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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

A healthy advertising ecosystem begins with contextual suitability

June 27, 2022 | By Mike Richter, Vice President of global revenue operations – TMB

The media industry is undergoing a massive transformation due to rapid technological disruption, changes in global privacy regulations, as well as increased audience fragmentation. Compounding these factors is the cookie deprecation, leaving brands and media buyers exploring new ways to place their messages in front of target audiences. 

To drive advertising campaign success, brands and media buyers need to holistically consider the ad experience while factoring in contextual suitability. 

Prioritizing contextual suitability

Contextual advertising, or the ability to optimize an environment with aligned messaging for maximum impact on target audiences, is arguably one of connected TV’s (CTV) most important capabilities. The ability to place ads in or around content with relevant messaging to leave a positive imprint on consumers strengthens both brands and publishers – if done correctly. 

Most buyers and marketers understand contextual advertising on a basic level. Consider a hospitality brand looking to attract young and trendy professionals. They may consider placing an ad in a TV episode which features a road trip or spring break vacation in its storyline. This is a great first step in building a relationship with its target audience – but it’s not the end. When it comes to the precise alignment of messaging with target audiences, you can’t speak about contextual suitability without mentioning brand suitability, and by extension, brand safety. 

The characteristics that make content suitable for a brand – or a brand suitable for the content – is totally subjective. A good place to start is a company’s mission and brand story. While programming with risqué content may be a fit for an adults-only resort, it may not be for another that boasts vacation packages for the whole family to enjoy. These types of guards are not only fair, but are recommended when it comes to protecting brand safety, and should be vetted with an advertising partner. The subject of contextual suitability and brand safety are especially important in these times when brands may want to shy away from any references to COVID-19 or divisive politics.

In this same vein, publishers have a vested interest in protecting their brand identity. This can inform their decision to work with certain advertising partners over others. Advanced television viewers continue to tune into programming from specific media companies, channels, and shows because they trust that the whole viewing experience will be tailored to their interests. Additionally, publishers need to ensure the execution of advertisements are cohesive, well-placed and run at the right frequency to keep viewers tuned in. 

Marketers should also refrain from thinking about content in silos. Unlike linear TV, advanced television allows media buyers to effectively buy audiences and not just a singular show. When marketers step back to get the full picture, they will begin to analyze the typical audience and viewing patterns of a show and use this data to better inform media buying strategies. 

When prioritizing contextual suitability, media buyers can opt to buy into a carefully selected list of shows or content metadata that has been tagged with specific keywords, as opposed to buying the full portfolio of a media property. Using the combination of audience and contextual targets allows both publishers and advertisers to connect at a deeper level. 

Keeping viewers tuned in

It is not a secret that the last couple of decades have introduced many new technological innovations that occupy our time and attention. However, therein lies advertisers’ dilemma. Imagine you’re watching a TV show, whether it be on demand, live, or on an ad-supported streaming service. When the show goes to break and the commercials begin, what do you do? Most likely, you fast-forward through them if you’re able, take a bathroom break, or divert your attention to your phone.

With so many ways to occupy our time, we spend it on what we consider to be enjoyable. Maximizing enjoyment and pleasure is something that marketers take into account when using contextual suitability to strategically place advertisements into content. When relevant ads are thoughtfully and strategically integrated into content, consumers will begin to engage with the ad as opposed to simply tolerating it. This is how advertisers can effectively contend with various distractions and devices that are also competing for its audience’s attention. 

Perhaps the most important element of any advertisement is the storytelling format, which can be specifically tailored by advertisers to fit the content. Depending on the given context of where the ad is being placed, advertisers are able to change the mechanisms of the narrative in order to maximize its relevance. For example, in news surrounding politics or global health, the message can be focused on supporting the organization delivering the content, reminding audiences that “we’re all in this together.” Advertisers also have a myriad of digital tools, such as QR codes, as well as psychology-backed formats that are proven to optimize and drive deeper engagement.

Driving a higher ROI

Due to advances in CTV technology in recent years, contextual suitability allows marketers to get the attention of high-value audiences where they want to be. Attention equals profit. But attention alone is not enough. A product needs to be seen in an optimal environment to leave a lasting and positive impression on target audiences. 

In order to capitalize on the advantages of contextual suitability, marketers need to work with advertising partners that can provide deep and holistic insight into target audiences. The status of today’s current media landscape calls for relevant and seamless ad experiences that resonate deeply with consumers. 

About the author

Mike Richter is the Vice President of Global Revenue Operations, at TMB, comprised of sales operations, ad operations, and programmatic revenue. TMB is a leading global media company that reaches hundreds of millions of consumers via our dynamic portfolio of media properties. He offers best-in-class insights and data-driven marketing solutions that reach engaged communities across food, home, lifestyle and wellness content.

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