Sabrina Sanchez
Sep 15, 2021

Integral Ad Science: Contextual ads are effective in driving brand recall

The study suggests that contextual ads could be a viable alternative to cookies.

Integral Ad Science: Contextual ads are effective in driving brand recall

Contextual ads, which are targeted to match the content of a webpage versus audiences based on cookie data, are effective in driving brand memorability, according to a study by Integral Ad Science and Neuro-Insight. 

According to the study, which in July collected neurometric data from 60 participants ages 18 to 60, “matched ads,” or ads that align with the surrounding content on a webpage, led to higher memorability compared to unmatched ads, or ads that were not contextually aligned to the web page. 

For instance, matched ads represented a 23% increase in remembering details, calls to action and branding elements than unmatched ads. Matched ads also led to a 27% increase in recollection of broader themes and overarching brand narratives, or “global memory.” 

Different kinds of contextual ads, however, perform differently. Endemic matched ads, for example, which solve a specific problem presented in an article, were 36% more effective in getting people to remember the details of an ad and 43% more effective in driving a feeling of emotional intensity than unmatched ads. An example of an endemic ad would be an ad to buy tickets to an upcoming movie in an article about a movie release. 

Comparatively, thematic matched ads, which have a similar theme to the surrounding content, such as an ad for a summer cocktail in an article about summertime activities, performed the best in global memory generation (+40%), with users more likely to remember the general theme of the ad. 

The data suggests contextual advertising not only works, but can be even more effective than targeted ads fueled by data from third-party cookies, said Tom Marlow, chief marketing officer at Integral Ad Science. 

“We're going into a privacy-first world that is driven by consumers. People largely don’t want to be tracked unless they get something in return,” he said. “With audience targeting you can reach the right person, but maybe in the wrong moment. But contextual gives [marketers] a better opportunity to make a more meaningful connection with that person.” 

Despite the rise of ad blocking, he added that consumers are generally receptive to ads because they understand the value exchange between advertising and free content. 

The study is released as contextual advertising is being trumpeted as a replacement for third-party cookies, which Google will sunset in Chrome in 2023. Marketers see contextual targeting as a privacy-compliant alternative as they continue to search for other solutions. 

With the introduction of machine learning, contextual advertising capabilities have become more intelligent, running the gamut from simple keywords to inclusion and exclusion list targeting. 


Campaign US

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