contextual targeting

Contextual Targeting: Will It Make Marketing Human Again?

I know what you’re thinking. Anything with the word ‘Targeting’ in it doesn’t sound likely to be very ‘human.’ Human beings are after all, fiercely confident of their unique identities and views. We want to be understood, not targeted. Yet, the phrase continues to exist, and there is no doubt that modern digital marketing is broken in many ways. Is contextual targeting the fix it needs? What do customers and users think? Let’s examine it a little closer and see if it is creepy or cool.

What is Contextual Targeting?

Contextual targeting is a way to advertise on websites and mobile browsers taking into account a user’s interests and identity. The most important word here is context. How do we get context? The basis is in understanding the audience rather than merely using phrases they read about or products they check out to ‘target’ them.


Beyond Retargeting

retargeting Retargeting: This has to change

One of the most basic forms of advertising which has been so done to death is retargeting. The way advertisers show a user a product or service constantly after the user has visited that service’s website or browsed products on a platform. This is a crude way to claim context and often, users end up seeing products that they already bought or have long lost interest in.


Creepy or Cool?

According to Adobe’s State of Online Advertising report, 38%, of those surveyed in the EU and 45% in the US are positive about customisation. In EU, US and APAC, on average, over 70% felt that their privacy was at risk when it came to what big companies know.

contextual targeting right or wrongContextual Targeting done Right, or Wrong?

Can contextual targeting be done right, though? In a campaign created by Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), the decongestant Otrivine created contextually targeted content for consumers based on when they were down with the sickness. Banking on research that suggested of the 2 million UK citizens use Twitter to complain about blocked noses and other cold related symptoms, around 70% of them complained and joked simultaneously.

Otrivine used Twitter search terms such as ‘man flu’ and ‘snot’ to target these Twitter users with personalised tweets linking to funny YouTube videos produced by SMG. The results?

  • 3.5 million impressions served through Twitter paid media to drive awareness of the tweets and content, boosting Otrivine’s digital awareness metrics.

  • 4,713 people were served personalised tweets with 1,154 (24.5%) responding with a reply, retweet or ‘favourite’.

  • More than 10,000 video views were generated on YouTube.

Contextual targeting done right? Sure sounds like it.

The Silver Lining

Amidst the lurking knowledge that none of our data is really just ours anymore, customers still want to feel like their privacy exists and is valued and the great part is – there are companies that put these customers first and truly get the concept of contextual targeting right. And when they do, it feels great.



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