In the face of changing legislation, Digital Strategist at Fox, Jennifer Brennan, discusses why it is more essential than ever for marketers to get creative with contextual targeting.

Let's face it: navigating the marketing world can feel like a never-ending labyrinth.

It can be difficult for industry specialists to keep up with evolving legislation and cultural shifts around the world. The demand for personalised messaging delivered in real-time and at scale is greater than ever. Meanwhile, the influence of global news has heightened the need for brand-safe environments that communicate empathy and privacy to viewers.

Changing legislation

We have all seen commercials for products or services that we didn't want or realise we needed. Marketing techniques have been forced to adapt in recent years as legislation has caught up to what is considered ethical.

By the end of the year, brands will no longer be able to track website visitors.

Apple phased out support for third-party cookies at the end of 2022, and Google will also be sunsetting third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2023. In its place, they will provide alternative advertising support. This is because Apple sees itself as “a stalwart defender of consumer privacy” and Google wants to chart a course towards “genuinely privacy-safe alternatives for targeting advertising and ad measurements”. This is a huge shift to underpin much of the targeted advertising industry, as Chrome controls almost two-thirds of the market for web browsers.

While many marketing companies are satisfied with the outcomes of personalised advertising, research shows that targeted marketing can enhance conversation and engagement by 10% to 14%. However, many customers aren’t so happy with the outcomes of targeted advertising, especially when things start to feel intrusive.

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Invasive advertising

Advertising appears to be an unavoidable reality with which everyone must contend. As customers become more aware of advertising's techniques, they grow disenchanted and even irritated by its persistence. In turn, audiences are becoming increasingly concerned by the prospect of becoming victims of invasive targeted marketing.

Notably, experts in the field have observed that customers can develop an antipathy towards a business, causing the marketing strategy to accomplish the opposite of its aim.

As a result, according to the blunt report, there is an “existential need for change”. According to Forrester’s research, agencies must “disassemble what remains of their outmoded model” or risk “falling further into irrelevance”. This has caused agencies to shift away from overly invasive marketing tactics and towards a more consensual and respectful strategy.

Contextual advertising

Marketing strategists have used contextually targeted advertising for a long time to display ads based on a website's content. It's a clever and safe way to send targeted marketing messages to a large group of individuals at once. Google's system analyses the content of each webpage, determining its major themes. These themes are then matched to adverts based on keywords and topic choices, language and location targeting, visitors’ recent browsing history, and other variables.

Despite the fact that contextual advertising is regarded as an old practice, its resurgence can assist display advertisers massively. In fact, nearly half of marketers in the United States and one-third of marketers in the United Kingdom already use it as their preferred targeting technique.

Contextual targeting has been around for a long time and is incredibly simple to implement. It's all about strategically placing the most relevant advertisements in the most appropriate locations. It's adverts that are placed in the most appropriate spot to be read, heard, or seen – and it's not (and never has been) confined to digital.

Additionally, contextual targeting provides users with privacy-friendly methods. The content of the webpage is the only information used by the ad tech for contextual targeting and uses display advertising linked to the main themes of the website, which are therefore relevant for the user and their current activity.

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As users become more educated in different advertising methods, it is more essential than ever for marketers to get creative with contextual targeting to ensure that advertising provides the greatest possible experiences while protecting customers and brands. As new laws and legislations seek to reshape the online advertising landscape dramatically, marketers need to ensure that the right people still see ads without brand-damaging assumptions.

Consumers will continue to dictate the success of a marketing campaign, and for marketers’ there’s a line to be drawn between being proactive and being just plain pushy. Contextual marketing offers an approach where users don’t feel pried upon and as a result will have a much more positive reaction to the brands they are presented with. 

As GO! Network members, Fox is an integrated agency for world-leading B2B tech brands.