As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into all things data-related, Vevo’s vice-president of international sales James Cornish unpacks the valuable opportunity of tapping into contextual targeting. As cookies go kaput, he argues, contextual offers brands new means by which to capitalize on the attention economy and add value throughout the sales funnel.
A reckoning for digital advertising is long overdue; poor customer experience, opaque metrics and limited results blight an industry with so much promise. The brand capability of digital is an incremental opportunity, and when applied correctly will bring better practices for advertisers, better experiences for consumers and better results for brands.
As the industry moves away from third-party cookies, brands have an opportunity to build meaningful connections with consumers by embracing a more contextual approach to digital advertising – employing content related to users’ time zones, mood, geography, season and other non personally identifiable information (PII).
Now is the opportunity for brands and advertisers to renew their focus on impactful impressions and brand suitability, looking at brand awareness and loyalty to enhance activation. Placing messaging next to relevant media also ensures that it will not appear alongside inappropriate content, giving advertisers the assurance of brand safety. Contextual advertising brings the audience closer to the brands and advertisers targeting them and could completely overhaul the approach to digital. We are entering a phase of resetting.
Attention is currency
Lumen and TVision research recently discussed why attention is the new focus for advertising. In today’s world, there are distractions everywhere, so engaging even a relevant target audience is difficult. That’s where content and its context comes in. Publishers and content owners can match the data behind their content with context from consumers to create a compelling mix.
At a holistic level, TV offers the ultimate opportunity for contextual advertising, and its attention-grabbing power has been clear for years. A 30-second TV ad will generate around 13.8 seconds of eyes-on dwell time. When compared with other forms of media, the average 30-second TV ad generates the same amount of attention as 40 desktop display ads. TV’s audience is also much more captivated than audiences on social or on a desktop. Plus, the rate of drop-off is much lower than in-feed social media ads, indicating that viewers are spending a long time absorbing the brand messaging.
Contextual advertising, with its strong connection to the audience and power of attraction, is key to grabbing audience attention, and ultimately helps to build long-term valuable brand relationships. By its very nature, contextual advertising takes into account the situation of the audience: where and how they are consuming media, as well as their state of mind. The congruence between the viewer’s situation, ad creative and content drives a connection with the audience to make the brand message both more engaging and more memorable.
Successful advertising is about balancing the funnel
When building out a marketing strategy, brands and advertisers can either focus on activity that will drive an immediate response or work more toward changing brand perception, focusing on long-term growth.
A thorough approach would be to engage both tactics, with brand preference and familiarity increasing the gains from short-term cash-building activations. This starts with changing consumer behavior by making content timely and appropriate, harnessing what is happening in the customer’s reality to make the most of short-term activations, so the two approaches work in synergy.
Recent research from AudienceProject found that 60% of Brits felt online ads they receive are irrelevant to them. A further 37% felt that ads shown next to relevant and trustworthy content had a positive effect on brand perception. The audience is looking for the content, open to receiving the messaging and has much greater intent than when being chased around the internet and offered products they may have just purchased.
Advertisers can think more about brand uplift and brand loyalty to drive purchase intent by expanding their focus beyond the final transaction alone. Balancing upper- and lower-funnel activity with contextual targeting provides the opportunity to think about this in relation to a large audience seeking out high-quality content.
There is much greater scope to apply the same ideals across a range of media and platforms while curating the content for each audience – creating a better advertising experience and better longer-term outcomes. In fact, a recent study from contextual intelligence firm GumGum, conducted in partnership with neuroanalytics company SPARK Neuro, found that ads with the most contextual relevance elicited 43% more neural engagement and 2.2 times better ad recall.
An opportunity for responsible digital investment
As brands think more strategically about how they serve and interact with their target audience, the purpose of their digital advertising investment also comes to the fore.
An easy mistake is chasing cheap impressions. Gone are the days of chasing scale for scale’s sake. This can lead to poor results when brands are placed next to unsuitable or low-quality content, with consumers bombarded with irrelevant ads, driving negative brand perception and adding little to long-term growth.
With contextual advertising, this level of targeting is not lost, but applied with a more human approach. The analysis of content ensures that it is suitable for the brand, so messaging is safer and advertising budget is spent on placing against high-quality content, leading to more responsible and diverse media investment. With the content being relevant and brand-suitable, advertising spend is not being directed toward unsavory websites or media.
Contextual is a back-to-basics approach to digital media in which programmers tailor content, and brands customize advertising for better overall user experience.
James Cornish is vice-president of international sales at Vevo.