A series of tragic and harrowing events have shaken the world as we know it in recent years. Among these, the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have us all worried and wondering what happens next.

While we reflect upon these events and the loss of life that we have witnessed over the last few years, it’s easy to lose sight of our own individual responsibilities. Every one of us, from an anonymous user posting on an online board to major advertising agencies, has a responsibility to be more selective in how we communicate. With that being said, not all of us have the same reach or impact, which is why the onus falls on ad agencies and brands to be the most responsible with what and where they advertise.

It’s quite distasteful to see brands advertising their products next to scenes of destruction and suffering. After all, advertising is about making a positive mental connection between the product and its advertising. Hence, ensuring brand responsibility ultimately comes down to one thing: where your ad is displayed. So, how can you achieve selectivity in ad placement, without blacklisting websites altogether?

Thanks to contextual advertising, brands can remain profitable while avoiding negative connotations and imagery.

Suitable advertising

So, how does contextual targeting solve the complex issue of avoiding negative content and placing ads only where it’s safe?

To understand what it can do for you, a basic idea of contextual targeting is needed, no matter how elusive it might seem. We say elusive, as not even marketers and media owners can seem to agree on what constitutes contextual targeting.

To some, contextual targeting is simply the use of media content to target audiences, while others add semantic understanding of the content to the equation. Other individuals say it’s something entirely different, one that involves using content metadata to target audiences. For those who are more SEO-minded, they will claim it’s all about solutions you come up with based on the search or intent signals of a piece of content.

Whichever explanation you subscribe to, the main focus of contextual targeting remains the same — understanding the content being consumed, rather than understanding the person consuming it. In addition, a greater emphasis is placed on content sentiment, and whether it’s positive, neutral or negative.

Contextual targeting is a paradigm shift and a return to a period before third-party cookies had completely taken over. Naturally, it coincides with growing consumer privacy legislation and the reduction of tracking data available to advertisers.

By focusing on the content itself rather than the user, contextual targeting allows for more creative optimization methods, better audience development and most importantly, heightened brand security. Contextual targeting uses the context, i.e., semantic understanding of language, intent and on-site search, to find the most appropriate placement for an ad.

Whether you want to avoid misinformation or just steer clear of news coverage that could damage your brand, contextual targeting can help you by determining the content of the page.

It can do more than that, however. Using MGID contextual intelligence tools, you can filter out sensitive content and exclude it from advertisement placements. By excluding particular topics, sentiment or emotional tones, you can stay safe knowing that your brand message is always delivered in the right context, ensuring brand safety in the long haul.

Upcoming trends

While contextual targeting is growing in relevance — and every aspect of it (context, search, intent) is considered imperative now — it still remains only one of many solutions that exist in the ad tech ecosystem. A combination of contextual understandings, efficient tools and technologies is necessary for success in the evolving ad tech space.

It’s also possible we’re going to see an uptick in sell-side self-sufficiency. Large and powerful tech vendors have been leveraging their unique position to mediate and automate ad buying and selling. It’s highly likely that media owners are going to decide to cut out the middleman and handle content and context seller-side.

In the spirit of greater independence from tech intermediaries, it’s also likely that we’ll see a surge in media owner cooperation, leading to more interoperability by agreeing to abide by industry standards. If media owners were to package brand safety, contextual planning, audience insights and content evaluation together, they’d be able to compete in a market where large companies have saturated and dominated the audience delivery field.

Finally, due to more cookie and tracking data restrictions, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to target specific audience groups. Until another solution appears, brands will try to get full coverage of all audiences across the media or content they consume, regardless of individual metrics such as age. However, when the dust from third-party cookie bans settles, it’s highly likely that a hybrid model will arise, one that combines contextual targeting and targeting based on users' digital signals such as device type or language.

Final thoughts

Contextual targeting is a sure-proof way of maintaining brand safety in times of fear and uncertainty. By reading into the context of the page with the help of advanced contextual intelligence tools, it’s possible to avoid topics of your choice and essentially handpick where your ads appear.