Contextualized Content: Where Will It Go From Here?

A friend recently expressed amazement that, in the process of conducting a Google search, Google somehow magically knew what she was searching for. She deemed the experience “creepy,” and many would say the same thing. Regardless of how creepy it may or may not be, though, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of something that consumers are experiencing more and more as they navigate the online world through laptops, tablets and smart phones.

It’s “contextualized content” — the ability for online marketers to deliver content to viewers based on the context they are in and their past online behavior.

By now it’s become commonplace for most of us. We conduct an online search, view a product on a webpage, and immediately afterward ads are popping up for the same, and similar, products every time we go online, whether we’re on our desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. The world of contextualized ads–or ads that are delivered to individuals based on some context-is exploding. Technology is driving the explosion and making possible some seemingly impossible things.

The idea of using location, interests, and other contextual bits of information to serve up content was illustrated quite compellingly as far back as 2011 when Google partnered with four iconic brands-and the creative originators of ads from the 1960s and 1970s-to re-create their ads for a technologically enabled audience. Project Re: Brief was an experiment that teamed these Mad Men-era advertisers with their technology-enabled, 21st-century counterparts to reinvent iconic ads for a new generation.

The results were heavy on contextualized delivery and extremely innovative–highly creative content delivered to individuals based on their settings and even their personal experiences. Today, just a few short years later, what was, at the time, quite revolutionary is now increasingly common. In fact, technology exists to allow advertisers to get even more “inside the heads” (and devices) of consumers. But, because of the fear of “Big Brother backlash” and a climate where privacy concerns are top-of-mind for consumers, marketers, and regulators, advertisers may not choose to take advantage of those advances.

Those choices can straddle the line between useful and intrusive, of course, and marketers must navigate this terrain carefully. But privacy concerns aren’t the only barriers that marketers face. Despite the massive technological developments that have occurred in the past decade, there are still some hurdles to overcome. There are also massive opportunities to potentially leverage in the quest to break through the clutter to get your marketing message in front of the right people, at the right time and, increasingly, in the right place.

For 21st century marketers that means capitalizing on context, while carefully straddling the line between “creepy” and useful.

I wrote a piece on this concept–opportunities and challenges–for EContent Magazine last year that included some interesting insights from experts in the field.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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