Commentary

Can Publishers' Contextual Targeting Replace Third-Party Cookies?

Tracking online audiences is expected to become more difficult as technology companies respond to people's concerns about privacy by giving them ways to be more anonymous. As advertisers seek ways to reach unduplicated audiences, they're skeptical about the contextual targeting offered by publishers, a survey by data-management company Lotame indicates.

About two-thirds (65%) of markets said they aren't confident that contextual targeting alone is an adequate replacement for audience-based targeting, according to the study. Their skepticism stands in contrast to the 68% of publishers that said they're confident that contextual targeting is a good substitute.

The apparent lack of agreement comes as Google prepares to end support for third-party cookie tracking in Chrome, the world's most popular web browser, early next year. This spring, Apple will update the software that runs the iPhone and other gadgets to ask customers for consent to share tracking information with apps.
Those planned changes have led to much hand-wringing among publishers. Many of them tout their strengths in contextual advertising, or placing ads next to content that engages readers. The content can specialized, as in the case of enthusiast or fashion titles, or general interest.
Either way, publishers like to tout their strengths in providing advertiser with a brand-safe environment, unlike the toxic cesspool of hate speech, falsehoods and trolling that make social media so engaging for many people.
Marketers say contextual targeting doesn't completely make up for the loss of cookie tracking. While it’s still useful for awareness campaigns that draw consumers into the top of the purchase funnel, marketers want to know how their advertising leads to a final sale, as Lotame notes.
To help demonstrate their effectiveness for advertisers, many publishers are doing more to collect first-party data from consumers. That information can come from ecommerce, subscriptions and memberships or surveys. Some 44% of publishers relay on survey and panel data, making the method more popular than using marketer data (38%), third-party data from vendors (26%) or second-party data from other publishers (19%), Lotame's survey found.
Amid the significant shift in media consumption and shopping habits, advertisers are looking for sources of first-party data to hone their targeting. Publishers that provide richer sources of data can benefit from that demand.

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1 comment about "Can Publishers' Contextual Targeting Replace Third-Party Cookies?".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, March 1, 2021 at 3:41 p.m.

    Publishers may well be able to produce usable contextual targeting.   Some will do it well, others nit so well.

    But unless the publishers share their data (thus negating the reason third-party cookies are under siege) an advertiser will just end up with a bunch of data for each publisher vertical and no de-duplication across the campaign.

    Media agencies require the 'bigger picture' than just a 'feel-good' data stack from each publisher.

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