Managing Context in Digital Advertising

The obsession with targeting means businesses are missing out on reaching larger audiences through context in their digital advertising.

If you read the Financial Times, you’ll see an advert for a Rolex because you probably earn more than the average bear and being advertised in the newspaper gives Rolex a certain gravitas. What you won’t see is an advert for the analgesic you’ve been searching for privately at home on your iPhone and if you did, you’d be embarrassed and probably annoyed that someone had put it there.

This is an example of why context matters; we are more accepting of things that fit into context. If an advert for a Maserati is displayed in a run down area off a main road on a billboard then it’s a total waste of money. There are two reasons for this: the first is that the people who view it won’t be able to buy it and likely never will be able to afford it and nor will anyone they know. The second reason is that the surroundings do not do the product or brand any favours – in fact, they tarnish the brand.

A similar principle operates when it comes to business locations. You might think that the banks renting expensive office space in Canary Wharf are wasting money, and that to reduce costs they should move to a cheaper part of the country, preferably into existing structures at the cheapest rates to maximise profit and improve efficiency. But this rational argument is not the point; the point is the message that the location signals to the outside world.

Although the strength of digital advertising is in targeting, the context should not be totally ignored. There are already problems with digital ad fraud, especially in programmatic display where almost every £1 invested results in only 12p of working media. There is also a wealth of third-party, independently verified research that demonstrates that retargeting people and showing them adverts three or more times reduces rather than increases their likelihood of purchase.

It also explains why adblocking is on the rise and has been since the introduction of invasive, so called ‘personalised advertising’. There is another risk: by not controlling context, digital adverts could appear next to extremist or inappropriate material.

The last decade has been obsessed with hypertargeting. Targeting is fine up to a point but using it as a blanket approach for all future marketing is not advisable. All marketing material should be targeted to a degree, but targeting is not the overriding factor above all else. There are many different things that affect the outcomes of advertising.

All these need to be considered and context is as important in a digital space as it is in the physical world.

There are first-party tools that allow advertisers to directly control the placement of their advertising. This matters even more to small businesses with smaller budgets which often serve small geographic areas. Having tight control here can only be a good thing.

Platforms such as YouTube allow businesses to control the placement of advertising. By using managed placements, an ad is shown to a relevant audience. An example would be targeting only a single YouTube channel or excluding ones you know are irrelevant.

Turning off FAN on Facebook and Search Partners in Google Ads is also advised, otherwise adverts are susceptible to bot-fraud. It’s better to be in control wherever possible.

Balance matters and context is part of that balance. Advertising is as much about context as it is about targeting. As an agency we don’t receive any rebates or incentives for using one tactic over another, whether it’s PR or digital marketing. We are objective in what we do and recognise that our job is to choose the best tactics to communicate based on the unique objectives of each client. All our marketing team are CIM qualified and have many years of experience.

If you’re confused about digital marketing and would like to find out more, please get in touch!