Using AI to Enhance Contextual Targeting – Q&A with Caroline Campbell, StackAdapt

In association with StackAdapt.

In this exclusive Q&A ahead of ATS Singapore 2022, Caroline Campbell, vice president of sales, APAC at StackAdapt, discusses the benefits of contextual targeting and how these are being enhanced by AI.


What privacy risks are mitigated by the use of contextual instead of cookie-based targeting?

As we have become increasingly aware over recent years, cookie-based targeting makes web users’ data — including their browsing history and behaviour online, which can be sources of sensitive information — vulnerable to mishandling or even to bad actors. Many web browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, have already disabled third-party cookies and tech giant Google promises to do the same on their Chrome browser by a recently revised deadline of 2024. Contextual advertising, however, targets based on the content of a webpage, not on any information about the person visiting it; as such, it does not necessitate the collection or processing of user data, cookies, or any other form of identifiers, meaning that it automatically circumvents the privacy risks created by other targeting methods. 


Why is contextual targeting beneficial to campaigns run across multiple channels?

As contextual targets based on the content of webpages, and the inferences it creates about the web user who is visiting, operating across multiple channels gives marketers more sources from which they can build a picture of their audience, enabling them to refine their targeting efforts. In APAC, for instance, where mobile engagement is higher than other markets, having a strong mobile presence is fundamental to sourcing information about a brand’s target audience and them effectively.

Using contextual targeting on multi-channel campaigns allows for a more unified, coherent strategy than that afforded by ID or cookie-based targeting – as contextual targeting does not require any direct or identifying data about an internet user data, it omits the need for a single identifier that has to be tracked or sustained across multiple different environments. This is crucial, as there is no single ID that is supported by every browser and domain. 

As such, contextual targeting and multi-channel marketing complement each other, and, combined, can really enhance advertisers’ ability to effectively reach their audiences. 


Why is brand affinity important, and how does contextual help marketers build it?

Caroline Campbell, vice president of sales, APAC, StackAdapt

Brand affinity should matter to all companies as, now more than ever, consumers are conscious about the environmental impact of the brands they shop with, and of the environments in which brands choose to advertise. Contextual targeting can help marketers to build and cement brand affinity, as it is an effective tool for leveraging context to place ads. For example: a consumer who is interested in reducing their environmental impact may search for content that shares tips about sustainable lifestyle practices. Through contextual targeting, a brand that is promoting their zero-waste products can target the keyphrase “sustainable lifestyle” to appear next to content that covers the topic, serving the consumer with an advertisement relevant to what they’re searching for. Through interactions like these, contextual targeting can communicate purpose-driven messaging that creates a positive association between the consumer and the brand. 


How does AI enhance contextual advertising?

AI is a particularly useful tool for contextual advertising, as it provides an efficient, expedited way for marketers to find the most relevant places to run their advertisements. AI and machine learning (ML) algorithms can filter through the billions of pages on the internet to identify those that are most closely aligned with a company’s offering, all with just a small input of information, such as in-content or out-of-content words and phrases. Not only is AI streamlined and more precise than ever before, but it also operates across channels and is highly scalable; as such, it is an invaluable resource to all marketers, and even more so to those that require highly specific or niche targeting. 


Is AI-driven contextual targeting the future of cookieless advertising?

Although Google has delayed the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome again, the digital environments in which cookies can exist is dwindling. Because of this, it is imperative to establish alternative methods to enable targeted advertising without violating privacy legislation. AI-driven contextual targeting could be a prominent player in the cookieless future as it blends behavioural and contextual methodologies of campaign planning. By facilitating the creation of well-rounded strategies, AI-driven contextual targeting can help marketers to gain more confidence in executing contextual campaigns. 


What challenges and/or advancements do you see for AI-driven contextual advertising in the near future?

Contextual advertising’s future looks incredibly exciting: thanks to technology being developed today, contextual advertising will enable marketers to achieve better results with less input. For example, future AI might automatically select inputs for targeting the right content, and then adjust the campaign parameters as campaign performance data is gathered and analysed, providing the option to automate the adjustment of complex information. Innovation such as this will empower marketers, allowing them to restructure their campaigns so that they are more tailored and effective than ever before.


ATS Singapore 2022 will take place on 21st and 22nd September at Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay. Tickets and further information are available via the ATS Singapore 2022 event hub.