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Contextual targeting emerging as alternative to third-party cookies

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Contextual targeting emerging as alternative to third-party cookies

2021-05-17. January 2022 will mark a turning point in the advertising market with the end of third-party cookies. Some news publishers have been already working to adapt to the new post-cookie world in which contextual advertising will play an important role.

It will be necessary to optimise the targeting processes of profiles obtained with IDs or first-party cookies. Publishers will also have to see what role Google plays, with its alternative to cookies, FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), a system that relies on tokens that identify user preferences, while complying with data privacy laws.

Dorthe Bjerregaard-Knudsen, Executive Vice President and COO of JP/Politikens Hus, Denmark, and Sasha Heroy, Senior Director of Ad Products and Platforms at The New York Times, joined WAN-IFRA’s LATAM Media Leaders eSummit in May to discuss what their publishing houses are doing.

Bjerregaard-Knudsen explained that “because Denmark is the strictest country in the world when it comes to GDPR,” this environment has helped the company prepare for what’s coming. For example, she said, users accessing a website in Denmark find only two tracking buttons: accept or reject, “and many people choose to reject.” This has forced them for some time to look for solutions that now appear to be a way to deal with the cookieless world.

“We are already used to using 1:1 tracking,” Bjerregaard-Knudsen said, “and we have invested a lot of money in our segmentation platform (Relevance). We collect data from our registered users, and on the other hand, we work a lot on the contextual data of all our content.”

This combination of user and contextual data “offers a better experience for advertisers,” she said.

“By working in this way we can use our inventory. With first-party data there are no limitations, and we can use all of it. And with contextual targeting there is no personal data. We can build specific audiences that make brands fit perfectly well, within the great security we offer.”

Danish publishers join forces to create a platform for advertisers

In addition to their individual efforts, Bjerregaard-Knudsen said there has been a joint initiative by Danish publishers to offer an alternative to the digital advertising market.

The platform, through a user-friendly booking interface, allows advertisers to display their products or brands in the news media that are part of the platform, she said.

The criteria for selecting which news brands can be part of the platform is based on their level of quality. “Only responsible news media can join,” Bjerregaard-Knudsen said.

It is open to all, but they have to be accepted by a board that regulates the quality of Danish media.

Another benefit of this ad platform is that all the money goes to the media partners.

“We have turned the value chain upside down,” she said, adding: “Advertisers’ budgets decrease as they go down the value chain. But on this platform, if advertisers invest 100 kroner, that’s 100 kroner that’s going to be shown in advertising and nothing is left behind. Even though we have to pay for the technology, by getting all the money from the advertisers’ investment, it compensates for the expense and we can continue to invest in more technology.”

The platform respects the privacy of the media that are part of it. Publishers see what each one earns, but not each other’s revenue, and each media outlet sets its own prices.

Emotion-based context

At The New York Times, Sasha Heroy said they are focused on how the NYT catalogues and classifies content, to give it contextual value, but also focusing on emotions and moods, something that will be fundamental in the future.

According to Heroy, the end of third-party cookies will be a major catalyst for change. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning have revolutionised targeting tools and laws have changed the landscape, and all of that brings us to the value of context,” she said.

She added that they have emphasised insight targeting: “We asked readers to read thousands of articles, and so each article received a score on the emotions readers felt.”

Because the NYT publishes so much diverse content, ranging from political, economic, cultural, scientific, etc., to articles about love or recipes, cataloguing content according to the mood it generates provides advertisers with a context in which advertising works very efficiently.

“Readers are very receptive to emotionally targeted messages. The CTR is much higher than in other targeting,” she said.

The NYT’s content contextualisation work doesn’t stop at emotions, but also catalogues content to relate it to motivation, and detects segments of people who are willing to take action.

This different contextualisation from the traditional one allows to break some limitations, for example, the differences in the interest or sensations that readers experience when they read a report about a sports team or a match report.

Bjerregaard-Knudsen added that, indeed, until now, contextualisation “has been very much focused on our content, but now it is more about the semantics and the details of the content, the feelings, and it is much more advanced than it was in the past.

This insightful and emotional targeting also forces campaign designers to create messages that match the sentiment that the content elicits from the reader, Heroy said. The NYT has created guidelines to help advertisers align with this targeting “to get the most out of our content.”

Europe needs new standards

Bjerregaard-Knudsen noted a problem European publishers face with contextualisation: “We need better standards than what we have now in Europe. We are coming together to create a new standard, because the IAB standards are not enough. The standard is too American. For example, in Europe we are too focused on football, and there is only one category. You can’t go into detail. This is one of the most important challenges we have to face, to provide new standards for our publishers.”

Both Bjerregaard-Knudsen and Heroy agreed that the winner in the new scenario without third-party cookies will be Google.

“If nothing is done about it,” says Bjerregaard-Knudsen, “it is clear that the winner will be Google. Everything that is happening with Google’s Privacy Sandbox and the plans that have been put in place to remove third-party cookies in Chrome are in Google’s interest. I hope the regulators will be able to see that.”

However, she also believes that, to some extent, publishers have a chance to regain some of their position. “I don’t think that saying goodbye to cookies will benefit us with respect to Google or Facebook, but we do get something back, especially the long tail.”

Heroy: “Google and Facebook are going to be in a very advantageous position, but we hope that the strength of the NYT will be an advantage in our favour. However, we also have to test what Google is doing. We will test proposals like FLoC and see to what extent they can work.”

However, both were also convinced that, despite the risks and challenges that lie ahead, the removal of third-party cookies is a step forward.

According to Bjerregaard-Knudsen, “our role had been diminished and we had become a place where you can find the user, but where the quality we provided was not properly remunerated. This is going to change.”

For Heroy, “both publishers and the industry have been talking for some time about the difficulties of working with cookies, because users don’t want to be subjected to tracking. Hopefully in this new scenario we can build something better.”

Article written by the staff of Laboratorio de Periodismo of the Luca de Tena Foundation

Laboratorio de Periodismo (Journalism Laboratory) is an initiative of the Luca de Tena Foundation that was born to try to meet the needs of journalists derived from the transformation of the sector, the disruptive change in the information business and the demand for new professional profiles in environments where such training is, in most cases, not available to new professionals.

Source: https://wan-ifra.org/2021/05/emotion-and-intent-based-contextual-advertising-emerging-as-promising-alternatives-to-third-party-cookies/

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