In the Future of Digital Advertising, Context Is King

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Joshua Bell is the musical director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a soloist, and a former child prodigy — in other words, he’s one of the most talented names in the classical world.

He decided to perform a busking “experiment” at a Washington Metro station. After playing to a crowd of more than 1,000 people, only seven stopped to listen.


His musical genius was out of context. There was no announcement of who he was, and the busy people around him weren’t expecting to have their ears tickled with soothing melodies among the clashing of train cars.

Let’s take this metaphor and apply it to digital advertising. What surrounds your ad, or the context your ad is in, can be just as important as who’s viewing it.

You’ve heard the saying that “content is king.” But in the advertising world, context is the new king.

Let’s look more closely at the importance of context, and how you can use contextual targeting on news sites to make sure your digital advertising efforts are well received by your audience.

How News Creates Context and Builds Trust

What surrounds your ads on the page, and the moment your ads are presented, are just as significant as the person receiving them. And more advertisers are learning that news sites are the ideal marriage for these conditions.

Ads placed on news sites are housed in a trustworthy environment, and news sites provide advertisers the ability to be shown in the right context.

In fact, in a recent study by IAB, 84% of news consumers said that they maintained or increased trust for brands that advertised on their preferred news sources. IAB refers to this as “The News Trust Halo.”


In addition to more trust in news sites overall, many participants said they’d be more likely to engage with the brands placed on their most-loved new sites:

  • 45% of participants said that they’re more likely to visit the brand’s website.
  • 43% of participants said they would consider making a purchase from the brand.

The Problem With (and Solution to) Social and Search Environments

These results are more important than ever in a time where social media and search environments are overly saturated (OR) performance is costly.

That’s because, in these environments, ads can be:

  • Placed beside user-generated content (UGC) that brands can’t control
  • Skipped when they’re presented before a video that someone really wants to see
  • At worst, placed in an entirely irrelevant environment to be promptly ignored

In some cases, social environments alone can’t cut it. This was the case for Universal Music Group (UMG), a Taboola client representing heavy metal band Metallica.

UMG turned to Taboola’s premium publisher network after they realized quality audiences in the German market couldn’t be reached through social environments. The campaign saw more than 260,000 video impressions in just four weeks.


Contextual Targeting Helps Brands Recover from Privacy Changes

As a bonus, contextual targeting is also a solution to upcoming privacy concerns that many brands will face.

In 2021 and beyond, we’re seeing big strides toward protecting user privacy — including the elimination of third-party cookies. This territory comes with limiting the amount of personal data that can be accessed by advertisers.

This is an issue because, outside of social platforms like Instagram and Facebook and video platforms like YouTube, advertisers have traditionally heavily relied on third-party data sources to reach the right audience. And with privacy protections growing stricter, this tactic is going to get harder moving forward.

Contextual targeting on news sites will be part of the answer. Through contextual targeting, brands can choose the news topics they want to be next to, as well as the publications they want to be associated with.

Take Valueleaf for example, an India-based performance marketing agency that needed to increase their traffic quality and conversions for two major clients.

Valueleaf turned to Taboola’s contextual targeting technology to find audiences who were already consuming relevant content — and they generated more than 5,000 leads per month, as well as a 50% lower cost per acquisition (CPA) and a 0.6% – 0.8% higher click-through rate (CTR) than their other marketing mix channels.


How Contextual Targeting (Actually) Works

Contextual targeting takes a deep dive into understanding your ideal audience. Specifically, it involves the types of pages and articles that your audience is most interested in consuming.

Since Taboola was created, it has continuously processed huge amounts of contextual signals. This has helped to build a machine learning algorithm that understands the relationship between the text in an article and the page’s contextual classification.

This helps us to place our partners’ ads on pages where audiences are truly listening — and with incredible results.

Naked Wines learned about this first hand when they partnered with Taboola to attract new signups to their customer-funded wine service.

The campaign used contextual targeting (among other tools and features) and saw an incredible 8,000 signups in the UK, US, and Australia in eight months. They also saw a 33% higher lifetime value (LTV) than average.

And, as a bonus, Taboola has first-party cookies because Taboola is a recommendation engine for its publisher partners, which helps to “future-proof” our partners’ campaigns as third-party cookies become unavailable.

The Future Is Here — Are You Ready?

As we navigate the near future of digital advertising and consumer engagement, context should be top of mind when thinking about the environment that surrounds your ads and how you target them.

Keep contextual targeting campaigns in mind as you develop your media mix — and contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how Taboola can help.

Create Your Content Campaign Today!