Contextual: Predictions for 2023

In the third article of ExchangeWire's 2023 Predictions series, we turn our attention to contextual targeting. Context has long been lauded as 'King', but will contextual prove to be the foundation of the post-cookie advertising ecosystem? Industry experts peer into the future and share their thoughts on what the next year could hold for this area. 

Publishers will be paying attention to contextual's quality

While many now understand how contextual advertising works, just how well it works is still under scrutiny. Publishers need to be selective about their ad tech partners, as not all contextual systems can be relied upon equally to deliver relevant messaging to the right audiences. 

Brand safety and suitability will, of course, always be priorities for publishers, but the possibility of poor contextual targeting has emerged as a key concern as the industry moves away from behavioural targeting. Much like social media platforms, contextual ad partners will need to make use of AI tools as well as human-verified information (such as image or video metadata) to deliver on the promise of optimal brand safety without compromising targeting accuracy.

Rob Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame Technologies

Contextual creativity and publishers will become front-and-centre

Contextual advertising will continue to grow as advertisers can't get any more scale using cookie-based technologies. Contextual will not be the only strategy deployed to fill the gap but will become more prominent as advertisers seek to place more value on trusted approaches and there's evidence that third-party data really might have been the emperor's new clothes.

As with most technologies, 12 months is a long time: AI computation will undoubtedly become more powerful, and there will be BIG leaps in content listening, AI custom segments, and machine learning generated insights and targeting strategies. Contextual performance will be huge and is needed to bridge access to re-targeting and measurement in the same last click attribution models which, until a few years ago, was essentially performance. Contextual creativity and the importance of publishers will become front-and-centre as we combine machine learning with human thinking to bring full stack to full funnel.

Paul Thompson, UK country manager, Seedtag

The future of contextual is being written by AI

With the future of third-party cookies in flux, advancements in contextual targeting — led by AI and machine learning — are helping marketers understand more about an ad’s intended environment (proof that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks). Instead of just targeting based on a URL string or readily available bid request signals, there’s now the capacity to categorise thousands of data points about where an ad will serve, allowing brands to be ultra-precise in aligning their creative messaging to the context – a capability I expect to catch on more broadly and become even more in-demand in 2023. Ultimately, I see a future where brands can create a matrix that overlaps audience insights with contextual signals (such as publisher, category, etc.) and performance KPIs to deliver scalable dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) strategies.

Piper Heitzler, head of growth, EMEA, Amobee

A clampdown is coming for those who treat all content as fair game

This year, we’ve continued to see some vendors of contextual solutions treat all content and metadata on the open web as fair game for them to scrape, package, and sell for their own benefit. Tags inserted onto a page for an agreed objective, such as brand safety or ad verification, are syphoning data away for purposes outside of contracted terms and conditions. 

In 2023, we’ll therefore be supporting the further development of processes that utilise existing technologies to block all non-approved traffic; thus challenging those businesses extrapolating data outside of licensed agreements and forcing transparency. The only ones who should be generating revenue from publisher-owned content are the publishers themselves, and we’ll continue to champion this throughout next year.

Richard Reeves, managing director, AOP

Marketers can have confidence in contextual

Mateusz Jędrocha

In the year ahead, contextual targeting will continue to gain traction. This technology was used for a long time, but thanks to advancements in AI, marketers can now leverage contextual signals for the purpose of targeting and personalisation. Further, current contextual segments allow brands to build audience segments in a privacy-safe way through Natural Language Processing and the predictive power of algorithms. And the benefit of a contextual approach is that the data is highly relevant, because media buying is based on what the user is interested in at a given moment, rather than in the past.

Most importantly, because contextual targeting relies on what the user is browsing at any given moment, it is much more relevant when compared with strategies based on behaviours and interests from the past. That’s why marketers can confidently look at contextual as a valuable alternative, ready to be used at scale throughout 2023.

Mateusz Jędrocha, head of upper funnel solutions, RTB House

2023 will be a decisive year for contextual adoption

2023 will continue to be a year to educate the industry on contextual technology opportunities, such as no need for third-party data, more effective brand results, and fewer intrusive effects for the end user.

