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Industry Contributor 19 Jul 2021 - 3 min read

Contextual targeting needs dynamic creative to win – now and in 2023

By - James Whitbread, Sales Director | Flashtalking

Cookies are dead, long live contextual... or so the popular rhetoric was about to go. But even Google's about-turn does little to alter the fundamentals – and for brands that can nail context and dynamic creative, the rewards remain.

Before Google’s bombshell announcement that third-party cookies would remain accessible for advertisers until 2023, contextual targeting was and has since still been heralded as the privacy-first solution for engaging consumers in the present day and beyond. Yes, Chrome accounts for two thirds of the browser market, but browsers like Safari still offer significant value to advertisers even when third-party cookies have been effectively extinct for years.

Back to the initial point and many are hailing the ‘return’ of contextual – which has always played a notable role in the ad buying process – as the most useful tool in the digital toolbox.

I can testify based on my time in my last role that there are custom contextual solutions which are tailor-made to combat the ability to remain relevant to consumers despite high levels of cookie rejection. Fingers crossed, contextual and brand safety solutions continue to evolve away from blunt keyword blocking. This should produce a positive effect for publishers who of course felt the effects of keyword blocking during the pandemic.

Dynamic creative is key to contextual

For all its merits, it is risky to consider contextual as a stand-alone quick fix for maximising digital performance, especially when it is creative that is the foundation of what drives consumer connections. When exploring any targeting alternative, advertisers must look at how it complements the existing elements of their strategies. For instance, context contributes to the way consumers perceive ad creatives. Both branding and messaging can be amplified by ad environments, particularly when ads are delivered at an optimal time.

Context is nothing without the great force behind digital advertising – creative. To illustrate, should the 100m sprint record be broken at the Tokyo Olympics, then an official global sponsor such as Visa can purchase inventory around content reporting on the event, in order to promote its “fast payments globally” message. The context boosts relevancy, retention, and engagement from audiences, working in tandem with a clear and considered branding strategy. As a consumer, I would find this clever.

Brands need to produce quality ad creative at speed, to compliment equally speedy contextual activation, which is where dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) enters the fold. Using intelligent creative suites and platforms, brands can quickly produce thousands of tailored ads from their creative assets, ensuring the results reflect the context of their environments. When supported by an ad server that offers sophisticated, easily activated decision trees, DCO unites effective contextual targeting with advanced creative execution.

The key to truly relevant digital advertising is the ability to rapidly analyse multiple data sources, including contextual, to deliver highly personalised messaging. However, even if all data was supremely rich, in fact log level in essence, brands won’t sustain digital effectiveness unless advertisers can find a way to efficiently leverage data to inform the most critical creative element of their campaigns, which requires agile, independent tech stacks to unlock contextual targeting’s full potential.

As the ad industry evolves beyond the cookie, and looks at the current bigger picture, it is imperative that advertisers don’t lose sight of what mattered before even the biggest of tech revolutions like the invention of programmatic itself. Creative is set to remain the heartbeat of captivating, engaging, and truly effective ad campaigns no matter how – or when – the cookie crumbles.

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James Whitbread, Sales Director | Flashtalking

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