Friday, 20 March 2009
New ways to engage - contextual advertising
This week i'm taking a look at engagement from a different angle to widen the perspective of this blog. Following the great debate kicked off by Google's announcement on behavioural targeting and the ensuing furore from the privacy brigade, i wanted to tackle the role of contextual advertising online.
I took the liberty of interviewing (by email) Greg Caswell, Head of White-Label Sales @ Mirago and regular contributor to the Chinwag UK Netmarketing discussion group. What follows is his stream of consciousness from my random grilling:
"Hi Greg, how does contextual advertising differ from behavioural targeting?"
"Put simply contextual advertising is about showing adverts that relate to the content of the webpage while behavioural targeting is about monitoring a consumers internet usage, the sites they visit and showing adverts that relate to those.
In more detail contextual advertising delivers adverts based on the content of the page, without the publisher having to ‘manually’ add a specific advert to a particular page. The words on the page are scanned by software which uses linguistic algorithms to extract the themes (context) of the page. Advertising is rendered within the page, based on those themes. As the user is likely to have landed on that page because they are interested in it, they are also likely to be a good match for the products or services within the related adverts.
Behavioural targeting renders adverts on the basis of the historic browsing patterns of the user who is visiting the page. The adverts are therefore rendered on the basis of the type of content the user has been viewing, rather than on the context of the current page they are visiting. Unless the behavioural implementation relates to a login mechanism, confusion can arise when the same browser is used by multiple users."
"How does contextual advertising sit with privacy concerns?"
"What are the advantages to the customer?"
"The advantages for the consumer is that they will be shown adverts for products and services that are relevant to the content which they are viewing, and as they are more than likely to have chosen to look at this page, then they are more than likely to find the advertisements relevant too. Also there are no cookies, so no spying on their off-site behaviour.
"What are the benefits to the advertiser?"
"The advertiser knows that the content they are placing adverts against is relevant to their business or proposition, and that readers of this content are more likely to be receptive to these messages than if they appeared on unrelated content. Response rates to targeted advertising are higher than those from untargeted adverts."
"What examples are there of companies using contextual ads intelligently?"
"We worked with Travelmail last year where we matched travel advertisers to the content that was being viewed, so as an example you could be viewing a page about holidaying in Thailand and so the adverts around the content would be from advertisers who either offered holidays, flights or tours to Thailand. Far more relevant than a consumer seeing ads for ski holidays, which could happen with no contextual targeting, where the advertiser is just appearing within the Travel section."
"Crystal ball – how do you see the industry evolving?"
I think that there may be a future for behavioural targeting, but this will be on individual sites or within specific login areas of sites, and where the customer has opted in, but personally I believe widescale behavioural advertising will disappear due to the huge ‘Big Brother’ privacy issues.
Contextual is independent of where you have been, it purely attempts to supplement the place you currently are with relevant commercial content. It is therefore likely that Contextual will continue to evolve into the space ‘targeted’ by behavioural. There is of course scope for a hybrid delivery mechanism, as in individual site tracking, but the taboo of behavioural may have an affect on that trend.
My view is that contextual adverts can engage customers far better than other targeting because the personal relevance is high. Couple that with the ability to search within the ad for real-time content to fine tune the personalisation, there is great potential to increase click through whilst delivering good service.
Join the debate and tell me what you think about the potential of contextual advertising as an engagement tool.
Thanks to Greg Caswell from Mirago for his time & contribution.