Geo-Contextual Targeting: The Smart Alternative to Cookies in 2024 and Beyond
Geo-Contextual Targeting: The Smart Alternative to Cookies in 2024 and Beyond
A survey conducted by Harris Poll shows that 79% of consumers are comfortable with contextual ads. 65% of these respondents further said they are tempted to purchase a product featured in the ad.
As the phasing out of cookies gains momentum, advertisers and adtech vendors are scrambling to find viable alternatives that can deliver meaningful ROAS. Out of the chaos, one solution is emerging as a cornerstone tactic for audience targeting and ad personalization in the post-cookie world...
Geo-Contextual advertising, AKA moment marketing, uses real-world data such as weather, health, sickness, leisure and travel information, to infer location and time-specific buying signals that marketers can tap into with the click of a button.
Contextual targeting is not only 100% cookieless, it's so rich with purchase intent that it can be used for a huge variety of products or services - even if they are not directly linked to the signal itself. In other words, a video streaming service can promote memberships on a rainy Saturday evening, when people are more likely to watch a movie - even though the service itself is not directly related to the weather.
In a nutshell, geo-contextual advertising provides the 'where' and the 'when' to accurately target your audience, allowing advertisers to immediately influence present and future behaviors - and it gives user ID-based targeting a run for its money; The ROAS on contextual targeting is impressive, with brands and agencies frequently seeing up to 5X CTR (Johnson & Johnson) 2x conversions (Google & Dentsu) and over 50% lower costs (Heineken) with contextual targeting platforms like WeatherAds.
What are 3rd party cookies and what will their removal mean for advertisers?
Third-party cookies are small text files that are stored on a user’s device by a website that is different from the one the user is currently visiting. They are primarily used for tracking user behavior across multiple websites, building user profiles and modelling lookalike audiences, delivering targeted personalized advertising, measuring campaign results, and algorithmically optimizing campaign performance. In 2023, Adobe found that over 75% of advertisers still relied on 3rd party cookies.
The deprecation of third-party cookies is arguably the biggest shakeup in the history of the digital advertising, and the impact will be felt throughout the advertising ecosystem. Campaigns, channels and tactics that will be most affected by these changes include:
Platforms & Channels:
- Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) (targeting, measuring & optimization)
- Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs): (inventory optimization & reporting)
- Meta / Social Platforms (off-platform tracking, optimization, remarketing, reporting)
- Search remains largely unaffected
Campaigns & tools:
- Display advertising (targeting, measuring & optimization)
- Retargeting / remarketing campaigns
- Interest-based targeting
- Lookalike audiences
- Frequency capping and ad fatigue management
- Reporting & attribution (measuring conversions across websites and devices)
- Campaign optimization / ‘learning’ algorithms
Overall, the termination of tracking cookies is likely to result in reduced precision in ad delivery, reduced accuracy in reporting, impaired algorithmic optimization, higher CPMs, and increased reliance on first-party data.
How advertisers can triumph with geo-contextual targeting in the post-cookie world
The weather alone shapes demand for over 30% of all products and services globally and is the strongest predictor of consumer behavior after the state of the economy.
Contextual targeting focuses on the environment in which an ad is seen to deliver relevant and timely ads or marketing content to audiences. This can be the digital or on-page environment such as the website's content, demographics or keywords, or the offpage / offline environment, such as real-world events and real-time trends or ‘moments’.
Examples of off-site contextual signals include environmental factors (such as weather, pollen, air quality), health and sickness data (e.g. cold and flu, migraines, and allergies) leisure & travel updates (e.g. sports results, flight delays) and large-scale events (such as power outages, hurricanes and storm warnings). In addition, online trends, sentiment, and breaking news could also be used. Geo contextual targeting enables advertisers to delivering the right message to the right people at the right time in the right context.
These geo-contextual signals become critically important in a cookieless world because they offer a privacy-friendly way to enhance campaign relevance and reach consumers at the most impactful moments, without relying on personal identifiers like third-party cookies.
Examples of geo-contextual signals include:
- Weather: Sun, Rain, Snow, Hail, Temperature, UV index, Real-feel, Storms, Lightning etc
- Time: Time of Day, Day of Week
- Environment: Air quality (pollution), Pollen, Dust & Dander, Pests / mosquitos
- Health & Sickness: Cold & Flu, Allergies, Migraines, Arthritis, Thirst / dehydration
- Travel: Flight delays, Traffic updates, Fuel consumption
- Natural disasters: Forest fires, Droughts, Floods, Hurricanes
- Cultural Moments: Local events, Sports games, Sports scores, Stock Market, Music concerts & other events, National holidays & retail calendar (Easter, Christmas etc),
- Broadcasts: TV shows, TV ad placements
- Leisure: Ski, Golf, Cycling, Running, Gardening, Hiking indices
- Online trends: Trending topics (geo-specific), Breaking news, Brand Sentiment (geo-specific)
View a full list of WeatherAds' supported contextual triggers and signals here
Examples of geo-contextual advertising use cases
- Apparel: Highlighting winter jackets and accessories during snowfall.
