What Is Contextual Marketing?

By Vungle | April 29, 2022

Contextual marketing is a strategy of ensuring the right audience sees the right ad — all without compromising their privacy.

Mobile marketers don’t simply release their ads into the ether and hope for the best — they want to maximize the impact of ad spend by reaching their most valuable users. New privacy regulations and the decline of data collection sources like IDFA make that more complicated — but there are alternatives. Contextual marketing is a promising strategy that uses non-identifying signals to match ad creative to the right audience without compromising user privacy. This article will explore how contextual marketing works and what data variables have the greatest impact on campaign performance.

Jump to a section…

What is contextual marketing?
What is context in advertising?
Building creative using contextual analysis
Leveraging contextual ad targeting
Why contextual marketing matters post-IDFA
How Vungle can help

What is contextual marketing?

Contextual marketing is a targeted strategy that ensures specific audiences will view impactful advertising content. Mobile marketers can accomplish this goal in two steps:

  1. Design creatives and brand messaging that will resonate with a target audience.
  2. Use a contextual ad targeting system to identify members of an audience and match them with the correct ad creative.

Building and serving contextual ads for mobile marketing requires a deep understanding of your audience segments. You must know how they engage with ad channels, what they seek from a brand, and how their needs change from moment to moment. With this knowledge, you can determine their position within the marketing funnel and present creative that reflects their personalized needs.

What is context in advertising?

So what do we mean by “context” in the world of advertising? In short, context refers to targeting criteria that signifies whether an audience segment is likely to view a given ad placement. This context is established in real time by analyzing characteristics of the placement’s host media channel. For example, suppose a user triggers an ad placement on a mobile website. In that case, a contextual marketing system could analyze its text and metadata to serve ad creative that matches select keywords.

As in-app marketing channels become more common, mobile marketers are assigning context to mobile identifiers. These usually include location data, installed apps, app store purchases, app usage data, and more. In some instances, marketers can supplement these contextual identifiers with first-party data such as age, gender, or behavioral metrics.

Also Read: 4 Contextual Targeting Strategies for the Post-IDFA World

When a contextual marketing system is used effectively, it can be a powerful tool for serving the right ad for the right user at the right time. As just one example, a restaurant might use contextual location data to target smartphones near their business. If it’s midday, the messaging could include a lunch promotion or discount.

Building creative using contextual analysis

The first step of contextual advertising is to design creative that resonates with your target audience. This typically starts with taking a customer persona, identifying app categories the persona enjoys and producing ad content that reflects its characteristics. If a mobile game marketer knows what games their audience engages with, they can place similar ads in those games to capture user attention.

The challenge is knowing which characteristics to include in your ad. Solutions like GameRefinery, a Liftoff company, solve this problem by designing ads around contextual elements, such as:

  • Genre fit: Does your ad highlight characteristics of the app category it will show in? If you place your ad in sports games, it should reflect the sports genre instead of action and adventure conventions.
  • Visual elements: What will the user see? Does the ad use images, descriptive text, or both? Where is the logo or call to action placed? Ideally, marketers should follow a visual design that will engage their chosen audience. While visual elements will not be paired contextually, they will still have an impact when reaching someone from your target audience.
  • Moods and styles: What tone does your ad communicate? Is it fun, relaxing, humorous, or all of the above? Your ad should reflect a style or mood that is contextually relevant to your target market and app genre.
  • Player motivations: What value will players get from the advertised game? Do they enjoy fast-paced gameplay? Skill-based challenges? Multiplayer mechanics? Presenting these elements in the ad will help you capture user attention when the ad is served.

Leveraging contextual ad targeting

Creating ads that resonate with your audience is one-half of contextual marketing. The second half is placing your ad in a media channel your audience enjoys — a process called contextual ad targeting. By matching the right ad to a contextual channel, you can maximize ad spend value and drive high-value conversions.

In modern digital marketing, contextual advertisers share their audience-relevant variables or keywords with a media source. From there, the media source will pair the ad with their app or website content that meets the advertising parameters. Once a match is found, the ad is served, and everyone — user, advertiser, and publisher — gets what they want.

Contextual ad targeting is possible thanks to contextual signals — identifiers that match a piece of creative to a given media source. Some examples of signals include:

  • App signals: Information drawn from the app itself, such as category or subcategory, app version, impression depth, or completion rate.
  • Device signals: Non-PII relating to a mobile device, including operating system, keyboard language, and location or time settings.
  • Creative signals: The creative information established during the previous step — genre fit, visuals, moods, and player motivations.

Why contextual marketing matters post-IDFA

Contextual marketing and targeting techniques are not as precise as other methods, but their value to advertisers is on the rise. With the arrival of iOS 14.5 and the decline of IDFA-based data collection, mobile platforms have more digital privacy restrictions than ever before. As a result, widely available user information is now at just a fraction of its previous volume. In response, mobile marketers are looking for alternative data sources that meet the same needs.

Contextual marketing offers a compelling alternative, especially as emerging technologies like machine learning help advertisers extract anonymous insights. With the right contextual identifiers, marketers can gain IDFA-quality results without compromising user privacy.

How Vungle can help

Vungle, a Liftoff company, offers a complete contextual marketing solution, from creative design to ad targeting. The team at GameRefinery, a Liftoff company, provides exceptional contextual targeting capabilities across 700+ category-specific variables included in GameRefinery, a Liftoff company’s, creative intelligence program. Meanwhile, Vungle Creative Labs can design compelling ad creative that maximizes your ad budget’s impact at any scale. To find out how Vungle, a Liftoff company, can drive your campaign performance at every level, sign up today.