Contextual relevance for placing online advertisement has gained wide popularity due to the success of Google’s advertising programs. It does make sense in many cases. For example, if an individual is searching for a product like tennis racquet, it makes perfect sense to target that person with advertisements of online stores that sell this particular product. Similarly, when someone is emailing a friend and scheduling a time to play tennis, an advertisement selling tennis balls or racquet is effective next to this email.
But does contextual relevance make sense regardless of the situation? It is interesting to consider the relevance of contextual advertisements when you are looking for information. For example, if someone is reading a news article on Olympic games, and gets advertisements promoting to download games on mobile phone, will it attract the user? The advertisement, though contextual in the sense that it picked the word “games” to map the context, will most likely be ignored. So in such cases, why not target user with advertisements that make sense to user’s behavior or activity on Internet?
Behavioral targeting will likely get more traction as compared to contextual targeting in such situations. If a person searched for tennis racquets a few minutes back and then switched on to read some news articles, it will be more effective if this person gets advertisements for stores selling tennis racquet next to the news article. Though this ad will be irrelevant to the context of the news, it will still be relevant to the customer based on the behavior or activity they performed on the web around that time-frame.
Behavioral targeting based on the interest, location and activities of customers can be really effective, sometimes even more than contextual targeting. But the idea here is not to take behavioral targeting and put it in place of contextual targeting. The smart way to go about is to take it and make it supplemental to contextual targeting. In our example, if a person is searching for tennis racquets, anything but an advertisement selling tennis racquets will be less effective, i.e. nothing beats contextual targeting here. But we can use this activity of the customer searching for a tennis racquet and use it at several other places where putting contextual ad does not make sense. Coupling the two together, instead of pitching one against the other, will be a win-win for both the customers and the advertisers.