6 Contextual Advertising Solutions for Brands

TikTok rolled out a new contextual advertising solution called Pulse this month, which is designed to add more options for brands to connect with consumers around cultural issues and events. The program is a first for TikTok, but it’s just one of many contextual advertising solutions available to brands in 2022.

Contextual advertising uses external factors to target consumers and determine which messaging is most relevant when placing ads online. Most contextual advertising involves targeting through a demand-side platform, or DSP, to place ads on relevant websites. Although basic contextual advertising companies rarely go beyond keyword targeting, companies with more sophisticated technology are now using machine learning and external data points, like weather and geolocation, to determine when and where digital ads should be triggered.

Unlike most types of behavioral targeting, contextual targeting doesn’t rely on third-party cookies. That makes it an especially popular option in 2022, as more U.S. states pass stringent consumer data privacy regulations. In contextual advertising, software analyzes available information — like keywords and phrases found in website content — to categorize webpages or domains, so brands can place advertising on relevant websites and mobile apps. With stricter privacy regulations making it harder for advertisers to target the right consumers online, contextual advertising has become a safe, compliant alternative. 

Here are six contextual advertising solutions that brands are using right now.

1. Criteo

Criteo’s contextual targeting solution goes beyond basic keyword targeting capabilities. The company has enhanced its contextual targeting offering with first-party commerce data, to focus ads on the places that have the most impact. Criteo uses semantic analysis technology to look at traditional contextual signals (like URL, category level, text, and images) and understand the “contextual relevancy” of each webpage. The company’s software then analyzes where products are displayed across its First-Party Media Network prior to being viewed or bought, and calculates an “affinity score” between each product and contextual category. The contextual relevancy of a webpage is combined with the product affinity scores to determine where relevant ads should appear.

2. Peer39

Peer39’s solution uses a combination of natural language processing and machine learning to analyze every element of a webpage and deliver page-level intelligence products across multiple DSPs. Brands can create custom contextual categories that can be deployed to any DSP, and they can access what Peer39 describes as the industry’s “largest and most accurate pre-bid contextual category library” to find relevant and safe inventory to target. In addition to signals based on webpage content, Peer39 gives advertisers access to signals related to webpage sentiment, predicted viral or trending content, and current weather conditions.

3. Google Ads

For the smallest companies, Google Ads features basic contextual advertising capabilities. Small and mid-size businesses can reach consumers by placing ads on relevant websites in Google’s Display Network based on keywords or topics, among other factors. To determine where ads should be placed, Google analyzes the content of webpages and determines a central theme, and then matches ads to those themes using the advertiser’s selected keywords and topics. Google also allows for contextual targeting based on language, location, and a visitor’s recent browsing history.

4. Media.net

Media.net is a global advertising company with a contextual targeting solution that’s popular among brands. The company says its ad units are driven by the context of online content, rather than audience data, which allows brands to see high engagement without relying on third-party cookies. One of Media.net’s biggest differentiators is its relationship with Yahoo!. Brands working with Media.net get exclusive access to the Yahoo! Bing Network, with dynamic technology that automatically optimizes and serves the ad types most likely to perform the best with a given audience.

5. The Trade Desk

The Trade Desk is a media buying platform that gives brands a way to target consumers contextually based on a huge array of data points. Using CRM onboarding, brands can take advantage of the customer data they’ve already collected to develop more refined advertising strategies. As an aggregator, The Trade Desk gives its users the ability to manage multiple campaigns through a unified platform. Brands working with The Trade Desk get access to hundreds of ad networks, with the ability to target ads to specific people, job categories, demographics, or interests.

6. Oracle Data Cloud

Oracle is another major player in the contextual targeting space. Since acquiring Grapeshot in 2018, Oracle has expanded its ability to improve marketing outcomes by adding context to its Data Cloud’s expertise. Grapeshot’s contextual intelligence solution enabled the rapid creation of highly-customized segments that now allow marketers and their agencies to avoid unsafe content that could damage brand equity and extend global audience reach. Oracle’s contextual advertising solution is designed for brands, agencies, and publishers.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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