In the advertising world, delivering the right message to your consumer is key. And the center of today’s advertising world is digital marketing. Digital advertising accounts for over 60 percent of global ad spend, according to Statista. 

Historically, advertisers have looked to reach digital audiences through various types of targeting online. The ability to deliver relevant, targeted ads based on past behavior was one of the unique advantages digital advertising offered over other types of media. 

But in today’s digital landscape, where users demand transparency over digital interactions — and brands are required to comply with those demands — third-party targeting is on its way out. And advertisers are left wondering how this will impact their media buys. One recent article in Business Insider suggests Google’s plans to restrict third-party cookies across Chrome may “upend” digital advertising.

This, however, is a limited view. And it is one that fails to consider how rapidly the internet — and internet advertising — is constantly evolving.

In 2011, mobile advertising was in its infancy, and just 35 percent of Americans owned smartphones, according to Pew Research. 2011 was also the first year mobile ad spend exceeded $1 billion in the U.S., with Statista reporting that advertisers spent $1.6 billion on mobile ads. By 2021, 85 percent of Americans were using smartphones, and mobile ad spend in the U.S. was over $140 billion. Not long ago, streaming shows and movies on your phone would have been as unimaginable as full-screen, interactive mobile ads. 

The internet is always evolving. And now contextual advertising is emerging as one the most effective, privacy-friendly solutions to help advertisers align their messaging to content consumers find relevant. 

How advertisers are adapting to the impact of privacy regulations

An increasing number of marketers are actively seeking ways to reduce or eliminate their reliance on third-party cookies and personally identifiable information (PII). This is primarily driven by growing privacy concerns and regulations within the industry. Major tech companies are also terminating the use of advertising cookies and in-app trackers, further fueling this shift. 

The migration from third-party cookies has flipped the script for advertisers. They’re working hard to interact with customers in a transparent way, all while striving to achieve their campaign performance goals. Having restrictions on user-tracked digital activities, however, makes it difficult to follow the user journey and pinpoint effective conversion funnels. Advertisers are therefore embracing innovative solutions that prioritize personal data privacy while showcasing contextually relevant ads to receptive consumers. Amidst these changes, contextual advertising is an ideal solution given its privacy-safe nature. While being nothing new to the ad world, this solution is rapidly evolving as advancements in AI and semantics continue to enrich its capabilities. For advertisers looking for a competitive advantage, they should explore the power of contextual advertising, a technology expected to grow 13.3 percent annually.

What is contextual advertising?

Contextual advertising is all about focusing on relevant content and not a user’s behavior. Unlike behavioral advertising — which uses PII to serve ads — contextual advertising allows advertisers to display ads on websites and apps solely based on the surrounding content. For instance, contextual ads may feature running shoes on pages dedicated to upcoming marathons or showcase luggage on a tourism site. These examples illustrate how brands can align ads with content, which stimulates a user’s interest and increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase. 

This contextual approach traces back to an era when magazines and newspapers served as the primary advertising platforms. During that time, it was intuitive for advertisers to place ads where they were most likely to reach individuals with genuine interests. Since then, though, with the rise of the digital realm and the emergence of third-party cookies, advertisers gravitated toward user-based methods. 

The shift toward stronger privacy regulations and the reshaping of third-party cookie policies has caused contextual advertising to experience a resurgence. Advertisers are gradually rediscovering the value of this strategy as it aligns with the emphasis on user privacy and data protection. 

Contextual advertising technologies have also evolved in recent years from simple keyword targeting to the use of more sophisticated technologies that provide a holistic understanding of the content. This in-depth content analysis allows brands to reach consumers in a more meaningful way and create relevant consumer experiences. 

How it works: The value of contextual advertising in a cookieless world

When a user visits a web page, ad servers match the content on the page with relevant campaigns that have been requested to run alongside this type of content. Unlike behavioral advertising, which relies on third-party cookies or other device identifiers, contextual advertising examines URLs and page content, making it a privacy-safe solution. For this reason, contextual advertising has always had the versatility to work across channels.   

But effectiveness and tangible results are still paramount for advertisers. A recent study conducted by Sapio Research in collaboration with DV provided valuable insights that prove the effectiveness of contextual advertising. The study reveals that: 

  • 69 percent of consumers are more likely to look at an ad if it was relevant to the content they were reading. 
  • 67 percent of consumers are open to viewing relevant ads from new brands. 
  • 44 percent of consumers have tried a new brand due to seeing a relevant ad alongside a piece of content they were consuming.

