• Advertising
  • Understanding Consumers

Contextual Targeting for Apps: An Overview

Team InMobi
Team InMobi
3 min read
Posted on March 11, 2021
Contextual Targeting for Apps: An Overview

IDFA (Apple’s iOS Identifier for Advertisers) specifically and mobile device identifiers more broadly have played a crucial role in enabling targeted advertisements. Many aspects of programmatic advertising, ranging from basic controls like frequency capping to the sophisticated audience segments created using machine learning algorithms, have been built around device identifiers.  

But with Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, advertisers will lose IDFA access for nearly 70% of iOS users. So what should advertisers do? 

Context is Key 

In the absence of a device ID, it is critical that advertisers shift their focus away from user-based behavioral targeting, which relies on user information collected over several interactions in the past, and pivot to what the user is consuming at that very moment. This is the contextual targeting approach to advertising. 

With contextual targeting, advertisers can continue reaching relevant audiences without the need to track, store and analyze personal data, and therefore remain unaffected by the IDFA going away. 

So what information can advertisers use? 

App Metadata 

The most basic information available to advertisers is the environment in which the user will interact with the ad. Advertisers can leverage this information as a basic filter to reach their audiences of interest. For instance, a user scrolling through an lifestyle app can be a potential customer for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) product. In-app inventory can surface data points like app category, subcategory, app version etc. in the bid request, or supply-side platforms (SSPs) can package inventory that may be most relevant to advertisers’ target audience. 

App Level Engagement 

Advertisers can go one step further by coupling app information with user engagement information to find audiences or ad placements that are more engaging. Having data points like how much time has the user been scrolling on the app (session duration) and their engagement with a previous ad (e.g. clicks, video completion rate) that was about a certain product (prior adomain) makes it easy for advertisers to determine if the users on the app fit their target audience profile.  

In-App Content 

With the recent release of OM SDK 1.3, advertisers can also look forward to accessing in-app content just like they do on a web page and run contextual targeting not just based on app metadata (e.g. app category) but the actual content the user is going through. For example, advertisers interested in reaching sports fans can target users on the sports page of a news app. However, like this OM SDK release for viewability, this will go through an adoption curve on the publisher side before it becomes available for advertisers at scale. 

What should you do as an buyer? 

Get ready to read the signals: Demand-side platforms (DSPs) should consider tweaking their bidders to read and understand the different contextual signals about the user, and then enable advertisers with controls to target users that fit their desired profile. 


Interested in reading about what more advertisers can do in a post-IDFA world? Read our comprehensive guide here

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