Trend overview

With audience targeting under pressure from a double whammy of brand safety controversies and post-General Data Protection Regulation requirements, advertisers are exploring whether they may be better served reaching consumers on the basis of digital media context.

Using context to improve the effectiveness of marketing communications is as old as the ad industry itself, from the positioning of billboards advertising ice cold Coca-Cola at US gas station, to brands buying TV spots during programmes most relevant to their customers and messaging strategies.

In the early days of the internet, contextual advertising reigned supreme: video game ads would be served on video game websites, movies would be promoted on sites dedicated to Hollywood, and so on and so forth – all in the expectation that users would find the messages relevant. However, an inability to measure the effectiveness of these ads hindered investment. When ad tech companies and digital media firms began to allow marketers to target audiences through programmatic advertising, context often became a secondary consideration.