Getting in front of your audience as third-party data declines

James Kenny

Head of Programmatic and Paid Social


Contextual targeting fell out of favour as we were opened up to a plethora of third-party data that we could use for our audience targeting. However, with the continued degradation of cookies and how we can leverage third-party data, contextual targeting is yet again key to expanding or narrowing your reach based on relevancy.


To achieve accurate targeting, Google’s Display & Video 360 uses technology to determine whether keywords and topics are relevant to the content on a specific page. As we move into a post-cookie era with the decline of third-party data, browser updates like ITP and data regulations like GDPR limit our ability to track a customer’s full user journey.

Contextual advertising isn’t dependent on cookies


Driven by keywords and site content, contextual targeting is an increasingly reliable choice. Ads maintain relevancy regardless of whether users accept or reject data collection, targeting text, keywords, or themes to reach their audience.


Engagement and click focus is coming to the foreground in the loss of cookies. Marketers and businesses that rely on cookies for their brand performance measurement are being forced to adapt to new modes of tracking.


Rather than focusing on individual customer journeys, the focus will be on the trends and patterns of combined customer journeys. Post-view attribution, granular audience reporting, cross-channel reporting and A/B testing are some of the many measurements affected. Data management and consumer consent are changing, and contextual targeting is becoming essential.


Here are some of the most effective modes of tracking available in DV360:

Online environment


You can choose to target or exclude users via the online environments they are browsing on, e.g.: mobile, desktop, or application. This is a great way of increasing conversion rates for campaigns that perform better in certain environments.


For example, The Drum reported that only 18% of users complete travel purchases on mobile given the expense and complexity. Whereas fashion retailers see the majority of their traffic (51.39%) from mobile.




The device, browser type and even internet speed are some of the variables available to target the type of technology being used. DV360’s bespoke nature enables you to best place ads alongside your understanding of your audience and their behaviours.

Category targeting


The category targeting feature allows you to target the type or category of a website in order to reach relevant publications. For example, a baby formula company could choose to target their ads at parenting publications and websites.


Keyword targeting


Targeting keywords is a more granular way of getting your content in front of relevant readers. Focusing on specific keywords, as well as excluding pages with certain words is a great way to reach niche audiences, although runs the risk of impacting your campaign’s reach.

Targeting without third-party data


The value of first-party data has grown substantially in recent years. First-party data directly reflects your customers’ behaviour, making it more accurate and relevant than third-party data.


Advertisers are also able to use publishers’ first-party data to target audiences. Tracking user signals such as location, device, date and time, browser etc. all contribute to building a demographic without third-party data.


For example, Google collects first-party data on users. Google uses this data to profile users into in-market, affinity, customer match and lookalike audiences, which can be targeted in your campaigns. Google’s Privacy Sandbox allows individuals data to be aggregated and anonymised, meaning advertisers can target groups of users without violating their privacy rights.

Using machine learning for optimal, cookie-less ad placement


Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly significant in the comeback of contextual advertising. Utilising the power of machine learning, AI leverages data to rationalise and provide the most efficient outcome.


Machine learning uses the available data such as keywords, page types, media channels, etc. to understand a page’s context and then present the most relevant and engaging content, without the use of cookies.


The contextualising factors used to decide ad placement also include informative connotations to increase brand safety. Highlighting areas to link the advert to, as well as areas to avoid links being made, every physical link is used to build a tight bond between the advert and the placement, ensuring that everywhere the ad appears is relevant to its audience.

What to do next


Collect as much context data as possible. Building an understanding of your audience is paramount in the decline of third-party data. Ensure you are tracking what you can and use this data to test theories of audience behaviour and discover where they are converting.

Read more about the targeting solutions available in Display and Video 360 in this feature.

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