Contextual Advertising
By Patrick McNicol

Harnessing Contextual Targeting: IAB UK Whitepaper Features Smartology's Valuable Insights

Smartology has partnered with IAB UK to help produce How to Harness the Power of Contextual Targeting, a guide covering the advantages contextual targeting offers advertisers, new developments and recommended best practices.

Third-party cookies facilitate much of traditional online advertising - tracking users across the web and placing retargeting ads in front of them. In recent years, however, this method of advertising has faced growing criticism around user data and privacy concerns. As a result, at the end of 2024, Chrome will follow Safari and Firefox in ceasing to support third-party cookies, effectively eliminating them from the web, as the three browsers make up nearly 90% of worldwide traffic. In the wake of their elimination, brands must find new ways to advertise.

One of the most effective methods to come to the fore is contextual advertising. Contextual advertising focuses on placing relevant ads based on the content the user is viewing at that moment. Not only is this an entirely cookieless solution, but it also drives higher engagement than traditional audience-targeted methods, as it reaches a user when they are most interested in a topic. We’ve jotted down a few key learnings from the report about how to run a successful contextual campaign below…

Key Learnings

1. Take a multifaceted approach. Contextual targeting nowadays goes beyond keywords and consists of many factors.

SmartMatch™ scans thousands of articles every second across a range of premium publishers, such as FT, WSJ, The Times and many others. It understands meaning in granular detail, so it can both secure highly accurate matches with client content, but also recognise and exclude inappropriate content.

2. Think of the page beyond the semantic content. Factors such as ad placement and ad clutter play an important part in how effective your advertising will be.

A recent report by the ANA found advertisers “waste $20bn a year on low-quality inventory”, such as driving clicks to unreputable ‘Made for Advertising’ sites. With SmartMatch™ not only do brands know which media titles they are appearing on at all times, ads only run in the 3 standard, high-quality, IAB units: 300x250 Mobile; 300x600 Desktop; and 970x250 Billboard.

3. Factor in brands’ own consumer insights. What is deemed a suitable environment should be tailored according to brands’ own consumer insights.

SmartMatch™ not only filters out brand-unsafe content automatically but also allows clients to add keywords of their own choosing should they wish to. The system will then recognise whenever this word appears in the news cycle and exclude it from matching with client content. Additionally, brands are able to select which sites they wish to appear on and see where they are serving impressions throughout a campaign.

4. Be aware of the limitations of contextual targeting, especially when using keywords.

Many contextual solutions require manual, keyword tagging per creative, either to match with or block certain content. As is mentioned in the report, ‘this has limitations in that (these solutions) do not consider the wider context that the keyword is being used in’. In contrast, SmartMatch™ understands meaning in granular detail to unleash all of a brand’s content with higher match accuracy. The platform’s sophistication stems from the development of a public pre-trained Deep Learning model that is trained using a content set comprising over 3 billion words.

The end of third-party cookies will pose a unique challenge to brands: how can they continue to effectively advertise online without third-party user data? Contextual appears to be the best answer, and with SmartMatch™ brands can target their content to the right audiences on the world’s leading publishers, driving higher engagement.

To find out more about all things contextual, read the IAB’s guide in full here.