Advanced Contextual Launches Contextual Targeting Enhanced by Advertiser KPIs

The contextual advertising company Advanced Contextual is announcing this morning exclusively via Street Fight that it has launched a new product, Advanced Extension, that will bring together topic-based contextual ad targeting and advertisers’ first-party customer data to drive more sophisticated privacy-safe targeting.

The result should be contextual ads placed next to content that is not just related to the advertiser (the basic premise of contextual ads) but has been proven to interest the advertiser’s high-value customers. In other words, Advanced Extension extends the value proposition of contextual targeting — get it?

“Brands want to use elements of their first-party data,” said Dave Hills, CEO of Advanced Contextual. “If we can permanently embed that KPI [for example, customer lifetime value] in topic selection, brands are going to be able to pick topics on a smarter basis.”

How Advanced Extension works

Let’s say Nike wanted to run a contextual advertising campaign. The traditional approach would be to use a contextual intelligence methodology like Advanced Contextual’s topics to determine content on the web related to Nike’s products. So-called “endemic” topics would be running or LeBron James — topics intuitively related to Nike’s wares. Using this methodology, a typical contextual ad campaign might pair Nike ads with news stories or online video about the New York marathon or basketball.

With Advanced Extension, Advanced Contextual would use Nike’s first-party data to enhance contextual targeting by corroborating the topics, some intuitively related to Nike and some perhaps not, with data indicating the topics that most interest Nike’s customers. Nike might be able to tell Advanced Contextual that certain online IDs represent high-lifetime value customers. Advanced Contextual can then determine what topics those high-value Nike customers are reading. And then, when Advanced Contextual runs a campaign on behalf of Nike, it can use that intelligence to target ads based on those high-value customer topics (which will be assigned “power ratings,” as presented in the image below).

The upshot is a contextual advertising campaign that leverages contextual intelligence (which depends on semantic and sentiment analysis, among other data processing techniques, at scale) and brands’ first-party data.

How Advanced Contextual’s approach differs from typical behavioral ads

At first glance, one might mistake the integration of first-party data into contextual advertising as a departure from the privacy-safe ethos that has led many advertisers to return to contextual in the nascent privacy era. If contextual campaigns leverage behavioral data (i.e., certain customer IDs are matched to certain topics), aren’t those campaigns just as compromised from a privacy perspective as cookie-based targeting?

But that’s not the case because Advanced Extension does not actually target specific individuals using their browsing history. Rather, it uses brands’ first-party device ID-level data to understand what topics interest a brand’s high-value customers in general — or topics related to some other KPI of the brand’s choosing. Then, Advanced Contextual uses that intelligence to make its topical contextual targeting more precise. There is no creepy ad chasing a user around the internet based on her specific browsing — just more precise contextual ads based on aggregated device-to-topic connections.

Putting Advanced Extension into context

The past couple of years have witnessed a general resurgence of contextual advertising, largely due to privacy changes that have called into question the future of behavioral targeting. Advertisers are looking for ways to target ads without relying on reams of user data, especially data they themselves did not collect. Contextual advertising has been there to meet the call.

But just what the future of contextual advertising will look like and how it will leverage customer data is unclear. Google, for example, announced last week that it would retire its previous replacement for cookie-based ad targeting, FLoCs, and transition to Topics, which rest on the value proposition of contextual targeting (matching ads to the content of user experiences) but deliver that value through three weeks of behavioral tracking. Because behavioral tracking still drives Topics, it is not a drastic enough departure from typical old behavioral, said Andy Crossen, CTO of Advanced Contextual.

What Advanced Contextual is endeavoring to accomplish, then, is something of a zeitgeisty, privacy-oriented ad targeting technology that still incorporates brands’ ever more valuable first-party customer data. It’s not individualized tracking, and it rests on contextual intelligence. But it also uses non-personally identifiable customer data to fuel precision.

Critics question whether it can scale and deliver the results of behavioral. With Advanced Extension, the company’s leaders believe they have their rebuttal.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015 and regularly consults with companies in the space on content and communications. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.