Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Contextual advertising – why it’s the future for your ad campaigns, and how it will supercharge your ecommerce efforts

By Peter Wallace, SVP of Sales, EMEA at JustPremium

The world has changed significantly in the 28 years since the first digital ad graced the internet. Published on (later abbreviated to, the AT&T banner ad linked to a video featuring a moustached Tom Selleck describing the world of a tech-driven tomorrow. To illustrate just how far things have changed since 1994, that ad achieved a CTR of 44%. Today, a similar banner ad would be lucky to achieve the average 0.1%.

There’s no doubt we’re entering a new era in digital advertising. Issues around consumer privacy and consent are changing the way the industry works. The arrival of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy in 2021 and, when it finally happens, the death of the cookie mean that advertisers can no longer rely on data tracking to reach their target audiences. Instead, we’re seeing a return to contextually placed, engaging ad creative as the best way to achieve high attention metrics for advertisers and publishers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused a sea-change in consumer behaviour, and more people than ever are going online to shop, communicate and seek entertainment. Serving audiences with engaging ad content and achieving great attention metrics through quality creative and placement has been the challenge for the digital ad industry in these turbulent times.

Introducing the Mindset Matrix

As a pioneer of high impact advertising, JustPremium has seen first-hand the success great ad creative can have. Our research has shown that high impact ad formats can achieve 23 times longer attention results, and five times greater brand recall than standard display ads. Last year, we partnered with contextual advertising experts GumGum, and have developed a framework called the Mindset Matrix to produce highly successful ad campaigns for our clients without the use of personal data.

This strategy aims to harness and combine the power of contextual advertising with high impact ad formats, which are then measured to assess consumer attention rates. The premise is simple: large, creative, rich media ads are used to engage the consumer. The contextual element of the Mindset Matrix then ensures the ads are served in the right environment, at the right time, when people are in the right frame of mind. Finally, the third part, attention is used to measure campaign performance and drive ROAS.

Contextual advertising is experiencing something of a renaissance, having spent recent years in the shadow of programmatic ad formats that prioritise data targeting. Contextual advertising aims to align ads with the context of an environment and present relevant ads where people are most likely to see and engage with them. The degree to which contextual ad technology can accurately target consumers is phenomenal, and takes into consideration non personally identifiable information such as time zone, geography, weather and even mood. This level of personalisation is more critical than ever in reaching audiences, with only four in 100 ads securing more than one second of attention.

Contextual advertising is carried out exclusively through content analysis methods and deep learning technologies, meaning there’s no need for data tracking. This makes contextual future proofed against both the forthcoming cookie demise, and any privacy or consent legislation introduced down the line.

Brand protection

Because of recent developments in the industry, this puts contextual advertising in an incredibly strong position to offer advertisers and publishers a safe means of reaching their target audience on sites that won’t harm their brand image. For example, this protects your company from being associated with websites that feature unsavoury content, such as promoting illegal activity or hate speech. JustPremium and GumGum are working hard to elevate the image of contextual beyond being simply an audience targeting proxy, to a state where it is recognised as a proxy for relevance and mindset.

The possibilities on offer mean that you need to make contextual advertising an integral part of your digital advertising strategy, but it’s important to ensure your contextual provider is accredited. GumGum is the first independent ad tech provider to have its contextual targeting platform – called Verity™ – receive a Media Rating Council (MRC) Content-Level accreditation for contextual analysis, brand safety and suitability. This means the technology incorporates all possible digital signals into placing your ad (including images, video and even audio) rather than simply text signals.

The results speak for themselves, and because contextually targeted ads are hitting audiences within their universe of interest, they can boost purchase intent by as much as 60%. Contextual video ads have also been shown to increase the same metric by a significant 390%. The power contextual advertising offers the ecommerce world is clear, and when this potential is combined with engaging high impact creative and measured via attention, it creates a compelling method for brands to engage their audience, boost ecommerce success and protect brand safety.