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Ben Humphry Chief Commercial Officer Iotec

You have the right person and the right message, but are you considering the right context for advertising your brand?

By now, many of us are used to hearing that the key to advertising is reaching the right person and influencing their behaviour with the right message at the right environment.

Over the years, you may think you have been doing just that. For so long in media, matching marketers to prospects at scale has been the job of context and of demographics.

The right person might be defined by demographics or behaviours. People who ‘look like’ my customers are probably a good bet to be future customers.

The right message is the product of creatives, instilling the perfect mix of knowledge, affinity and intention to create the desired change within the target group of people.

The right environment is less clear. Does this matter? Surely the right context for someone fitting the correct profile is any medium they consume? The wrong context in terms of the ad placement is generally thought about. No brand wants to be associated with bad news or negative sentiment. 

Generally, though, positive selection of ‘the right environment’ is used as a proxy for ‘the right person’; Environment means the TV programme or newspaper read by people who you’ve targeted as customers, or the region most rich in your target demographic.

Where you know you’re addressing ‘the right person’ and environment isn’t needed as a proxy, such as using mailing lists or when using behavioural targeting to find lookalikes, the context is often ignored completely to provide scale.

The environment is more than simply the medium – it is much more complex and profoundly influential. With programmatic display advertising, you can understand a person’s micro-environment – the type and topic of the medium they are consuming, the channel or device through which they are consuming that medium and when and where that consumption is taking place. The what, where, when and how.

But consider also the person’s macro-environment. What other media is being consumed at the same time? What is the weather like? Is the local news positive or negative? Is the economy up or down? Is there a local event happening? Or a national one? What is social media discussing?

These, and thousands of other factors may combine to have a significant influence on the receptiveness of a person to the message being presented, but the nature of such diverse, timely and localised data make it hard to ascertain, never mind to correlate into manageable media plans. 

Worse, the factors that affect one individual might not affect another in the same way.

Finding the right signals of intent for a single person within this massively complex noise might seem impossible, however this is where recent advances in machine learning are revolutionising the way in which environment can be considered. 

By analysing both the micro and the macro-environment of a person and understanding their influences in real time, as well as their demographic and behavioural profile, cutting edge algorithms can be used to understand the combination of factors affecting an individual and how likely these are to have a positive impact on their buying intent. 

Finding the right person in the right environment becomes possible. Delivering the right message becomes a function of these other two – knowing a person’s profile and the factors influencing them allows that message to be refined and customised to the individual’s situation. Context is the key to identifying intent.