Privacy is the new norm


By Mark Bembridge, Chief Executive Officer, Smartology

Smartology allows advertisers to make better use of their branded content, placing it in the world’s most premium media owners. Its advanced technology solves many of the key challenges the ad tech industry is grappling with including viewability, GDPR, privacy, brand protection, and click fraud.

Its technology semantically matches advertisers’ content with articles on media such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Reuters, CNBC and Handelsblatt. Advertisers using Smartology include Cap Gemini, HSBC, SwissRe Huawei and EY.

Smartology uses SmartMatch its proprietary platform based upon Natural Language Processing 

Imagine you went to a restaurant and checked out the menu but decided to not eat there and move on. Happens to all of us right? Now imagine, the waiting staff of the restaurant decide to follow you for the next few days showing up everywhere asking you to eat at their restaurant. Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?

However, we often forget that online advertisers do exactly this: following you online for days after you have looked at their products. Unfortunately, it is the status quo created by adtech online. Consumers have been growing restless with the current situation, with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI®’s) – highlighting that social media users are growing frustrated that their privacy is being invaded and with the volume of advertising aimed at them. Customer satisfaction with social media dropped to 1.4% to a score of 72 on the ACSI® 100-point scale after peaking in 2015 at 74. Social media is the lowest-scoring category of e-business and is among the bottom five of all industries covered by the ACSI—just below health insurance and airlines.

Many law firms and financial firms utilise a range of adtech companies to promote content, collect leads and better leverage the huge amount of the content they generate (often very expensively). But all this is set to change.

Consumers are exhausted of their data being disrespected and legislators have responded, as seen by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Californian Privacy act which is due to be implemented in 2020. Advertisers have also grown tired of brand safety scandals. The duopoly has cracked down on the use of third-party data, with Facebook removing ad-targeting functions and Google stopping brands using DoubleClick Id logs. At the same time the shift to mobile, where cookies don’t work as intended has meant current behavioural targeting can’t reach most internet traffic – with 57% of traffic currently coming from smartphones and tablets and forecasted to reach 3/4 of internet traffic by 2021.

Since GDPR came into force in May, several clients and premium publishers have paused cookie-based programmatic activity.

Return of Contextual Adtech  

Marketers are nothing if not resourceful and have returned to their toolbox once more. They’re increasingly looking to premium media titles for better campaign effectiveness and for the reputational halo benefits that being in a quality environment can deliver. As well as needing true brand safety. CMOs are also seeking tech innovations which can deliver highballs to consumers. Something that’s being looked at afresh is contextual advertising, where relevant ad experiences are delivered in real time to people depending on what they’re focusing on that minute.
This offers many advantages to brands, publishers and of course to consumers. Key in the post-GDPR era is the fact that because it’s contextual, no user data is stored.

When you add this to the way technology has stepped up through machine learning and natural language processing moving far beyond simple keyword usage to ensure even premium media placements are truly contextually matched, so no more Apple ads being served next to pieces about growing fruit.

Contextual campaigns, when compared with audience-targeted ones are more effective in delivering industry beating engagement rates. This is because they’re directly and immediately relevant to people. For instance, the Smartology London Business School campaign outperformed all MOAT (measurement of advertising) benchmarks. Viewability was 81.04% (over 50% higher than the MOAT recommendation). The campaign generated an impressive overall engagement rate of 1.03%, over twenty times the industry standard of a display ad.

Clients are increasingly looking to premium media titles for better campaign effectiveness and for the reputational halo benefits that being in a quality environment can deliver. Let’s be clear, people don’t read the FT for its advertising, however much we’d like it to be so.

One crucial advantage of contextual targeting is that ads are always matched to their surroundings providing a more unified, less disruptive user experience. However, there are a number of fundamentals to delivering successful contextual advertising campaign. By following the steps below advertisers will be well on their way to improving results while delivering a better end user experience.

Target Market

Choose your target market: Carefully consider your audience and the publishers that audience visits and trusts. The editorial environment is the primary driver of contextual advertising success. Ensuring a publisher has an engaged and committed audience will translate to that audience being receptive to highly relevant messaging/ad-content. The quality of the editorial environment matters. Know exactly where your messaging will appear and how audiences engage with and discover the publisher editorial.


Create as much rich content as possible and then optimize: The more marketing content you create for your brand, the higher the chances to reach a broader section of potential (new and existing) customers and the more content insights you will have. There is a direct correlation between number of content items and campaign performance. For example, Smartology has a Financial Services advertiser with over 100 different content items who will add and subtract content to the program frequently based on engagement data. This advertiser has the highest-ever performing SmartMatch campaign with engagement metrics x4 higher than the benchmarked average.

Choose the right type content: Branded content that is genuinely insightful/useful to people will always outperform sales/product content – however they complement one another over time. Having a combination of both types of content will be more valuable in building the customer journey, improving brand familiarity and presenting product offerings.

Building Trust 

Building trust with the consumer: By refining the context of the marketing campaign, you can ensure that each potential customer is targeted properly. By delivering messaging and insights in context, the brand becomes more helpful to the target audience. This in turn drives trust and engagement.

Yes, people hate ads that are intrusive, annoying or disruptive and this is why ad-blocking rates have risen (user penetration rate are at a 30.1% high in the US). Contextual advertising doesn’t get in the way and because it’s directly relevant, people aren’t irritated by it.
CMOs are understanding that while effective advertising is about evoking emotion, the feeling you want people to associate with your brand shouldn’t be an annoyance.
Privacy is the new norm and it’s time to get used to it.




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