Why context is an important consideration in B2B programmatic

By Darren Sharp
Head of Programmatic Trading & Data at Incisive Media


Programmatic for B2B promises to help marketers reach niche audiences at a scale they could only dream of in the past. While today there are many sources of 3rd party aggregated data, from companies such as Exelate, Bombora and branded data from publishers (such as ourselves at Incisive Media) that can target specific audiences, very rarely do these take into consideration one very important point – context.

When planning a B2B programmatic campaign, the majority of marketers will start with an “audience” first approach, e.g. who is it we want to target and influence with our messaging? However, although a focus on target audience is clearly important, a campaign has to consider context to be fully effective and deliver increased ROI.

Context can take many forms. At the most basic, it can include the contextual environment that ads are going to run against. If a marketer is promoting a complex technology product, advertising on a showbiz entertainment site can have negative effects. Placement misalignment means adverts may get lost amongst more relevant adverts – in the case of an entertainment site that could be the latest film releases, soft drinks, trainers etc. Some may argue that an advert appearing out of context may make it stand out, whilst true this doesn’t necessary mean this is a good thing. An advert appearing in front of a user when they’re in the wrong frame of mind can appear intrusive and unwanted (e.g. imagine an ad for an IT storage product on a website for caring for your baby or household tips on how to get stains out of your carpet?).

Context can also take the form of time of day, advertising a B2B product to a user in the early hours of the morning, may be less effective than during lunchtimes when they are in “work mode” but still with time on their hands, or perhaps running a campaign on a Sunday evening when your average professional is beginning to think about the week ahead.

Thankfully, context and audience do not have to be mutually exclusive in B2B programmatic. On the most basic level, if an advertiser is buying “open auction marketplace/OMP” then having site lists in the broadest sense can help ensure better positioning. Outside of OMP, advertisers can set-up “private marketplace deals” – these offer the opportunity for publishers like Incisive Media to specifically segment inventory alongside their own rich first party data. Contextual targeting tools, such as “Grapeshot”, which can help position ads against specific contextual environments, provide another option for advertisers.

Personally, I would also suggest “day parting” of ads, to concentrate spend and bidding to the times of day that their targeted audience is most likely to be within right “frame of mind”. Although you may not want to completely stop ads during the middle of the night, you may bid lower for these impressions if the ROI is lower.

In summary, not all B2B ad impressions are equal, even if they are targeting the same user. Planning with both audience and context in mind can be more time and resource consuming – it requires extra thought and extra creativity –however, in the long run the rewards are likely to be higher, making campaigns more effective both in terms of branding and direct performance.

Incisive Media are at the forefront of programmatic advertising and have an experienced team that can help you increase your ROI on your display campaigns. For more information, please inquire here.