While, traditionally, video platforms automatically distributed ads by fixed time periods regardless of the context, in long videos contextual artificial intelligence can: identify dialogues and scenes, determine the specific scenes that are relevant to each brand, and distribute ads at the least intrusive time for the end user so as not to interrupt content consumption.

We believe that these advantages of contextual advertising will prevail and 2023 will be a decisive year to take action and help brands cope with the growing privacy-centric advertising ecosystem.

Daniel Reina, founder & CEO, Tappx

Collaboration will continue to refine contextual

Peter Mason

CTV buyers are looking forward to seeing more targeting data come online from broadcasters and streamers. Thus far a full transition to using granular data for CTV has been slow, partly because of the continued importance of linear in TV businesses and some of the challenges inherent in programmatic.

Contextual targeting in particular has a way to go. For understandable reasons, publishers, broadcasters and streamers prefer to sell inventory across entire channels and networks – rather than using a granular breakdown of inventory, which would risk selling out in some places, with other environments left unsold. 

But progress is happening, and new technologies are helping the sell-side to solve some of these yield problems by using AI to place ads where they are proving most effective, irrespective of topics. So next year, we look forward to ongoing collaboration between the buy and sell sides as we endeavour to solve problems together.

Peter Mason, founder & CEO, Illuma

2023 will be about understanding attention's link to contextual

There is no doubt that contextual will continue to take centre stage in the years ahead, especially with the need to digitally advertise without the use of personal data or the cookie. However, the key differentiator next year for contextual targeting will be the ability to measure campaign success. In years past, this has been where behavioural targeting really shone, but now with attention measurement, advertisers will be able to measure contextually-driven campaigns for the first time. Attention insights are the missing piece to understanding how powerful contextual targeting can be, and next year will be all about understanding the correlation between attention and contextual.

Rob Hall, CEO & founder, Playground xyz

Contextual will be as vital to brand suitability as to campaign success

Podcast advertising is growing and evolving. As advertisers and listeners increase their investments, time and attention, expectations of a seamless and contextually relevant experience heighten for both. 

Looking ahead, we anticipate advertisers will leverage contextual capabilities not just to improve campaign effectiveness but also brand suitability.

Further down the line, we predict brands and listeners will want contextual relevance that goes beyond keywords and relies on conversational tone.

Christiana Brenton, director of sales and brand partnerships, US, Acast

Contextual will be key to advertising in new worlds

The mixed reality (MR) revolution is already underway, and it's becoming (scarily) easier to envision a future in which the real world and virtual worlds become even more blurred than they are today. 

Businesses are currently experimenting with VR and AR in ways that promise to change the landscape of advertising and marketing. And it makes sense. In a world where content is immersive, engaging, and other-worldly, the opportunity for advertising to take place within these environments is huge. And, contextual advertising will play a leading role. Why? It allows for personalisation, and relevant advertising in environments consumers love – all in the perfect moment and mindset.

I predict 2023 will be the year that contextual advertising and MR will start to combine, as brands look to be more engaging and trustworthy whilst driving more personalised experiences in this new world.

Umberto Torrielli, co-founder and CSO, Silverbullet

Contextual will be improved once measurement challenges are addressed

With the number of devices users engage with continuing to rise, this will greatly affect advertising in the coming months and years. Emerging channels will require advertisers to change the way they deliver ad content and target consumers, and this is where contextual could have the opportunity to come into its own.

Contextual approaches can enable the opportunity to collect a plethora of data signals from a range of devices and screens – enabling us to align with the mindset of the user while respecting privacy. Yet, currently, there’s a great deal of disparity in how we measure all these different channels. Many are converging on attention, which enables us to compare the attention of one channel (such as CTV) to another (such as the metaverse). This is a challenge that the industry must focus on resolving as we head into 2023.

Phil Schraeder, CEO, GumGum

Diversity and inclusivity should be priorities for brands

As we move into 2023, I would hope to see a shift towards advertisers becoming more conscious of inclusivity in their ad placements.

Our recent research has shown us that 60% of consumers want to buy from brands that support and promote causes that they are passionate about. So for 2023, brands should be more conscious about the type of content (news), creators (diverse and inclusive) and conversations (such as sustainability) they are supporting and monetising. This would be a win-win for advertisers but also for the industry as the greater support for more diverse voices, will help more people to tell their stories.

Rob Blake, UK MD, Channel Factory