Step four of lockdown easing is here and consumers wanting to take advantage of the additional freedoms will have no time for irrelevant ads. It's the right moment to consider contextual advertising, says Nick Welch of IAS. 

As pandemic restrictions ease, fatigue is rife among UK citizens who have weathered three national lockdowns in over a year. And now, as consumers resume normal activities, the last thing they want to see are irrelevant ads. Every day the UK public sees countless advertisements, promotions, and direct marketing communications; brands have a big opportunity to consider mindset marketing.

Consumers want advertisers to make a real effort to deliver ads suited to their content consumption. For example, recent research discovered that the majority (81%) of British consumers want to see ads that match the page content they are looking at. Further still, almost two thirds (65%) of UK consumers will actually have a more favourable opinion of brands that serve them contextually relevant ads.

Key to delivering ads that are contextually relevant is the ability to understand consumer sentiment and emotion. Fortunately, advertisers don’t need to work harder to glean this information, they just need to work smarter. Looking ahead, brands can utilise machine learning and semantic technology to gather these insights to better inform their contextual campaigns through comprehension of online content at a granular page level. We can also expect this as part of a wider industry shift: first-party data approaches are becoming increasingly important as the sun slowly sets on third-party audience tracking.

A little context goes a long way

Historically, research has shown that consumer perception of ads, and in turn the brands themselves, are influenced by the quality of an environment. However, the digital advertising landscape is shifting, and context matters now more than ever.

Consumers expect brands to advertise in relevant, appropriate environments and they’re more memorable when they do so. Additionally, consumers are more receptive to ads in the right environments from a data privacy standpoint, preferring contextual targeting methods to the traditional data-mining efforts of third-party cookies. Privacy legislation and consumer action are accelerating this shift to contextual advertising.

So, as UK restrictions ease, how can brands come to grips with machine learning and semantic technologies to better inform their campaigns?

Measuring consumer sentiment and emotion

Advancements in machine learning and cognitive technologies, such as natural language processing, can now determine the sentiment conveyed on a given page at scale, enabling more suitable ad placement decisions. In particular, these technologies analyse the full text and the relationships words have with one another in order to accurately comprehend the context of the page. The overall sentiment (positive, neutral, or negative) is understood along with the associated emotional classifications. For example, amusement, love, and hope are different emotions that can be classified within positive sentiment, even if those specific words are absent.

In order to understand sentiment and emotions elicited by the text, a probabilistic approach using keywords in isolation will never be accurate.

Appropriately leveraging the full range of sentiment and emotional classifications can drive significant value for advertisers. Sentiment analysis offers a unique opportunity to take control of how a message is presented in various contexts. Rather than simply avoiding content, advertisers can choose how to proactively advertise alongside content of varying sentiments.

Looking ahead

With an increase in UK marketing budgets during the second quarter of 2021, and the UK heading out of its third national lockdown, now is the crucial time for brands to better understand the sentiment and emotion of digital content and how this can shape their ad strategies.

By tapping into the power of emotion and semantics at the page level, advertisers can use these insights to underpin their campaigns and deliver contextually relevant ads. This is essential to cultivate long-term consumer relationships and drive competitive advantage in post-lockdown life. Additionally, shifting to this more privacy-centric approach has never been more pertinent as we edge closer towards a cookieless future.