Contextual targeting • Programmatic Cookie-less future

Contextual targeting • Programmatic Cookie-less future


Wojtek Andrzejczak
Wojtek Andrzejczak
Contextual targeting • Programmatic...

In the Cookie-less times, contextual targeting is getting more popular than ever. But are we able to deliver contextual targeting programmatically?

What is Contextual targeting?

Contextual targeting is a practice to deliver ads to the user based on the page’s content he is currently reading. At this point, we don’t need to know who the user is. Instead, we are interested to deliver content to the user visiting page which is related to our ads.

It also does not require the use of cookies or any other persistent identifier.

Before we go further

The described schemes below are just an example. Each publisher has a different data flow and setup. My idea is to focus on the general concept rather than a 1:1 copy&paste solution.

Direct booking campaigns workflow

The concept of direct booking campaigns is the most common practice to deliver Geo-Location, Weather, or Intelligent Contextual targeting combined with custom targeting key-values.

In a simple way to describe this flow, each time the website/app is loading, a 3rd party SDK must process all the environmental conditions (location, article text, etc.). In return, the 3rd party service, after processing the data, returns custom targeting values. Afterward, those values are passed to the publisher to match a campaign with those specific targeting values.

To deliver ads to the user, the 3rd party service must pass key-values directly to the Google SDK so that the Google Ad Manager could find a matching campaign.

Contextual Targeting / Delivery chain / Direct Booking
Contextual Targeting / Delivery chain / Direct Booking

But what about programmatic campaigns?

Programmatic advertising requires cookies or device IDs like IDFA or GAID to let the system target specific user segments. So is it possible to deliver programmatic campaigns without using any of those identifiers?

Yes, it is possible. However, it requires the use of Private deals between publisher and advertiser.

My small programmatic concept

To the diagram above, I’ve added a new section where we define on the publisher side a Programmatic Private deal in which we define custom targeting key-values. Then, each time the user visits a page identified by 3rd party SDK with a specific contextual value, the agency will display their ads to the user using, for example, Google DV360.

Contextual Targeting / Delivery chain / Programmatic Booking
Contextual Targeting / Delivery chain / Programmatic Booking

Private deals custom key-value targeting

It is common practice to use the custom targeting key-value technique in a programmatic deal. Often it can be found when a publisher offers a programmatic deals inventory for each section of their website. For example, if this is a news website, then Sport, Politics, Business, or Economic category will be identified by a different category context value (category_context=sport).

In our case the value, we would like to use is coming from the 3rd party service.

Why delivering ads via private deals is important?

Acquiring new clients, setting campaigns on your own DSP, and sending the tags to the publisher to let them set up the whole direct campaign is time-consuming and a lot of resources. And time is money; the more time you spend on the campaign, the less money you earn.

Setting a programmatic deal allows the publisher to send it to multiple agencies (or clients) to use it to deliver their campaigns.

Even if the agency might not deliver many ad impressions, we can reach multiple agencies simultaneously on behalf of our publisher, so in total, it could be a lot of ad impressions combined.

Reporting and billing problems

If we are the owner of the 3rd party service, everything that we do is pass the targeting values to the publisher. It means that we really don’t have any control and overview of how often their values are used and how many ad impressions have been delivered.

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to solve this issue. Of course, we can agree to make a billing based on the monthly deals reporting. But the publisher will have to include all deals that he has created.

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