Jun'23·Jordi Capdevila·2 MIN

Why mobile app marketers must explore contextual targeting

Home Why mobile app marketers must explore contextual targeting

Apple has been a staunch advocate for consumer data privacy and has fueled the data privacy revolution as early as 2015 when it first introduced an ad blocker to Safari. This was followed by the 2017 release of its privacy feature, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which limited the use of cookies set in a 1st party context. 

In 2020 came the announcement of a stepped-up ITP feature that, by default, blocked all third-party cookies without exceptions. What closely followed was the bold iOS update in 2021 that asked users to opt-in if they wanted in-app ad tracking.

Before iOS 14, Limited-ad tracking (LAT) was Apple's privacy feature that allowed users to restrict advertisers from tracking their activities across different apps and websites for targeted advertising. App Tracking Transparency (ATT) was introduced after iOS 14, which automatically opted Apple users out of data tracking. Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) and Google Advertising ID (GAID) are the iOS and Android unique identifiers that enable marketers and advertisers to access persona-level app activity for personalized ad targeting. 

The arrival of ATT posed challenges for advertisers, publishers, and app developers who hinge on this user-level data to target specific audience pools and optimize campaigns. Google also announced its decision to phase out third-party cookies in 2024, which shook the Android market and the AdTech industry. 

With the waves of change transforming the advertising industry, behavioral advertising is taking a back seat as contextual targeting makes its comeback. Contextual advertising is a privacy-first audience targeting strategy that displays ads based on the content and context of a webpage. However, analyzing content and context may be more complex within mobile apps. 

Contextual targeting in mobile app advertising  

Analyzing the content and context within mobile apps is not as straightforward as web pages. But instead of relying on user-specific data or tracking users, contextual targeting focuses on the characteristics and attributes of the app, its content, and the user's current context. How does this work? 

  • Identifying app categories - Marketers identify the mobile app categories that align with their target personas and advertising objectives.
  • Analyzing app content - The content within the shortlisted apps is examined to look for topics, themes, and keywords relevant to the product or service that needs to be advertised.

For example, if a travel app is being advertised, considering the user intent and context when engaging with those apps, relevant categories could include travel guides, tour packages, or hotel and flight booking.

Contextual targeting is a privacy-safe alternative to user-based behavioral targeting. It focuses on a consumer's current interests by analyzing the content they are consuming at that moment to display the most contextually relevant ads. The ad format can be text, image, or video-based, and advertisers can reach the most relevant audience base without leveraging IDFA.

By leveraging the powers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Natural Language Processing (NLP), contextual advertising analyzes the description of the app and in-app content and its context, to determine user interests and their likelihood of engaging with ads.

 While the focus today lies on IDFA, Android will be soon to follow. Advertisers and brands that get a hold of contextual targeting early with iOS can easily replicate it on Android when GAID is phased out.  Overcoming the challenges and limitations posed by data privacy laws and frameworks, contextual targeting effectively targets users within specific app categories.

It is an effective way for brands to engage prospects using ads that align with their current interests and needs. Contextual targeting also guarantees transparent advertising practices that comply with privacy regulations and respect user preferences.

Exploring contextual advertising? Talk to us.

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