Of course, as the monarchy was pushed aside and simply made to be a figurehead and the real-world work was done by the ministers in “data,” an insurrection arrived led by the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon. That insurrection has left a truly unstable governing structure that seems to point toward a future where, once again, content may be king.
There is data to be had, so don’t misinterpret what is going on. That data consists of two primary sources: first-party and walled garden. First-party data is whatever you have to work with and is going to be of utmost value. Your first-party data will be the lifeline that allows you to create models that help you reach the audience of groups or like-minded targets without venturing into the GDPR-protected world of one-to-one targeting. One-to-one is going away quickly.
The walled gardens will also have data you can leverage, provided you leverage it within their platforms, once again making their platforms more intriguing and stifling the effectiveness of the open web. The open web becomes the domain of contextual targeting again, like it used to be in those “olden days” I referred to at the start. The question I ask, though: Is that all that bad?
Contextual targeting is great. It works. It has always worked. Contextual targeting with a little bit of data layered over it is extremely effective at delivering a relevant message to a targeted audience.
Marketers never left contextual ads, but they became less “sexy” and were considered commonplace. Paid search is contextual advertising. It is the most basic type of contextual advertising and it still represents the lion’s share of how ad dollars are spent online.
There’s also a myriad of opportunities for contextual placements in leading branded publications as well as through self-service platforms that drop contextual ads into news and social feeds. These provide scale and targetability, and in many cases they can be purchased on a performance-based pricing model. Contextual targeting based on relevant content is not only important, but it becomes the backbone of any digital campaign.
As a marketer, I ask my teams to optimize campaigns weekly or biweekly. No campaign is ever stagnant. Campaigns are living, breathing, organic organisms. They ebb and flow. They expand and succeed better over time because we are looking at how our story is told, where it is being told, and how effective it is in creating interest. The work you put in to examine the campaign and ensure the balance of relevance and placement is where the secret sauce is cooked up.
The secret ingredient in that sauce is always, and has always been, context. Data was the ingredient that everyone recognized, and everyone was using. Context was the thing that everyone overlooked. It is sort of like the smoked paprika of any recipe: People always forget about it.
So the next time you sit down to craft the recipe of your next campaign, don’t forget to think about context. It’s more important than you may think. It will make your standard campaign more effective. It can be your chance to ensure proper qualification of the audience and drive success in the wake of fewer options for data at your disposal. Plus, it makes everything just taste better -- sort of like smoked paprika!