Moments of receptivity: message sent doesn’t equal message understood

Ensuring that audiences are in the right headspace to receive ads is essential to the success of a campaign. But how do you identify those crucial moments in the first place?

Marketers need to go beyond the “mindset” by layering in attention-based signals that allow them to understand a consumer’s “moment of receptivity,” which is the optimal time to receive an ad without invading anyone's privacy.

Guy Jackson, UK Commercial Director, Yieldmo, discusses why the contextual advertising tactics we’ve all come to know and love, needs to be reimagined. 

Whether or not an ad successfully delivers its message is determined by much more than its content. The fact is, even the most brilliant piece of creative won’t have any impact if the recipient is too busy, distracted, or simply not in the mood to engage with it. 

Contextual targeting has always been used as a way of understanding interest or audience by proxy of the content a user is consuming; in its traditional form, it is considered suboptimal when compared to some of the more advanced techniques in modern behavioural user targeting. Now, as we approach a cookieless future, contextual can be more relevant than ever for effective targeting.  

Time and place is everything 

Page context and timing is crucial in advertising, with the yearly cycle of ads for health and fitness in the New Year, summer holiday bookings, and back-to-school shopping being core considerations. Because of the more precise timing digital advertising enables, all other components of the modern media mix such as display ads, push notifications, newsletters are also extensively studied to find the most effective time to send them out. 

While timing is crucial, it is just one piece of the contextual puzzle. The adage of “the right person, the right message, at the right time” only goes so far; simply knowing when someone is looking at an ad does not reveal how receptive they are to its message. Understanding receptivity isn’t just about knowing what someone is looking at and when, but also what they might be doing in the ‘real world’ at that time, which could influence how they feel about it, how they’re reacting, and the mindset that it has put them in. It’s about the human context; the combination of the user’s digital world and analogue world, which helps identify the right moment of receptivity.

Advances in contextual targeting allow for much more than avoiding advertising to working professionals on mobile apps in the middle of the day or pushing big purchasing decisions on Mondays. It’s now possible to predict audience responses to adverts to ensure they are in the right situation — mentally and physically — to receive the intended message.

Fusing behavioural science with your media strategy

Behavioural science has been used in advertising for as long as it has existed. The aim of an advert has always been to influence behaviour by tapping into a mix of necessity and desire. While behavioural science is well-established in ad creative, understanding not only the context of the ad placement but the context of the human themselves will improve the connections with consumers. It also has an essential and growing role in effective ad delivery, especially in an increasingly privacy-conscious digital landscape that has rendered many legacy targeting techniques obsolete. We don’t need any personal information to target effectively when we can use human moments to inform context instead. 

By observing the myriad of signals that an internet user — or any user of a connected device — shares as they move through the digital world, we can understand the human context in the moment. It is possible to make a highly educated prediction as to their mindset and use that information to serve an ad at the moment that it is most likely to have an impact.

Human outcomes equal better media outcomes

True contextual targeting takes the human element of the audience into account, rather than simply inferring that someone who visits a shoe website is interested in buying shoes. Contextually, this might be true, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the wider context surrounding an individual and how it might affect their receptivity.

In the brick-and-mortar world, a skilled sales representative can tell by observing a store visitor whether they are likely to become a customer and will approach them with the right message at the right time to nudge them towards spending. Contextual targeting introduces this understanding of subtle human signals to digital advertising, but on an infinitely larger scale.

For example, someone rushing for the train in the morning who opens their phone to check the weather is unlikely to care about any ad, no matter how relevant it is to them. Nor will they be in the mood when they’re on their work laptop flipping between dozens of tabs and programs. 

A way to understand these behaviours can be by understanding the subtle physical signals that we don’t even realise we emit. These can be used via analysing the phone's telemetry data in relation to all the other signals that denote context. This could be the angle in which a phone is tilted, the jolts caused by walking steps, and at what point will a user subtly pull a phone closer to their face to pay more interest when an ad is in view. When analysing this kind of data upon mass, to the tune of trillions of data points per day then a whole different meaning of context emerges. A context that is human rather than digital.

Marketing is all about selling to humans and the digital ecosystem of third-party cookies has had the industry obsessing over things that don’t connect the digital world with that of the analogue, human world, which is where we live, laugh, love, and exist. Audiences are more than what they are reading, or what they ‘have read’ online. We are each living, breathing human beings. The more that digital can connect with the real world, to redefine context as something that goes further than simply content, but takes into account the human and the moment, the faster we will thrive in this post-cookie world.

So….  what is YOUR context?  

By Guy Jackson

UK Commercial Director