BeOp Adds Conversation to Post-Cookie Contextual Advertising

2021 is nearing a close, but the main topic on advertisers’ minds has not shifted from January to October: the future of ads beyond cookies. With the possible exception of Covid, no topic has so consistently obsessed advertisers and the tech companies that help them connect with customers this year.

That is for good reason. Cookies and the behavioral advertising they drive have dominated ads for years, and with cookies’ impending disappearance from Chrome in 2023, advertisers need a new way to collect data on users and deliver them targeted ads — all with a higher level of consent than was previously the norm.

The contextual, conversational advertising firm BeOp believes it has the solution. The company, which works with more than 90% of premium publishers in its home country across the Atlantic, connects advertisers with consumers reading content related to their products and services. But what distinguishes BeOp from contextual ad competitors is the style of its ads: conversational quizzes and questions that drive engagement and zero-party, or fully consensual and explicit, data collection.

“On the open Web, you can say bye-bye to 95% of data,” said BeOp CEO Louis Prunel. “The best thing is to mimic what Google has done with AdWords for decades, which is contextual targeting. … If you do that on publisher sites with conversational ads, you get really good performance and probably better performance than ads with data for many KPIs.”

Adding conversation to contextual ads

The argument for contextual ads is well known — instead of serving prospective customers an ad for a product matched to their identity or behavior, you reach them with a message tailored to the context of their online experience. For example, someone reading about fashion gets an ad for a beauty brand.

Proponents of contextual ads say this allows them to target a user with a message they actually want to see at a given moment. In addition, natural language processing has evolved enough in recent years, contextual adtech companies say, to power sophisticated ad placements that conform to the nuances of publisher content.

But by adding conversation to context, BeOp hopes to take contextual ads to a new plane. The company says its ads produce interaction rates of more than 1% and drive six times more time spent with ads than Facebook videos. By driving engagement via in-ad questions, BeOp also helps brands fill the data gaps cookies are leaving behind.

Consider the efficacy of ads for cars that ask, “What technologies are available in the new Range Rover Evoque?” and provide a few buttons with answers including “clearsight mirror” and “9-speed automatic transmission.” The ads do not just engage consumers; they also educate them about the product they’re marketing and invite the consumer into a conversation. At its best, the ad is like a salesperson, going beyond brand awareness to start a dialogue that could transform a casual online ad viewer into an informed buyer and more than qualified lead.

Another one of BeOp’s key selling points is that it maintains direct relationships with its publisher partners. Open web advertising is expensive. Prunel says BeOp can offer an effective alternative and cut costs by reducing the number of intermediaries between the advertiser and the ad inventory supplier. If successful, BeOp will also drive value back to the open web and provide publishers a chance to compete with the tech giants.

“Nobody has put a knife on the throat of advertisers to force them to spend on Google and Facebook,” Prunel says, pointing out that those companies are simply better options on average than other supply-side platforms. “My job as an entrepreneur is to create a product as good as the other one or better if possible.” And, of course, Prunel is betting that BeOp’s contextual, conversational ads will be that product, helping publishers monetize their inventory and advertisers connect with customers despite an increasingly cluttered ecosystem.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.