Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

Context, context — wherefore art thou context?

If Romeo had known that Juliet was simply sleeping, he may not have sipped the deadly poison. Sadly, Romeo was not privy to the Friar’s plan to trick Juliet’s family into thinking she had passed. Things might have turned out very differently if Romeo had some context here.

A lack of context can, as we know, result in disaster. This also extends to the advertising industry. Context has most recently hit the advertising scene due to its power in effective targeting. For automated technology, such as programmatic, targeting a user based on the context of the page the user is on can prove highly effective – not to mention provide a viable alternative to the recent shift from cookie-based targeting.

Say you are reading an article about the best kettlebell to use for a workout. If the context of the article was understood, you may get an ad from your local gym, or for more workout equipment. However, if the context of the article was not considered, and words such as ”kettle” and “power” were picked up, you could get an ad from a supermarket selling kitchen kettles.

Context matters when it comes to targeted advertising – and it’s a really effective means of targeting with the loss of third party cookie data, too. But what about the consumers receiving the ads – how do they want to be targeted by brand advertisers themselves?

IAS undertook research with 526 UK consumers to find out how they feel about being targeted online, the use of their data and how advertisers can continue to achieve results in a cookie-less world.

Contextual targeting preferred by consumers

The first insight we discovered was that a large proportion of consumers prefer brands to target them based on their interests and purchase history, rather than based on their personal details, such as demographic data, or their location. We found that nearly half of respondents (48%) prefer to receive contextually targeted ads. This is great news for advertisers and publishers, who should be adapting their targeting strategies to focus landing their ads on contextually relevant pages – not, instead, based on the demographic profile of the consumer.

A similarly high proportion of respondents said they were interested in ads that focused on their past behaviours. This included those that are receptive to ads based on their previous purchases (35%) and those that want to be targeted based on their browsing history (34%). Existing information that exhibits traits of what consumers are already interested in is incredibly useful here.

Consumers are aware of their online data

The second key area that came to the fore was how consumers have grown more aware of their data privacy online. There has certainly been an effort from businesses to increase their transparency around the use of consumer data and this may be paying off – a considerable 87% of respondents are aware that websites and apps collect and share their data for advertising purposes. Also, over two thirds (67%) were in fact confident in the security of their data online, potentially reflective of this greater awareness consumers now have with regards to data privacy. What was most encouraging to see was that 50% believe the security of their data is their own responsibility, suggesting consumers are taking greater control and responsibility over how, when and why they share their data.

Unwillingness to share data remains

However, whilst there is greater understanding about how data is collected and stored, we discovered that there remains resistance from consumers around the sharing of their data and how this data is subsequently used. Despite GDPR being implemented just over two years ago and having a significant knock on effect to both advertising and consumers, a third (33%) were not even aware of any data privacy regulations. Nearly two thirds (62%) still clear/delete their browser history and a similar proportion (61%) would prefer a less targeted ad experience, rather than sharing their data. This is a great example of the benefit of contextual targeting, avoiding the need to target based on data and adhering to consumer preference, once more.

What’s next?

Data privacy clearly remains top of mind for consumers, despite a significant proportion of respondents unaware of current privacy regulations. Consumers are aware of online data collection but still care deeply about their data privacy, so much so that they’re taking action to restrict their data collection online. However, consumers are receptive to ads in the right environment and prefer contextual targeting methods.

The key takeaway? Context matters. Not just to Romeo, but to the whole advertising industry. Evolving privacy regulation and consumer preference will require a shift to contextual targeting. Now is the time for advertisers to take this approach and use it to effectively engage with their audience, whilst at the same time navigating the loss of third party cookies.

Paul Nasse
Northern Europe Managing Director, IAS

About: Integral Ad Science (IAS) is the global market leader in digital ad verification, offering technologies that drive high-quality advertising media. IAS equips advertisers and publishers with the insight and technology to protect their advertising investments from fraud and unsafe environments as well as to capture consumer attention, and drive business outcomes. IAS is headquartered in New York with global operations in 22 offices across 13 countries.