The future of targeting: Part 3 - How to target in a post-cookie world

Who is getting it right? Test cases for a cookieless future

A recent Australian study by Integral Ad Science (IAS) examines how the suitability of ad environments impacts consumer brand perceptions. Surveying 2,000 consumers in Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and Japan, the study demonstrates that the suitability of an environment directly impacts receptivity and memorability of the ads, as well as the favourability towards associated brands. The significant impact of content and context on consumer perceptions is clear. 

The report suggests a majority of consumers in APAC — 96% in Indonesia, 91% consumers in Singapore, 86% consumers in Australia, and 75% in Japan — prefer digital ads to appear alongside relevant content. 

Meanwhile, Roughly 9 out of 10 consumers in Singapore and Indonesia and more than 7 out of 10 in Australia and Japan say their perception of an online ad is impacted by the surrounding content on the page.

Bench was looking to analyse the future of digital advertising in a cookie-less world. They did so with prudent research, exploring different options such as the newly developed IAS contextual segments. 

IAS and Bench matched survey results with campaign data to understand how contextual targeting can be used effectively to drive great results for brands and advertisers. They leveraged targeting selections from three buckets across a variety of campaigns. 

“What we did was we ran a head-to-head test looking at contextual segments versus traditional cookie-based targeting. We did the tests across a range of verticals and by analysing a number of different success measures throughout the marketing funnel,” Thompson explains.

“We looked at things like completion rate for the Awareness activities through to clicks and direct response in the lower end of the marketing funnel. Based on the results, I hypothesise that we might see a comparable performance, maybe even slightly less cost-efficient performance to more traditional targeting.”

First test case: Contextual targeting to drive relevant clicks

The first case Bench tested was for an air conditioning client. The core target audience were consumers who were concerned about the air quality in their homes, and required either a replacement or upgrade to the air conditioning units.

This led Bench to target multiple cookie-based segments and hone in on the value IAS provides by finding similar proxies. Bench tested a hayfever segment and a pollution segment against more traditional cookie baits.

Jessica Miles, Country Manager at IAS says this test abundantly showcased the power of contextual targeting. 

“This advertiser leveraged a combination of seasonal and topical segments. On hayfever and pollution content, they drove increased relevancy by choosing content with a positive sentiment,” Miles says.

When comparing contextual targeting results to the third-party audience targeting, contextual drove stronger performance results with a 21% increase in click-through rate and better cost-efficiency.

There was a 23% decrease in cost per impression and a 36% decrease in cost per click. This proves that media buyers reduce their reliance on third-party cookies, and improve efficiency and performance at the same time.

Second test case: Contextual targeting to drive purchase decision

The second case Bench tested was an Australian charity that wanted to drive sales on their website. In this test, Bench focused on direct response metrics. They used IAS segments as a proxy for customer segmentations, and focused on consumers that were frequent shoppers and sustainability-focused. 

Being able to drive performance and efficiency for a business, especially when it’s a charitable organisation is a great win, Miles says. 

“This charity leveraged topical targeting segments to reach their ideal audience. They drove performance and efficiency with Bench’s contextual targeting. In this campaign, there was a significant decrease in the cost per acquisition rate when compared to third party targeting of 19%,” Miles explains.

Contextual targeting is not the first tool that performance marketing reaches for to drive better performance metrics. It is typically regarded as a brand awareness tool. In contextual advertising, the conversation between the advertiser and their consumers is one-to-many, as opposed to cookie-based targeting which is one-to-one.

According to Miles, this is a great example of how contextual targeting can drive better performance metrics and can drive efficient acquisitions. It highlights the importance of relevancy in advertising.

These results also mirror another study by IAS on the power of context. In the study, Australians stated that they are more likely to engage with contextually relevant ads.

Third test case: Contextual targeting to drive awareness

Another case Bench tested was for a tertiary education client who traditionally used heavy audience-based targeting strategies to attract prospective students. The campaign focused on customer awareness by analysing video completion rate as a measure of success.

This educational institution leveraged both topical and vertical segments. With back to school and education to drive results. 

As a result of the contextual targeting, Miles says that the university increased video completion rate by 10% when compared with third-party audience targeting segments. This demonstrates that a quality consumer in the right mindset is more likely to be positively impacted by contextually relevant advertisements. 

“We’ve had some great examples of how contextual targeting can be leveraged to provide similar if not better results than the traditional cookie-based targeting approach,” Miles concludes.

The cookie-less future: A renaissance in digital marketing?

No matter the business objective, it’s obvious that contextual targeting can be used across entire campaigns at scale. Whether that’s building a brand, consideration or driving action. There is no longer a need to gravitate to outdated cookie targeting. 

Organisations can leverage powerful platforms with first-party data throughout the entire marketing funnel. For example, marketers could use Google data for awareness, social data from Facebook for engagement, and Amazon data for driving direct response.

All these data sets are easily accessible within all major DSPs. Marketers can take action immediately to familiarise themselves with the data insights and begin testing contextual targeting based on business objectives. 

The future is exciting, and we’re going to see a new ‘renaissance’ in marketing beyond the cookie. Organisations that embrace contextual targeting and unlock the value of data-driven marketing in new innovative ways will not only survive but thrive in a cookie-less future.


Bench Media’s virtual workshop,  The Future of Targeting, is available on demand here.

Contact Bench to discuss privacy and cookieless targeting for your brand.