These statistics clearly indicate that consumers exhibit greater receptiveness to ads that hold relevance with regard to their interests and preferences, a highly encouraging point especially when compared to behavioral targeting methods.   

Here are some of the benefits advertisers should expect when using contextual advertising:

  • Contextual advertising operates independently of user personal data and only leverages content information. It’s a fully privacy-safe solution that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies, IDFA, or user-specific data to deliver its ads or function effectively.
  • Contextual advertising increases purchase intent. Given that consumers are looking at ads that are related to the content they are consuming, there is a higher probability that they will make a purchase. 
  • Contextual ads are seen as more positive than targeted ads. Targeted advertising utilizes personal user data, so consumers perceive contextual advertising as a more safe and secure space. 
  • Contextual advertising helps users by assisting them in finding the right resources. Contextual ads can be useful for users as they navigate through their interests. Users can find resources (promoted by contextual ads) that fit right with their needs. It also gives them a chance to explore more options and familiarize themselves with new brands.
  • Contextual advertising works across channels. The loss of cookies and IDFA has complicated advertisers’ ability to target across publishers and devices. Through contextual advertising, advertisers can reach consumers with relevant messages across devices and channels.

Introducing DV Solutions for Contextual Advertising

DV’s contextual solutions provide advertisers with privacy-safe, scalable tools to reach the right consumers at the right time. DV’s technology leverages machine learning and manual review to classify millions of apps and websites on an ongoing basis. Our classification engine is purpose-built to analyze and create a detailed profile of any piece of content using a comprehensive ontology. Covering over 200,000 concepts and using over 11 million rules, DV’s ontology provides a human-like understanding of content.

DV’s concept-driven approach to contextual alignment eliminates the need for extensive keyword lists and requires less manual effort to maintain. By organizing language into concepts, instead of relying solely on keywords, ontologists on DV’s Semantic Science team can make distinctions between words and topics with multiple meanings, allowing marketers to serve ads that are more relevant to the content.

Our technology allows DV to offer the scale and accuracy required to successfully power content classification:

  • Support for over 40 languages: Multilingual ontologies are constructed by translating these concepts and adding language and culture-specific patterns to enable content classification in a variety of languages.
  • Up-to-date and accurate classifications: Content is reclassified 100 times a day to ensure accuracy, and updated classifications are pushed to demand-side platforms (DSP) every 15 minutes.
  • Coverage: DV evaluates 1 trillion opportunities a day, covering 200 million pages a month.

DV offers flexible activation options for contextual advertising, including ready-to-use contextual categories (IAB, Seasonal and In-market) and DV Custom Contextual which allows for advanced features like the ability to create dynamic, custom-built, categories to meet your brand’s specific needs.

Ready-To-Use Categories

DV offers an extensive library of over 400 ready-to-use categories that are available off-the-shelf in leading DSPs.

  • IAB Categories: Reach a wide range of users leveraging IAB Tier 1 and Tier 2 categories. 
  • Seasonal Categories: Reach consumers when they’re likely to make a purchase during a single event. 
  • In-Market Categories: Reach content — such as product reviews and deal sites — that customers habitually browse when they are preparing to make a purchase.  

DV Custom Contextual 

If a relevant ready-to-use contextual category for your product or service doesn’t already exist, we offer DV Custom Contextual to provide you with more granular control and customization.

DV Custom Contextual makes it easy for brands to build unique pre-bid segments that can be deployed easily on leading DSPs. Brands can build DV Custom Contextual segments to their exact specifications using categories and controls as building blocks to maximize reach or prioritize precision. In addition to our ready-to-use categories, DV Custom Contextual also allows for the creation of page-level bespoke dynamic categories built to meet your specific needs. 

Let us help you keep up with privacy-safe advertising

In this ever-evolving space, contextual advertising emerges as a potential lifeline for advertisers to continue reaching their intended consumers. By aligning ads with the appropriate content and context, marketers will be reaching the right users at the right time. In anticipation of this evolving landscape, advertisers should seek to proactively adapt their strategies by conducting tests that identify which approaches resonate most effectively with consumers and yield the most successful results. 

DV offers everything you need to seamlessly integrate contextual advertising into your advertising strategy with DV Custom Contextual. This powerful solution reassures advertisers that their campaigns remain compliant, relevant and impactful.    

To learn more about contextual advertising, download Context Matters: Guide to DV Custom Contextual