Contextual Targeting: The key terms

Posted on: Friday 24 September 2021 | IAB UK

With contextual targeting gaining more and more traction with advertisers, we have worked with our members to develop a set of standardised definitions for the industry

Channel or environment? Cookie-less or consent-less? When it comes to contextual targeting, there are many different terms at play and establishing a shared understanding of key definitions is crucial. This is particularly needed now, with contextual targeting set to see continued growth as advertisers prepare for the depreciation of third-party cookies.

To ensure that there is a common understanding within the digital ad industry, we have worked with members of our Contextual Targeting Group to develop a set of standardised definitions to be used across the industry. We will continue to add to this list as the conversation around contextual targeting develops.

Contextual targeting: Contextual targeting is when an ad is targeted based purely on the subject and environment of the content (including but not limited to text, audio, video or images). It is not based on any characteristics of the user and therefore does not rely on any personally identifiable information (PII).

Behavioural targeting: Behavioural targeting is when an ad is targeted based on attributes of the user, as opposed to the targeting being based on attributes of the content.

Vertical: Verticals are a subset of contextual and are used to group and categorise content that is contextually relevant to the same topic. The IAB Content Taxonomy provides a list of verticals that are widely accepted across the industry. 

Channel: In broader advertising terms, a channel is the medium or device that an ad is being served on, e.g. mobile, desktop, OOH, TV, CTV, print, radio, podcast.

In digital advertising, channel refers to the format in which the ad message is being communicated, e.g. video ad, audio ad, display banner.

Environment: Environment describes the format of the content that the ad is appearing against, e.g. video, text, podcast, in-app.

Sentiment: Sentiment looks at the emotional tone of the content and usually measures it from positive to negative. For example, the sentiment of content on climate change may be positive i.e. celebrating lower carbon emission levels, or negative i.e. criticising carbon emission levels.

Cookie-less: When the technology or service does not have any reliance on a web browser’s cookie functionality.

Consent-less: Targeting that does not use any PII and therefore does not require users to consent for tracking for the system or process to function.

Advertising-ID: Advertising-ID is a unique identifier that corresponds to a single specific device. The advertising-ID is stored on the device itself.

Different operating systems have different names for the advertising-ID in their system. In Apple’s iOS it’s ‘IDFA’, in Android ‘AAID’, Roku, ‘RIDA’; Amazon ‘AFAI’, etc.

Spatial data: Spatial datasets describe a geographical area such as places, events, weather, etc.

Mobility data: Datasets that understand how your audience moves between postcode districts throughout the day.

Location contextual: Targeting an ad based on an understanding of the physical location the user is in.

If you want to find out more about contextual targeting, take a look at our guide here.

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