The five changes shaping the future of contextual advertising

The developments in contextual intelligence that are presenting leap-ahead opportunities for marketers today

Until recently, contextual solutions for advertising served two basic purposes: blocking dangerous or inappropriate content for brand safety reasons and identifying potentially relevant inventory for ads based on keywords or other context signals.

Over the last couple of years, however, those solutions have taken advantage of powerful new contextual intelligence technologies to give advertisers a broad range of innovative capabilities and tools. The companies that move fastest to take advantage of that new functionality will gain a competitive advantage over their peers in reaching key audiences in relevant environments while protecting their brands.

Following are five developments in contextual intelligence that are presenting leap-ahead opportunities for marketers today and into the future.

1. Shifting from brand safety to brand suitability

Brand safety efforts are too often based on horror stories, not opportunities. Worse, the old keyword-based blacklist approach used by many companies focuses on common words, like shooting or drugs, making it too broad, clumsy, and ineffective to address the nuance in both human language and brand identity.

A restaurant chain, for example, might want to avoid content around illegal drugs while promoting its new breakfast menu, a task made nearly impossible by the inclusion of hash and herb on a blacklist of related nicknames.

Modern contextual intelligence, however, uses the full context of each page to determine its appropriateness for the unique brand identity of each advertiser, allowing that restaurant company to deliver ads to foodie sites that reference hash browns and herb-cheese omelets while avoiding content related to illicit drugs.

This nuanced approach of ‘brand suitability’ is becoming increasingly common among advertisers, as it offers more control over where their ads appear. The premise behind it is for advertisers to build custom content screens that help protect them from inappropriate content while also identifying and taking advantage of inventory tied to relevant and brand-suitable content.

2. Using content analysis to ride and capitalize on consumer trends

Contextual intelligence also allows marketers to analyze and capitalize on trending content both to plan media and take advantage of real-time opportunities. Content analysis can provide insight into consumer engagement and hot-button topics that can ultimately strengthen planning around holidays, special events, upcoming news, and other opportunities. This event-based content is becoming vital in the planning phase—especially in the UK and European markets—with the reduced availability of quality audience data.

At the activation level, contextual intelligence can further capitalize on annual, seasonal, or onetime content trends by using predictive segments. Predictive contextual segments are updated automatically using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to populate relevant keywords pulled from trending content. This enables marketers to take advantage of positive, brand-building content while simultaneously avoiding negative news. The result is a campaign that’s optimized to be in the moment.

3. Optimizing contextual campaigns based on outcomes

Optimizing campaigns based on outcomes, whether that’s driving down CPMs or optimizing for customer acquisition, is critical for today’s marketer. As contextual intelligence gets more advanced, we will see this same functionality become available across contextual targeting campaigns.

Whether you need a specific CPA, CTR, impression, or some other outcome, context can be programmed to build segments that meet the desired goal using past segment performance as a baseline.

4. Moving contextual advertising beyond text

Perhaps one of the most exciting advancements in contextual advertising is the expansion of the capabilities of the technology beyond words on a page (or a screen) to audio, video, images, and more. For example, a growing number of video publishers and their partners are using contextual intelligence to accurately categorize their content, so advertisers can use their existing contextual intelligence solutions through the OTT, CTV, and digital video channels.

With those ongoing and expanding integrations, advertisers are keeping pace with changing technologies and consumer consumption patterns through multimedia and multiple formats. This is giving marketers a true page-level understanding of content—including the audio, video, and images that lead to a deeper understanding of where to serve ads—so they are most impactful and relevant to consumers.

5. Leveraging audience-based contextual segments to find customers

Rather than making assumptions about their customers’ content interests, cutting-edge marketers are using new tools to connect their 1st and 3rd party datasets with actionable intelligence on the best context-based segments to reach them.

A CPG manufacturer, for example, might be surprised to discover that its current baby-diaper customers are also big fans of Formula 1, or a home decor chain might find out that its 3rd party audience prospects like surfing as much as sofas.

By identifying effective contextual terms and segments based on existing datasets, marketers can help address compliance needs without sacrificing advertising performance.

Put simply: It’s time to embrace the future of contextual intelligence.

Collectively, we need to rethink context with an eye to the future. Machine learning and AI are powering today’s leading contextual intelligence solutions, making them smarter, more actionable, more brand suitable, and more measurable. This suggests that the future of context is bright, opening up opportunities to expand the application of context to more channels and success for marketers.

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