By Darren Gilbert
“The success of online advertising stems from [those] campaigns that work for [their] clients.” That’s what you’ll hear if you speak to HelloComputer’s strategic director, Lieze Langford. In the world of online advertising, if you want to persuade someone to take part, you need to be able to show them that the medium can produce results. If you attempt to compare it against your traditional channels, you might see a little hesitancy in the client’s eyes. However, that should change if you point them in the direction of contextual advertising.
Sitting under the umbrella of targeted advertising, it’s a form that is fairly easy to understand and one that is often spoken about. What is even more exciting about it is that if it is done well, it has the ability to push aside the fear that often accompanies the online channel. That’s a belief held by Machine Agency group creative director Jake Bester and he isn’t the only one. Langford is just as adamant about the important role that contextual advertising can play.
If you want a straightforward definition of why it is effective, you only have to glance at the name. As Gloo Digital Design’s creative director Pete Case says, “it’s a modern method of aligning [editorial] content with advertisements”. It’s also a process that Ogilvy Cape Town’s digital guru Chris Rawlinson finds can be highly technical and even boring at times. However, there is certainly something more to it. I’m talking about creating relevant advertising aimed at the right audience, which in turn eliminates the opinion that advertising is invasive. As Langford states, going the contextual route is about creating messages based on “true solid strategic media planning”.
However, it’s not happening as often as it should, continues Langford. “It comes down to money, really. Publishers and agencies are scared of pay per click. As a publisher, you might not be getting as much money as you would if you were paid per impression. But we are seeing some publishers moving in that direction.” In order to make sure that more take that route, it comes down to understanding the target market, says Langford. “For a pure contextual advertising point of view, it’s about a solid keyword strategy and then placing your adverts accordingly. But you only get that right when you focus on the audience.”
“Our job is to find that path between the user and the brand,” she adds. “Let’s look at a food website, for example. You need to know the content and build a relationship with the online editor. That way, you’ll understand what is placed on the site and thus what would be relevant to its viewers. You are trying to make [your advert] relevant to the end user.” However, Langford believes it needs to be more strategic than just placing a relevant ad next to editorial content.
It’s also about finding a way to embed an advert into the content. “In this way, contextual advertising becomes more connected with your content, which is where the magic happens. It allows for a partnership between the content and a brand.” This in turn allows for consumers to view the brand in a different light as it is no longer shouting at its audience but rather showing a caring and empathetic side. It’s a plan that encompasses “integration while remaining consumer-centric”, she adds.
According to Bester, one way to achieve this is by keeping the adverts interesting and engaging. “They need to be relevant enough and interesting enough to make someone want to click on them. For any brief, no matter the platform [or channel], you need to figure out how that is going to happen. You need to ask yourself: ‘how am I going to make them stop and think when they are reading or searching for something else?’”
It’s wise to be cautious at this stage. As much as contextual advertising is a good fit for brands looking to advertising online, it’s not a method that you can use to fulfil every objective, Bester points out. “While a call to action is one thing, creating brand awareness is another. I think it goes back to understanding your target market. The behaviour of people on the internet is very specific and you have to be aware of that.”
This doesn’t mean you should forget about it. Advertising online may appear to be a black hole (a statement that Langford agrees is a common opinion held by clients), but it’s not. It’s just another channel, and one that suits an advertising strategy such as contextual. So why not consider it?
What do you think about contextual advertising and its effectiveness? Have you seen any good examples recently? Let us know on our blog