16 May 2024

From segment to context, changing the online advertising industry

In traditional advertising campaigns, the target segment dictates the intended audience, often defined by demographics like women aged 30-40 years. However, contextual advertising challenges this mindset, urging us to shift from focusing on people as segments to considering the categories we aim to target.

This transition poses challenges. Typically, media agencies responsible for purchasing ad space are not involved in the creative process—designing graphics, crafting messages, and creating banners. Consequently, once the media agency or another buyer steps in, it may be too late to adapt the creatives for contextual targeting, as opposed to traditional segment targeting.

For instance, suppose an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer is purchasing contextual advertising. They may wish to tailor messages and banners for distinct target categories:

Green EV

1: Emphasizing the car's eco-friendliness, targeting articles about climate change.

Fast EV

2: Highlighting the car's performance, targeting auto-enthusiast articles.

Economic EV

3: Promoting its cost-effectiveness in running on electricity rather than fossil fuels, targeting articles about high fuel prices.

Failure to incorporate contextual thinking into the creative process limits opportunities for creativity – and opportunities to pique your client's interest. Given that the advertising industry typically follows a waterfall process—where creative work concludes before media buying is planned—there's room for improvement.

What's the best case for integrating context into the creative process? Reach out, and let's collaborate on crafting some compelling campaigns together!

Contextual targeting is better, by every metric

While it may be easy to think that contextual advertising is just the poor man's cookies-based ads, technology has caught up and contextual delivers high-performance campaigns. We argue that contextual targeting is more relevant, especially in a world where the average user is so oversaturated with messaging to begin with.

It reaches the audience in just the right moment, while reading about the right subject. It opens new opportunities for playfulness and humor (running your ice cream campaign in articles covering a snowstorm or cold front: 'we know it's cold outside, but inside it's always ice cream weather', for example) and crucially, opportunities to reach clients outside of the group you may assume is already your best buyer.

By being blind to the prejudice that comes with age, gender, ability, sexuality and ethnological segmentation, contextual targeting cracks open your expectation of who could be your best client and delivers it to new people you may have never actively considered.

Since contextual advertising also has the benefit of reaching all web browsers, not just the ones that let tracking cookies through, your potential audience is larger.