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Leveraging Display Advertising for Performance Marketing

Leveraging Display Advertising for Performance Marketing

GDN/Programmatic provides an open market ecosystem for display advertising with advanced capabilities for behavioural targeting. Today many leading publishers use this legacy programmatic ecosystem exclusively for content monetization. However, display advertising leads only to awareness. While awareness is important and often a key driver of growth, marketers find it extremely difficult to attribute display results to performance which is measured by actions.

Publishers have found it difficult to exploit performance marketing opportunities from within the legacy GDN/Programmatic ecosystem. Those digital publishers investing in content attract an identifiable target audience that consumes that content. Hence, these publishers can offer unique and meaningful insights into their audience behaviours and therefore offer marketers powerful performance marketing capabilities.

This article discusses how publishers can combine behavioural and contextual targeting with advanced user engagement capabilities to provide marketers with a one-stop-shop that delivers new & innovative performance marketing campaigns.


Since its inception, marketers have used behavioural targeting as the primary targeting method for digital marketing. Cookies have provided the means to establish visitors in-browser behaviour to determine subsequent campaign targeting.

Contextual targeting, as distinct from behavioural targeting, utilises data collected from visitors site navigation to determine subsequent campaign targeting.

In more recent times data privacy has become a major concern for both consumers and regulators with numerous instances of this data being seriously abused. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) cited “systematic concerns” over data practices in real-time bidding (RTB), and this was quickly followed by the European Court of Justice ruling pre-ticked consent boxes illegal. Accordingly, we are now seeing major industry participants, including Apple and Google beginning to limit this behaviour.

While these developments will provide consumers with improved protection of their data, advertisers have developed high expectations during these cookie-dominated years. They expect to be able to readily target campaigns based on data harvested from cookies and similar. With cookies rapidly heading towards digital extinction, the digital marketing industry must find alternative methods.

Digital publishers with rich content and a large identified audience now have an opportunity to combine the attractiveness of their content with insights into visitor behaviours to better engage their audience. They can now offer marketers performance marketing solutions without impacting their existing display revenues. 


The Performance Marketing Association defines performance marketing as: “online marketing and advertising programs in which advertisers pay marketing companies (a.k.a. affiliates) when a specific action is completed, such as a sale, lead, or click.”

Performance marketing is most common in affiliate marketing, native advertising, sponsored content, search engine marketing, and social media. It is generally accepted that closed ecosystems (walled gardens like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) work better for performance marketing than open ecosystems like GDN/Programmatic. Hence, one does not normally associate performance marketing with GDN/programmatic display advertising.   

Now digital publishers who offer advertisers traditional display advertising can seamlessly transform these channels into performance marketing channels and thereby significantly increase the value of their inventory.

If digital publishers directly enable advertisers to precisely target their audience and offer guaranteed reach then they can compete with the more traditional performance marketing techniques:

  • Search Marketing: Here the search user intention is known. With search marketing, it is possible to identify the interests of the searcher and thereby target appropriate campaigns.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Here the site audience is known (auto, health, sport, etc.). With affiliate marketing, it is possible to identify the interests of the visitor and thereby target appropriate campaigns.
  • Social Media: Provides marketers with accurate audiences within the walled garden based upon their online activities. By virtue of being a closed ecosystem, platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Linked in can directly offer marketers well-defined audience segments. 

These are not the only channels where consumers display buying intentions. Buying intentions can be identified based upon what, when & where visitors consume digital publisher content.

Amidst the infinite sea of sites and apps, it is almost impossible for display advertisers to understand and interpret visitors' buying intentions. Today, most display campaigns target loosely defined audience segments leveraging behavioural targeting and in most cases ignoring contextual targeting.

Behavioural Targeting

Often referred to within the digital advertising industry as audience targeting, the fundamental focus is to ensure that the display ad is relevant to the site visitor.

Insights distilled from the visitor's past browsing behaviour are used for such targeting. User data is collected from various sources. Typically to collect this data marketers use visitor identifiers, like pixels or cookies.

In programmatic advertising, such data is utilised by demand-side platforms (DSPs).  Typically, data related to page visits, ad clicks, or time spent are captured. Automated algorithms analyse such data to create targetable audience segments.

