual targeting and interest data.
Advertising recall increased 86% in the group that had the socio-demographic data segmentation and 87% in the contextual targeting segment, after exposure to the campaign. Therefore showing that contextual targeting can be at least as effective as classic socio-demographic targeting.
The campaign has been hugely successful and has served to verify the effectiveness of contextual targeting, showcasing an improvement of Brand Awareness by 87% with just 25% of the campaign budget.