What's Stalling Contextual Targeting For DCO?

The number of advertisers buying online media without some level of audience targeting attached to the buy is dwindling. At the same time, absolutely no advertiser would ever make a dynamic creative buy without leveraging multiple forms of data for targeting, nor would they leverage programmatic without using several signals for more efficient buying.

Given this logic, the prevailing wisdom would tell us advertisers are likely using every data point at their disposal for dynamic creative campaigns, especially if they want to achieve maximum efficiency in the optimization process. However, this isn’t true and some forms of data are overlooked. In particular, contextual data, which is used in numerous ad serving and marketing disciplines, is notably underutilized in dynamic creative optimization (DCO), much to the detriment of marketers.

The underutilization of contextual data is somewhat confusing, considering how verification and viewability have become priorities for all marketers, especially as they look to fight fraud and ensure ads are seen by real consumers. Marketers demand cleaner online environments, as evidenced by P&G’s comments at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference and the more recent controversy surrounding Google’s failure to protect marketers from appearing alongside terrorism and hate speech. Yet very few marketers seem to inquire about what other provider data they can use for ad targeting and delivery.



This valuable data reveals the kind of content surrounding ads when they appear in front of consumers. Armed with this, marketers get a sense of where their impressions land and what categories they fill. It’s useful not only for the actual targeting, but for planning and creative execution.

This information gives marketers a way to approach their creative agency with a unique challenge. It’s a simple question: “What would be the creative opportunities for my brand, if you knew exactly the type of content an ad was running on?”

Imagine giving a creative team a list of the top 10 content categories, provided by a verification provider. This information can help creative run wild with ideas to alter the message and appearance of an ad, so it truly resonates with consumers.

Ideas like this are hardly new and often thrown around at conferences. The problem is, many media buyers get back to their desks and that excitement fades.

If you’re an advertiser reading this right now, ask yourself when you last had a conversation with the producer, copywriter and art director involved in a campaign. The answer is likely never. In which case, I challenge all advertisers to pick up the phone.   

This isn’t a pipe dream. Any advertiser leveraging DCO campaigns can have this conversation, even with live campaigns running. What would the creative team change or do differently, if they could? Adjustments might lead to immediate beneficial outcomes, or enhance the next campaign that takes full advantage of contextual data. If the change can be easily made, there’s little reason not go for it now.

Advertisers don’t need to be using DCO to carry out these conversations. Ongoing discussions with the creative agency about how to adapt content to better fit the page benefits all brands. For brands not on board with DCO, leveraging contextual data to deliver unique creative ideas is an easy way to introduce such ideas without launching a complex strategy.

In truth, marketers who aren’t talking with their creative teams about contextual data are doing themselves a disservice. This data is readily available, and many rely on some form of it for their other metrics. By leveraging it as a creative development and targeting tool, advertisers will find they can open up a world of possibilities.

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