Contextual Targeting Makes a Comeback

Contextual Targeting Makes a Comeback
Everybody likes a good comeback story - every Rocky movie, Muhammad Ali, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction to name a few - and, since last year, the Ad-Tech industry has a comeback of its own. Say hello (again) to contextual targeting, a term which returned to center stage over the past few years (in fact, we’ve found quantifiable success with contextual targeting for publishers, but more on that later) after enjoying a glorified bloom during the stone age of the internet. You know, those magical days of dial-up internet, Alta Vista and AOL, better known as the 90’s.

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Back in those days, contextual targeting was a method that ensured, for example, that car ads would run on the relevant section of the site (automotive). It migrated onto the web from print media, but lost its appeal along the way when user-data driven marketing took over the industry, mostly thanks to more accurate measurement ability. So, what caused this aforementioned comeback? The answer is divided into two aspects moving in opposite directions.

Why Contextual Targeting Is Back In Fashion

On one side, we have the pro-privacy shift of the industry, exemplified and amplified by the EU’s GPDR and Apple’s ITP. These changes are limiting the targeting capabilities marketers have at their disposal, which necessitates finding other alternatives.

On the other side, the technological developments of recent years, like better machine learning and A.I. allowing for more processing and in a faster way, have helped contextual targeting improve by leaps and bounds from its ancient predecessor. In April, The New York Times announced that it will offer contextual targeting to advertisers.
I think that, without a doubt, our theme this year was context... We think there are all kinds of ways we can unlock new types of targeting for publishers based on content rather than audience.

Allison Murphy
VP of Ad Innovation, The New York Times.

The comeback of context does not apply to advertisers alone, so publishers shouldn’t miss this golden opportunity. First of all, the abundance of content, better organized and categorized than ever before, allows them to offer advertisers plenty of ad opportunities. Besides that, when applied to content, contextual targeting can be much more useful.

Think about it. The user is already in a content consumption state of mind, so let’s use all the tools we have in order to help him discover relevant content. This time around, we can harness the data to prove it.

Contextual Targeting In Action

Lately, after updating our contextual targeting abilities, we at Primis saw dramatic rises in user engagement metrics across our network of publishers. The stats below were compiled over a two week period from a number of sites, all belonging to one publisher. They demonstrate the difference in performance of our unit when playing content chosen using our new and improved contextual targeting mechanism compared to the site’s control playlist.


contextual targeting


Obviously, the first stat to pop out is the 143% increase that Domain B enjoyed over the documented period. The other domains also had success using contextual targeting, Domain A is leading the pack (97%), Domain F (85%), Domain A (73%) and Domain D (72%) follow close behind. As you can see, the positive outcomes are hard to ignore.

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Don't Call It A Comeback

While contextual targeting originally hit its stride in the 90's, it’s back with a vengeance, like Keanu Reeves or Charles Barkley. Now, the difference is that this contextual technology can be applied to publisher content in addition to advertising. In the end, there are two primary components that are essential for contextual targeting; great content, and a lot of it.