Behavioural targeting displays ads based solely on historic visitor behaviour. Behavioural targeting has been widely used by programmatic campaigns since its inception.

Over this time the collection of behavioural targeting data has become more sophisticated and intrusive raising the concerns of both consumers and regulators.

Contextual Targeting

Rather than targeting visitors based on past behaviours, as with behavioural targeting, the fundamental focus of contextual targeting is to ensure that any display ad is relevant to the content being consumed by the visitor at that time.

This targeting method uses algorithms to target campaigns based on keywords, site content, and other metadata. For example, if a visitor is reading an article about coffee, they could be served display ads for coffee-related products or services.


Digital display monetization capabilities facilitated by GDN/Programmatic are by necessity a one-size-fits-all solution, where the publisher can be either a major content provider with a large audience or a small blog with a strictly limited audience. Hence the supply of global digital ad inventory is almost infinite and by definition commoditized.

For most leading digital publishers GDN/programmatic click-through rates (CTR) are very low essentially due to a somewhat haphazard behavioural placement derived by programmatic intermediaries.

In this environment, advertisers have little control over their active campaigns and publishers have limited control over their inventory monetization. For leading digital publishers with significant audiences, any efforts to optimize display monetization only leads to very marginal improvements.

For leading digital publishers who wish to move beyond commoditized display revenues, Infomo can now offer performance marketing alternatives that significantly improve their inventory yield. To reap the revenue benefits of performance marketing, Infomo enables its publisher partners to offer advertisers:

  • Granular targeting leveraging both contextual and behavioural targeting.
  • Segmented first-party data targeting.
  • Customized campaigns.
  • Direct guaranteed audiences.
  • Innovative new campaign tools and response management.

This allows Infomo digital publisher partners to offer their advertisers unique access to identified audiences along with enhanced high-value campaigns.

Infomo publisher partners can now offer advertisers both contextual and behavioural targeting to protect and enhance their GDN/programmatic capabilities. This provides an immediate low-risk opportunity to enhance their advertiser value proposition. Simultaneously, Infomo publisher partners can start performance marketing initiatives that will incrementally add new performance marketing-ready inventory.

Legacy display marketing will continue in the short-medium term until cookies are completely phased out. This tipping point will transform the global digital advertising industry and create new opportunities for digital publishers to regain control of their destiny.

This doesn’t mean abandoning GDN/Programmatic display monetization right away. Instead, leading digital publishers can strike a balance between display and performance so that the value of their content can be fully leveraged. Strategically blending display with performance ensures a well-rounded go-to-market strategy.


This article has briefly discussed the history and context of behavioural and contextual advertising. It has also endeavoured to describe how leading digital publishers can seamlessly evolve from today’s primarily low-value display inventory to high-value performance marketing inventory with minimum risk.

In recent times advertisers have been seduced by the ready availability and promised low costs of highly granular audience targeting offered by the likes of Facebook and Google. This has grown the size of the digital advertising market by adding large numbers of low-end advertisers that in turn has commoditized leading digital publishers inventory.

It is broadly accepted that the global digital advertising industry will be disrupted by a cookie-less world. In this brave new world, we expect that advertisers will migrate towards more relevant and effective contextual targeting and first-party segmentation.

Leading digital publishers are ideally placed to take advantage of this aforementioned disruption as they better leverage their content, their first-party data, and their unique audience reach.



Behavioural targeting is a marketing method that uses web user information to strengthen advertising campaigns. The technique involves gathering data from a variety of sources about the potential customer's online browsing and shopping behaviours.

Contextual targeting is a form of targeted advertising for advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile browsers. In context targeting, advertising media are controlled on the basis of the content of a website using linguistic elements.

Performance marketing, also known as pay for performance advertising, is a form of advertising in which the purchaser pays only when there are measurable results.

Display advertising is graphic advertising on websites, apps or social media through banners or other advertising formats consisting of text, images, flash, video, and audio. The main purpose of display advertising is to deliver general advertisements and brand messages to site visitors.

Tipping Point is the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.


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