What is Contextual Advertising?

For marketers, serving relevant advertising to audiences is the name of the game. In the digital age, there are two main ways to do just that.

First, there’s behavioral advertising. Just as the name suggests, this strategy takes into account the previous actions of the user. This could include pages they’ve previously visited, links they’ve followed or even purchases they’ve made. This method relies heavily on third-party cookies that collect information about users as they use the internet. 

Second, there’s contextual advertising. Instead of focusing on the user, this strategy takes into account where advertisements will be placed. It puts ads in a context where they will be relevant, rather than making ads follow a user across multiple sites.

For example, the ad could be for strollers placed on an advice site for expecting parents. Or an ad for a sports betting app that displays on ESPN’s website.

No matter how it looks, contextual advertising depends on placing advertising with relevant content. And the content can’t only be relevant. It needs to be high quality too.

Need some proof? During the past few years Integral Ad Science (IAS) has completed research that shows why quality content is essential for contextual advertising.

Why Does Quality Content Matter in Contextual Advertising?

In 2019, IAS discovered that consumers found ads that appeared on high quality sites to be more likeable, more memorable and more engaging. They call this the Halo Effect. It means where your ads display will impact how audiences will receive them. 

In their follow up research, IAS found out relevant advertising was nearly as important to consumers as the context in which ads appear. This report, the Ripple Effect, monitored participants from major markets across the world.  Reinforcing their original research, this project also found audiences are more likely to engage with advertising that displays next to high-quality content.

But it’s not just that high-quality content boosts the probability of your viewers to consider, engage with or favor your ads. Displaying your advertising next to low-quality content irritates customers. IAS found that more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed would think less of your brand if your campaigns displayed next to low-quality content. Even worse, more than 60 percent said they would potentially stop using your products if your brand popped up next to low-quality content.

Bottom line? Consumers care about the quality of content next to your advertising. And we know why. Consumers know brands have power over where their advertisements run. IAS found more than 60 percent of consumers surveyed hold brands responsible for what content surrounds their messaging.

What Makes Content High Quality?

In their original research on the Ripple Effect, IAS noted that ‘high-quality content’ varies between audiences. Tolerance levels for certain subjects vary quite a bit from individual to individual, so how are you supposed to know what’s a safe bet for your brand?

IAS completed follow-up research, The Ripple Effect 2.0, to help you determine what factors to prioritize when working on a contextual advertising strategy. Here are the characteristics consumers seek out in quality content:

Trusted: The content they are interacting with lives with outlets and websites they consider well-established and trustworthy.

Appropriate: While how appropriate content is ultimately depends on the viewer’s perspective, consumers appreciate content that is free of obviously inappropriate themes. Violence and hate speech were just two examples from IAS research.

Objective: Consumers consider content without an obvious slant to be higher quality than more biased content. When possible and appropriate for your brand, make sure your advertising lands in more objective digital spaces.

Other important elements for how advertising is displayed—the production quality of the content, the personal perception of the content and how relevant the content is for each individual.  

What Are Actionable Steps for Marketers?

This set of studies from IAS provide marketers an opportunity to layer content quality and advertising content relevance. Together, these elements help find the right audience in the right place, serving them campaigns they find engaging, trustworthy and memorable.

And when it comes to creating leads for your brand, that makes a big difference.