Nielsen and Seedtag must do better contextual research

Nielsen and Seedtag must do better contextual research
Opinion: Strategy Leaders

Seedtag and Nielsen’s ‘Building Consumers’ Connections Through Contextual’ report does a disservice to the existing literature.


Mark Twain once said, “history never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme”. Within the short history of media planning the recurring rhyme is the effect of context (ahem).

Contextual planning is one of the founding fathers of media, so further evidence is always welcomed, such as the release of ‘Building Consumers’ Connections through Contextual by Seedtag and Nielsen.

However, with time in short supply, bandwidth exceeded and thinking-time finite, I am not sure this report adds materially to the canon of contextual learning and probably does it a slight disservice with its evident context axe to grind (spoiler alert: Seedtag sells contextual digital advertising).

The report attempts to mirror online consumption and use four different targeting approaches (no targeting, demo, interest and contextual) across three categories (automotive, food & drink and beauty) to measure largely claimed outcomes. Here are some of the key outputs from the 16-page report:

1. Some targeting is better than no targeting

2. Context out-performed (sometimes) and provided less irritating, more exciting and informative experiences

3. Niche products, such as ‘cruelty free’ beauty and ‘organic/natural’ food & drink, were particularly receptive to contextual targeting

4. Interest was just as effective, driving more clicks throughs (contextual close behind) and were more likely to go on to purchase

There are certainly a few data points for consideration.

But my hesitation with partner-commissioned research like this means that the results are always rose-tinted, especially when based on claimed survey data.

The research is also conducted in an artificial test-setting, and it is unclear the lengths taken to recreate the real world. For instance, were respondents using desktop or mobile? How long were their sessions? Were they scrolling on the move or having a cuppa on the couch?

Lastly, the three chosen categories are presented as “the three most popular industries,” where Nielsen’s own Ad Dynamix databank would claim that they were only the third (Food & Drink), eighth (Automotive) and ninth (Beauty) highest spending ones — accounting for 17% of media spend over the last 12 months (21 September-22 August). So a limited category set to base its learning upon.

I will put my hands up, as I am proudly a generalist planner, not an insight expert, but I have seen enough research to recognise the weak from the strong, and this is unfortunately leaning more on the former side in my humble opinion.

More importantly, as our industry grows over time, let’s skip these well-trodden rhymes, as the they have been proven time after time (sorry).

For me, research should explore the unexplored, less known and misunderstood. Progress rather than repetition should be our north star.

James Parnum is head of planning at MediaCom UK.

Strategy Leaders: The Media Leader‘s weekly bulletin with thought leadership, news and analysis dedicated to excellence in commercial media strategy.
Sign up for free to ensure you stay up to date every Thursday.

Media Jobs