How Contextual Targeting Works in Mobile Programmatic Advertising

By Vungle | March 18, 2022

Contextual targeting is a tried-and-true technique that’s even more effective when paired with the scale and efficiency of programmatic mobile app advertising.

Contextual ad targeting isn’t new.

In fact, it’s one of the oldest techniques in digital advertising.

It spent some time in the backseat relative to the popularity and power of behavioral targeting made possible by user-level identifiers like IDFA, but contextual targeting practices are rising to prominence once again as changes to digital privacy practices re-shape the market landscape.

The evolving advent of programmatic mobile app advertising, however, means that contextual advertising principles can now be applied to even greater effect than before. It’s a complementary relationship every mobile marketer should endeavor to understand, though it has a few noteworthy differences from how things work in the desktop world.

Traditionally, contextual ad targeting practices typically pair advertisements with relevant media based on the relationship between their respective subject matters. In web media, an ad for financial services appearing alongside an article about how to prepare for retirement would be an example of effective contextual ad targeting in action. These sorts of web-based advertising transactions have long been possible via major programmatic desktop advertising platforms like Google Ads, and are now more commonplace in the mobile in-app world thanks to the growing mobile programmatic infrastructure built around technologies like the Open RTB protocol.

How does contextual targeting work in mobile programmatic advertising?

The same principles that apply in desktop contextual targeting also apply to the in-app world, but with a few additional variables at play. Just like the world of desktop advertising, an ad for a promotional banking offer would likely perform well within a stock tracker app, but on mobile devices, mobile-specific contextual parameters like OS version, battery level, and available device storage allow for additional targeting efficiencies. In the programmatic world, these same efficiencies are amplified through the continued proliferation of in-app bidding on mobile.

Related: What Is App Bidding? – The Complete Guide to Programmatic Ad Monetization

Combining contextual targeting with programmatic advertising is the natural evolution of both tactics. Contextual targeting criteria can be included in a bid submitted to a demand source where it can be potentially paired with limitless bid requests as opposed to network-specific contextual targeting, which has a much more limited scope of reach.

While first-party data will always have some advantage over other methods, it may not be plentiful enough to achieve your user acquisition goals at scale. In that event, contextual targeting can help advertisers reach qualified audiences based on criteria like app category and device information. Contextual targeting in programmatic advertising makes that process as efficient as possible, allowing advertisers to quickly adjust campaigns in response to performance.

The role of ad creative in contextual programmatic advertising

In the absence of user-level identifiers, it’s crucial to ensure ad creative has broad appeal. Many mobile marketers make the mistake of thinking that means it has to be safe for all audiences — and that “safe” means “boring.” That approach works for hotel decor, but not ads meant to attract and hold attention.

Advertisers should take the time to design creative with bold colors, eye-catching design, breathtaking imagery, humor, or all of the above. And above all, make sure your voice comes through loud and clear, to let potential customers see what your brand stands for. Don’t forget best practices for ad creative: Have variations for each ad set, ensure they feel consistent with each other and with your brand, and A/B test everything possible. Working with a partner can optimize the ad design and testing process, allowing you to zero in on what works faster.

The right partner

Contextual ad targeting combined with programmatic advertising allows advertisers to maximize their ad budget by bidding on high-value impressions — and change what “high-value” means on the fly. The right partner gives you the power to leverage data in real-time to ensure you’re optimizing your spend. With GameRefinery, a Liftoff Company, we can provide exceptional contextual targeting with more than 700 category-specific variables included in GameRefinery’s creative intelligence platform. To learn more about how Vungle can get you the results you’re after, get in touch to learn more.