Contextual Advertising for Mobile App Growth in 2022

newspaper and magazine ad collage
Image by TrudyFunk from Pixabay.

After Apple introduced iOS 14 in 2021 — bringing App Tracking Transparency (ATT) to the masses — mobile marketing spend shifted to Android. As iPhone users opted out of sharing their IDFA with apps, marketers looking to continue targeting on a user-level put all their eggs in the Android basket. Of course, ignoring Apple users forever is not the answer — and the answer for mobile marketers may be contextual advertising.

Why app marketers can’t ignore iOS users

Apple still leads the pack in terms of market share in countries like the U.S., Australia, and other mature markets where users tend to have disposable income. In fact, those numbers seem to have increased right alongside the company’s privacy push

Growing your app necessarily means reaching Apple users. But embracing a privacy-first strategy is essential to staying ahead of the changes still to come in the mobile marketing ecosystem. In February, Google announced that it is extending its Privacy Sandbox to Android users, and that over the next few years it will develop new user privacy measures.

Sooner or later, app marketers who fail to develop privacy-friendly growth strategies will find themselves left behind and unable to reach users on iOS, Android, or any platform that has, rightly, embraced privacy. So, it’s time to just figure it out!

The return of contextual advertising 

Before behavioral targeting was an option, digital marketers relied on ads that were algorithmically matched with relevant content. Back in the day, that meant placing ads on contextually relevant webpages, but today it also includes in-app placements. 

Imagine you manufacture kayaks and are looking to find mobile users who might be interested in your product. You may choose to place ads in apps that provide fishing advice, trail information to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, or in the mobile apps of magazines and other publications catering to this audience. The goal is to find people with related interests in the moments when they are more likely to engage with your ad. Rather than using retargeting to promote your kayak as people visit news sites, head over to Facebook to argue about politics with their uncle, or veg out by playing a simple match-3 game, you find contextually relevant placements to appeal to people when they’re thinking about getting outside or on the water.

Now imagine that you are marketing an app for a popular subscription box that delivers women’s clothing and beauty products to members. The app allows subscribers to take style quizzes that inform the items that will be in the box and even pick and choose which items they are interested in, and which they want to pass on. In the absence of user-level targeting, that app might choose to advertise in the apps of popular women’s magazines, or games like Covet — which lets users create outfits based on challenge parameters.

It wasn’t so long ago that this kind of contextually relevant advertising was the norm. Back in 2018, Martech reported, “According to the report, 49 percent of US marketers responding to the survey are using contextual marketing today, which represents the most widely used kind of ad placement. By contrast, 46 percent use demographic targeting, 44 percent geolocation and 25 percent behavioral.” Now it’s making a comeback.

How to get started with mobile contextual advertising

Contextual ads are often placed based on topics and keywords. Topics are broad categories like “Health and Fitness” or “Autos and Vehicles” while keywords — such as “trail running” or “vintage motorcycles” — help advertisers narrow their focus and find the right content to advertise against. 

Once you have defined the parameters of your contextual targeting campaign, your demand-side platform (DSP) steps in. The DSP you have chosen to work with will analyze the content available in its network of apps and publishers to find the best matches. From there, the only thing to do is sit back, monitor the results, and iterate accordingly.

To learn more about ways to hack attribution for you campaigns, check out our post on promo codes.