Do you ever get the feeling that your ads are stalking you? Maybe you bought something online, only to have an ad for the exact product show up in your Instagram feed the next day. But even worse–have you ever felt like your ads are reading your mind? Maybe you saw an ad so custom, it felt like your best friend picked it out just for you? (This was my reaction last week when I got an Instagram ad from a cheese company featuring none other than my celeb crush Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye).
Every day, giant corporations and organizations collect countless pieces of data about us–where we’re going, what we’re buying there, what we’re looking at online, how long we’re looking at it, and more. They compile this information into a digital profile about us, and can sell it to all kinds of marketing agencies and businesses looking to serve targeted ads. From a business owner perspective, this makes sense. Advertising can be expensive, and most small businesses don’t have the budget for it. So if they are going to advertise, they want to guarantee that the right people are going to see it at exactly the right time and under exactly the right conditions.
But when does targeting go too far? Sure, maybe you don’t care about Amazon knowing that you bought a vacuum, or your weight loss tracking app knowing the route you went on your run today. It only gets scary when you consider what these websites and apps do once they have that information. A giant corporation like Amazon could monitor popular purchases and use that data to decide what Amazon Basics products to make next, which hurts small businesses who can’t compete with their low prices and buying power. A weight loss tracking app could sell information about your exercise habits to your healthcare provider or employer, who could use that data to influence your insurance rates.
Ultimately, advertising is nothing if it isn’t relevant. No one can afford to put ads in front of the wrong audience. But what if there was a way to put relevant ads in front of the right people, without collecting, tracking, or storing their personal information? Enter contextualized advertising.
One popular, high-performing example of contextualized advertising is podcast ads. Marketers and advertisers can use the content of a podcast episode to narrow in on the kind of ads they know will resonate with that particular audience, without having to actually collect any personal data about their listeners. It makes sense that you’d hear ads for ZipRecruiter on podcasts about navigating entrepreneurship or corporate life, or an ad for Spotify subscriptions on a podcast about new music. And when these ads include a referral code to cite during a sign up or purchase, it’s easy for advertisers to track their effectiveness.
This business model is exactly what we’re trying to replicate with digital advertising at ContextCue. By pairing up advertisements with relevant websites (think Tinder, but for ads) we can protect the privacy of the consumer while giving business owners the opportunity to monetize their websites and apps. Not only is it ethical, but there’s research to show it’s just as effective (if not more so) than traditional, targeted advertising.
Historically, the advertising industry hasn’t been known for being particularly ethical or people-first, but we’re working hard to change that. Contextualized advertising proves that businesses can grow through advertising, while still allowing for publishers to monetize their content.
Publishers and advertisers are invited to join us on our mission to improve privacy and trust in digital advertising. If you’re not a publisher or advertiser, share our mission with your favorite sites and apps, or tweet about us @contextcue.