Which user data works best for marketing? A consensus has never been reached, so advertisers have always had to keep multiple plates spinning, from behavioural data and location data to IP addresses, cookies and beyond.
However, since GDPR came into force, it is no longer a question of whether advertisers have enough data points, but whether they are using them correctly. The Europe-wide legislation has suddenly made everyone conscious of the fact that companies are collecting and using their personal data for marketing purposes. Audiences are more aware and more apprehensive than ever about hyper-personalised targeting.
Some advertisers could see this as cause for concern, but in reality this is hugely beneficial as it signals the inevitable return towards contextual targeting. Instead of keeping all those different plates spinning – essentially, collecting as much and as many different kinds of data as possible – GDPR is a reminder that advertisers should carefully consider the publisher site audiences are on and the content they are enjoying in that moment. User data remains an important tool for effective targeting, but when combined with this contextual information, it becomes all the more powerful.
The moment we have all been waiting for
Let's consider the device ID of a millennial male who lives and works in the capital. His browsing history means he has been entered into various retargeting pools associated with urban, professional fashion, as well as adventure sports and a specific premium brand of consumer electronics.
Imagine that user is watching a video related to hair styling. It is not the best time to retarget him with an ad related to the rock climbing shoes he has previously looked at, as his attention is clearly elsewhere. But advertisers can add value by targeting with luxury toiletry products instead, informed by the content of the video he is watching as well as his profile. Premium male grooming products are clearly something that would appeal to him, but crucially, a luxury toiletry brand can reach him in the exact moment in which he will be most receptive to the ad.
There is one challenge: some buyers rely on the URL of videos for context, to decide whether their ad would chime well with it. However, this is not always an accurate way of understanding the content of a video. Some data companies offer features which analyse the automated transcriptions of a video and categorise the content based on what is said in it, so that advertisers can be sure their content complements what the end user is already consuming.
Getting this right is a win-win for both sides of the value exchange. The thoughtful combination of user data and context, even if it leads to a slimming down of potential bids, will give rise to higher engagement for buyers and higher yields for publishers – but only if the video content is correctly interpreted.
Juggling contextual targeting and brand safety
There are also wider implications for the buy-side when thinking about the relationships they have with publishers. In addition to user data, contextual advertising is powered by publishers’ data, so naturally premium publishers will lend brands more positive associations. This is especially true given current concerns around brand safety in the age of fake news (FR)/in the age of fake news (SP), when publishers are under greater scrutiny.
In fact, context is becoming an essential weapon in the battle for brand safety. Smart buyers must focus on the context of the article or video where an ad is placed, ensuring not only that it is relevant to user interests but that it also resonates with the brand itself. There is no better way to catch audiences’ attention than to offer content similar in theme and quality to whatever they are already enjoying. The more buyers focus on these factors, the better the brand will be received by audiences – and advertisers can rest easy knowing they will not appear next to unsuitable content.
Ultimately, GDPR should serve as a reminder to advertisers that clever marketing is a balancing act. User data can provide highly useful insights, but what people are watching or reading is perhaps the greatest indicator of the mood they are in, of what will be interesting to them in that very moment. Great ads do not just take the person who is watching into account; they consider the media environment and the content itself as well. Buyers, sellers and audiences alike can all benefit from this more careful and thoughtful curation – because nothing beats context when it comes to creating brilliant, memorable brand experiences.
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