Why Video-Level Data Is an Immediate Panacea for Privacy and Brand Safety Concerns

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As Marketer Concerns Rise to the Fore, the Call for Better Contextual Targeting is Answered

By Field Garthwaite, CEO IRIS.TV

In mid-January, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act (BSAA), an unprecedented piece of legislation that would ban the use of personal data when serving advertisements to American citizens. The bill is unlikely to pass in its current form; however, it is a symbol of a broader movement reshaping the advertising industry. Together with the coming end of cookies, the BSAA should serve as a wake-up call for advertisers to prepare now for a future in which individual targeting based on personal data is verboten.

While marketers could focus on the impact of the proposed legislation on current targeting and attribution practices, the BSAA also shines a spotlight on a tool that should have growing importance going forward: contextual targeting. Rather than using anonymized personal information from individual consumers, contextual targeting relies on the relevance of the content itself to reach an intended audience. And the more detailed that data is, the more precise and secure the targeting is.

The Drive Toward Content and Context

Every ad campaign across digital video and connected TV (CTV) involves a triangle of factors for success: audience, content and context. Over the last few years, marketers have focused primarily on audience — investing time, money and technology in defining audiences as precisely as possible using personal behavioral data. However, new legislation and technology headwinds–most notably the aforementioned coming death of third-party cookies–make this focus on audience a risky long-term endeavor. As a result, the ad tech and CTV ecosystem are working to replace the importance of audience information by strengthening the other two elements of the triangle: content and context.

Over the last few weeks, a few key events have helped to amplify the need for contextual targeting as the longer-term solution for effective video advertising. First, the previously mentioned BSAA, which aims to more actively regulate identity data and also endorses contextual data as an acceptable alternative. Following the introduction of that bill, Google quickly announced that it would no longer support its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which had been intended to replace third-party cookies but was still, in essence, based on the identities of group members. Instead, Google introduced content-based Topics, their proprietary form of contextual targeting.

Support for Video-Level Content Intelligence

Finally, the IAB Tech Lab recently announced its support for Extended Content Identifiers, which makes it possible for buyers to identify inventory at the video level, based on content classifications from contextual vendors. This is all made possible by newly available video-level content data.

The last of these events, in combination with the momentum from the first two, makes it easier and more desirable to create unique video identifiers for all pieces of content at the video level–and for buyers to easily activate this information. As a result of these tools and using the content’s metadata, contextual targeting can finally scale and gain the support it deserves across the industry, from both buyers and sellers.

What It Means: The Rise of Contextual Targeting at the Video Level

The advertising industry has reached a key turning point. As a result of new regulations, shifts in public opinion and changes in posture from leading tech providers, buyers and sellers now urgently need an ethical and alternative framework to govern people-centric ad experiences.. The status quo won’t be sustainable for much longer and advertisers must prepare now for a new normal. With streaming video and CTV at the forefront of the consumer media experience, incorporating context will be table stakes for any targeting strategy. After all, what we watch is a signal of  our mindset. Recent research by GumGum and MAGNA demonstrates the superior performance of video ads when contextual targeting is included to enhance people-based targeting.  In order for advertisers to harness this power however, they need to activate contextual data at the video level. This also provides confidence that they can place their media buys with full transparency into the inventory they are accessing– allaying growing brand safety concerns.

As this upfront approaches, advertisers are showing significant enthusiasm for a shift towards content-based data, with many brand marketers recognizing that accurate contextual signals can even outperform identity targeting. Buyers are also realizing that it is now possible to use content and context data for planning, targeting, verification and measurement–with the added benefit of the comfort of transparency.

No single medium is more important for today’s brands and advertisers than streaming video. As “traditional” identity-based targeting is inevitably forced into retirement, people-centric strategies can still thrive but adopting contextual-based targeting alongside them will become essential for video campaign success–and the sooner they do it the sooner they will reap the rewards.