Apr 8th 2022

What Is a Contextual Ad Network?

These ad networks can help advertisers make use of contextual signals to serve consumers relevant content.

Contextual advertising isn’t just the new normal, it’s a well-tested approach that’s perfectly positioned to get advertisers back on track in the post-IDFA era. According to research by Global Industry Analysts, the contextual ad market reached $157.4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and is expected to reach $335.1 billion by 2026. So how can advertisers get those contextual ads in front of valuable users and increase their return on ad spend? These contextual ad networks do the job of delivering relevant ads to users across all kinds of digital interactions.

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What is a contextual ad network?
Mobile in-app contextual ad networks
Vungle
AdColony
Tapjoy
Web-based contextual ad networks
Google AdSense
Taboola
Outbrain

What is a contextual ad network?

A contextual advertising network is exactly what it says on the tin: A network that uses contextual signals to match ads with end users most likely to respond to them. In general, ad networks serve to connect demand sources (advertisers looking to reach consumers) with supply sources (apps, websites, etc. looking to serve ads to users) to display the right ad at the right time. Contextual ad networks in particular create relevance between those two groups by leveraging data from contextual traffic, which has become the norm for advertisers navigating the post-IDFA world.

Related: What Is Contextual Traffic on Mobile?

Mobile in-app contextual ad networks

These contextual ad networks are focused on connecting advertisers with mobile apps where their ads can be displayed. Think about the last time you played a mobile game — did you experience in-app ads that were related to that game either by category, type, style, or something else? Chances are you have a mobile in-app contextual ad network to thank for that.

Vungle

As the leading in-app video platform for performance marketers, Vungle, a Liftoff company, helps brands reach, acquire, and retain high-value users all over the world. With a reach of over 1 billion unique devices, the company drives engagement and increases returns for advertisers and publishers of all sizes. Vungle’s suite of contextual advertising tools include data-led buying and UX recommendations, a variety of innovative ad formats, creative automation and optimization, and more.

GameRefinery, a Liftoff company, offers Vungle ad partners even more contextual targeting capabilities. Because GameRefinery has been a leader in the contextual advertising space for years, the company has accumulated massive amounts of data that lead to more precise — and therefore more valuable — contextual ads. Contact us today to learn how GameRefinery’s creative ad intelligence platform leverages valuable contextual traffic data to match the right ads with the right consumers at the right time.

AdColony

AdColony was one of the first in-app ad networks geared toward video advertising specifically for mobile devices. Using their proprietary Instant-Play technology, the ad network delivers full-screen HD video ads to a network of iOS and Android apps. AdColony’s partners include Fortune 500 companies and over 50% of the App Store’s top-grossing publishers. Last year, Digital Turbine acquired AdColony in a $400 million deal to expand their independent mobile growth platform.

Tapjoy

Since their founding in 2007, Tapjoy has helped advertisers reach mobile audiences using a variety of ad formats, and aided publishers in monetizing their apps. In 2016, comScore found that Tapjoy’s diverse suite of rewarded video and rich media ads delivered a 3x lift across all brand metrics. Fortune 500 companies and the top 200 grossing app developers rely on Tapjoy’s global presence to reach over 30,000 mobile apps and more than 800 million active users with contextual ads each month.

Web-based contextual ad networks

Web-based contextual advertising was many advertisers’ first introduction to the concept. Displaying relevant ads on every corner of the internet is increasingly valuable as more and more consumers spend their time working, playing, and shopping on the web. A good example would be serving ads for kitchen tools on recipe websites or displaying a promotion for reading glasses on a bookseller’s website.

Google AdSense

Google AdSense and the Google Display Network is the #1 global display ad network in the world, with a reach of more than 90% of internet users. It generates over 1 trillion impressions per month served to over 1 billion global users. The Google Display Network helps brands reach relevant audiences by serving contextual ads to users while they are browsing the internet, watching a video on YouTube, or checking their Gmail account, for example.

Taboola

Taboola uses AI to deliver contextual ads that recommend related content to web users. More than 13,000 advertisers rely on Taboola for a brand-safe way to reach over 500 million daily active users. The company is best known for their online thumbnail grid ads, which most users are accustomed to seeing in the form of “recommended for you” or “around the web” boxes paired with news articles. Taboola’s digital partners include CNBC, NBC News, Business Insider, The Independent, and El Mundo.

Outbrain

Outbrain is a recommendation platform that delivers native ads on the websites and pages that people visit. Through what’s known as “chumbox” ad units, the company gives advertisers the opportunity to find and grow their audience from over one-third of the world’s online consumers and helps those consumers discover brands and products they’ll love based on contextual recommendations. Outbrain was founded in 2006 and received a $1.25 billion valuation at their IPO last year.

As the advertising world continues to forge new pathways in the absence of IDFA data, the ability to use contextual signals to connect consumers with relevant ads will become increasingly important. That’s why Vungle acquired GameRefinery, incorporating the approximately 700 different signal categories GameRefinery has amassed over a period of years into their creative ad intelligence platform. Going above and beyond the contextual signals that other, newer networks can offer is just one of the ways we empower our ad partners with cutting-edge capabilities. Ready to learn more about how Vungle can help you put contextual ad networks to work and connect with the right consumers at the right time? Contact us today.

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