Is Contextual Ready For Post-Cookie Prime Time?

Many a publisher is calling for a return to contextual targeting as a third-party tracking cookie replacement. And while it has its merits as a privacy-first, brand-safe option, it does face some challenges. Namely, there’s a question of scale, which for the most part, only a number of publishers with highly themed content might be able to achieve.

I asked Scott Messer, Senior Vice President, Media at Leaf Group about speaking at our recent Publisher Forum Virtual about contextual and told him that I wanted to focus on scale, to which he said: “Scale in contextual is a great focus.  Correct, there is not enough and it’s not consistent enough.  However, vendors aggregating context is not the solution either. Publishers are not totally to blame here.”

I liked his framing, so I asked him about having a conversation with the buy-side, to which he said he’d love to hear buy-side challenges, and that, “Buyers need to rethink buying inventory altogether.  They need to understand scale better.  They need to work closely with those who provide context.” So, we invited Emily Healy, Director, Digital Standards, Publicis Media to join the session: Is Contextual Primed For the Coookieless Future? In the video below, you’ll get to hear the honest and open conversation they had about contextual’s viability and who should be leading the charge.


  • Not all of the buying platforms make contextual available at scale.
  • There is no standard for contextual in terms of collection methodology or categorization but there is a standard on the brand suitability/safety side. We have the 4As Brand suitability floor and scale.
  • Advancements in the tech used for targeting contextual will also have the benefit of helping to support suitability, which will also enable the refinement of that practice.
  • Advertisers need to match methodology to the audience they are attempting to reach.
  • Buyers are interested in working with pubs who can prove the performance of their contextual solutions.