The goals of any advertiser are to inform, persuade, remind or make an impact on its audience. Achieving this requires the right targeting strategy to reach a receptive audience at the right moment. Our solution, DV Custom Contextual, combined with insights from our Programmatic Contextual Strategists, help advertisers build contextual targeting strategies that allow them to reach these goals.

In this installment of our “Ask the Experts” series, DV’s Lianne Barney, Programmatic Contextual Strategist, discusses the advancements in contextual technology and how advertisers can leverage contextual targeting strategies to reach audiences relevant to their messaging.


How did you first begin working in this field?

My first job out of college was at a corporate barter agency, ICON International. This is where I was first introduced to the media buying world. I started out as an associate helping with direct insertion orders for media to run with publishers. At this job, I was introduced to programmatic advertising and have continued to work in programmatic advertising throughout my career thus far.


How has contextual technology changed over the years? Why do you believe contextual targeting is more important than ever for advertisers looking to reach engaged audiences?

Early in my career, when I first began using contextual technology, it was mainly by putting together large keyword lists for clients to run against. We not only had to create allow lists of what keywords we should be looking for, but we also would sometimes need to include avoidance keywords to help further drill down what a client may be looking for.

Now, with DV Custom Contextual, contextual targeting has evolved in sophistication. Instead of relying solely on keywords, DV’s Semantic Science team has built a robust ontology that organizes language into concepts, allowing our technology to make distinctions between words and topics with multiple meanings to help advertisers serve ads that are more relevant to the content.

The rise of privacy concerns is a driver of the increased usage and sophistication of contextual targeting. In addition to being privacy-safe, contextual targeting is a great way to add reach to your campaigns. Using contextual, you might discover new content types to target based on the content your audiences are consuming. For example, a health brand might discover that their audiences are over-indexing on content related to outdoor enthusiasts. With contextual, you’re able to easily target different types of content and test out what performs best.


Can you tell us a bit more about the role of DV’s programmatic contextual strategists? How does your team help our clients?

I work with clients to figure out their specific needs and build out targeting strategies to help them achieve their goals. For each campaign, we discuss the specific objective and main KPI that the client is looking to focus on. Based on that information, I help the client figure out what type of contextual content they should be running against and pitch segments to help them achieve their objectives.


What advice would you give to an advertiser who is just getting started with contextual?

I would recommend branching out to a wide variety of topics to see what type of content resonates with prospective consumers the most. There are a lot of interesting things we can do with contextual targeting. For example, if a client is looking to make competitors’ consumers aware of their brand, we can actually create a custom segment that references a specific competitor’s brand to appear near that type of content online.


How customizable is DV Custom Contextual?

As the name would suggest, DV Custom Contextual is very customizable. DV Custom Contextual makes it easy for brands to build bespoke targeting segments that can easily be deployed on DSPs. These segments can be built using in-market categories, seasonal categories, IAB categories and customized dynamic (custom-built) categories that fulfill specific brand requirements and advanced controls.

Not only are we able to create dynamic contextual categories to include in targeting segments, we can also assigna low-medium-high index to each category/concept. For example, if we are looking to target ‘camping gear’ online, we can increase the index of the concept so we only find articles that are focused on camping gear – rather than an online book that may mention camping gear, but is mainly focused on another topic like mountain biking.


What is the process for building a dynamic category?

The segment creation process is not a heavy lift for our clients at all. We’re able to be as hands on as clients need. We can help out with the ideation process, or if the client has a better grasp of what they’re looking for, we can finalize a specific brief for them to approve. Once approved, our contextual team works with our ontology team to build out any specific concepts and push the segment to your requested DSP for activation. The whole process takes around 1-3 business days, depending on the complexity of the segment request.


What are some common ways clients utilize dynamic (custom-built) categories?

Some common ways that I’ve seen clients utilize dynamic are:

  • Creating a Competitive Conquesting Segment – Some clients want to grab the attention of someone that may be looking up competitor brands. For example, if a consumer is looking for one specific makeup brand, but then sees an ad for your brand, it may entice the consumer to check out your brand instead.
  • Creating a Specific Branded Segment – Some clients come to us with a specific product launch. For example, a laptop brand may release a brand new laptop and want to reach people that are interested in their brand’s latest product offerings.
  • Creating a Specific Contextual Segment Aligned with the Campaign Objective – Some clients have a very specific goal in mind. For example, pharmaceutical brands tend to have very niche products and are looking to target content related to a very specific set of symptoms.


Have you noticed any emerging trends or strategies related to how our clients are using contextual targeting?

I have noticed that clients like to run contextual tests to see what type of solutions work best for their brands. We’re able to test either against different contextual vendors, or we can test multiple DV segments against each other to find new learnings about the consumers.


Are there any common misconceptions about contextual targeting that you’d like to de-bunk?

Some clients will send us audience briefs and think that we’re able to contextually target a demographic group (i.e. women ages 65+). We’re able to find content online surrounding a specific topic, but we are not able to use it in the same manner as standard third-party audience targeting. In situations where clients send us demographic groups, we can work with them to identify a contextual targeting strategy that aligns with the true objective of the campaign. For example, if it is for a health brand, we could target women’s health topics online.


What’s your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is working with clients to strategize and build plans that work for them. When I have a deeper understanding of the clients’ objectives, either through a brand brief or a quick call, I’m able to better advise on targeting for their specific campaigns. It’s very fulfilling to see our clients’ performance goals achieved.

Download our guide to learn more about DV Custom Contextual.