- Pharma: Promoting cold & flu products to viewers in areas with high cold & flu outbreaks
- Automotive: Promoting car batteries, after 3 consecutive days of sub-zero temperatures.
- Groceries: Using thirst index scores to target ads for drinks products
- Travel: Offering travel deals for sunny destinations to users experiencing bad weather.
- HVAC: Advertising air purification products to users experiencing poor air quality
- Home Improvement: Serving ads for lawn care and gardening products when the gardening index is high
- Beverage: Promoting ads for beer when a major sports game is scheduled, or when the home team scores.
- Tourism: Advertising a ski resort when fresh snowfall is forecast
- Home services: Advertising pest products in areas with high pest levels
- Automotive: Promoting test drives for soft-top sports car on warm sunny days.
- Outdoor Equipment: Promoting golfing gear to users where the golf index is forecast to be high
- Food delivery Advertising food delivery or taxi services on cold wet windy days.
- Leisure & entertainment: Offering rainy-day discounts to drive bookings for outdoor attractions like zoos
- Travel: Promoting last minute hotel bookings in areas where there's flight disruptions
The benefits of geo-contextual signals for ad targeting and personalization
- Relevance and engagement: Environmental data like weather, health, travel and leisure signals can be used to deliver highly relevant and engaging ads that resonate with users based on their current situation.
- Privacy-friendly: These signals are anonymous, aggregated and 100% cookieless.
- Dynamic targeting: Geo-Contextual signals are constantly changing, offering dynamic targeting opportunities. Ads can be adjusted in real-time based on current weather conditions or sickness rates, creating a more immediate and compelling ads.
- Broad reach: Weather and health data is universally relevant and affects everyone, making it a valuable signal for reaching a broad audience without relying on specific demographics or interests.
- Data quality: WeatherAds sources weather, health, environmental and travel data from best-in-class providers. This ensures that the data is both fresh and accurate - unlike ID-based audiences.
- Exceptional ROAS: Geo contextual targeting delivers performance campaign results for a fraction of the costs.
Combining offline & online contextual signals for added relevance
The stacking of online context with offline signals is especially powerful in providing rich insight into user mindset and purchase intent. Offline data such as weather, health, travel and leisure data can be combined with on-page factors like website content, topics, keywords and device info for a powerful targeting approach that delivers an even more nuanced understanding of the user's context. These can then be layered with Google's Privacy Sandbox APIs such as Topics or FLEDGE, as well as relevant first part data - to provide a comprehensive audience profile. Here are some examples of how advertisers can combine onpage and offpage context for a comprehensive audience profile.
- A user browsing a hiking website on a sunny day might be more receptive to an ad for outdoor gear.
- Someone scrolling through recipes on a rainy evening might be interested in a delivery service for hot meals.
- Pharma companies can serve ads for cold & flu remedies on mobile versions of a site (targeting on-the-go users) in areas where cold & flu levels are high.
- A user browsing home improvement websites when the gardening index is positive may be primed to purchase garden furniture or gardening products.
What is the ROAS on Geo-Contextual Advertising?
The ROAS on geo-contextual advertising is superb, with advertisers consistently seeing upwards of 2-6X CTR, 100-200% more conversions, and over 50% lower Costs. At WeatherAds, we have over half a decade’s worth of experience helping the world’s leading brands and agencies - including Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Decathlon, Heineken, Woolrich, and Kia - leverage geo-contextual and environmental signals to drive campaign performance.
Geo-Contextual targeting is often significantly more cost-effective than user ID-based targeting – sometimes by a factor of 10 or more, because you are effectively targeting users further up the funnel where CPMs and CPAs are much lower. For example, the CPM for user ID-based ads can run about $1-$2, while the CPM for a contextual placement may be around 10-15 cent. If your main metric is cost per acquisition, you only need your contextual ads to be 10% as effective as before to see the same results. The kicker is that with an additional layer of geo-contextual targeting in place, you can achieve engagement and conversions close to those of a granularly targeted performance campaign at a broad awareness rates.
The cookieless future looks bright for advertisers
Overall, contextual signals like weather and health data offer a excellent alternative to third-part cookies for audience targeting and ad personalization. By utilizing contextual advertising tools like WeatherAds, advertisers can more effectively reach their target audiences in a privacy-compliant way to deliver personalized and engaging ad experiences that deliver superior ROAS.
“WeatherAds enables us to reach our customers at relevant moments with the right content. That is why we expanded the use of the platform towards always on campaigns and across different parts of the business.” - Tara Bichler, Specialist Communications at McDonald's Austria.