Audience-based targeting is being reconsidered in light of the deprecation of third-party cookies, with Google phasing them out on its Chrome browser by 2023. To address this challenge, Vodafone UK partnered with DoubleVerify (DV) to test DV Custom Contextual, a privacy-safe solution that leverages ontology and semantic science to place ads alongside relevant content, without relying on consumer tracking or personally identifiable information.

DV Custom Contextual delivered more than twice as many acquisitions per pound than Vodafone’s UK benchmark, and more than three times as many as a competitor’s contextual strategy that was running in parallel during the campaign period.

By using DV Custom Contextual, Vodafone UK leveraged a solution that is not reliant on cookies or personally identifiable information and improved its audience-based targeting, showing that there is ample scope for innovation in building a better advertising industry beyond the retirement of cookies.

Objectives & Aims

With the deprecation of third-party cookies on the horizon, the marketing and advertising industry needs to find new ways to measure campaign performance, target audiences at scale in a privacy-safe manner and ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of ad spend.

In light of this, Vodafone UK’s main objective was to select a privacy-safe solution that could use both broad and granular targeting categories to achieve campaign reach while maintaining contextual relevance to its audiences. This was in order to meet and exceed its acquisition per pound target, while remaining privacy-conscious.

Secondary objectives such as viewability rates, clickthrough rate and effective cost per thousand impressions (eCPM) were also measured.

Implementation, Execution & Tactics

Research carried out by DV reveals that more than two-thirds (69%) of consumers are more likely to look at an ad that’s relevant to the content they are viewing. Contextual targeting was therefore a priority for Vodafone UK’s digital media plans.

DV Custom Contextual enabled Vodafone UK to use both broad and granular targeting categories to align ads to relevant content, to achieve increased user engagement and drive conversion.

Vodafone was able to build targeted segments based on over 430 IAB categories, as well as seasonal, behavioural and dynamic categories. The segments can be tailored to include site, app and language inclusions/exclusions and specific URL keyword lists. Vodafone included an IAB category around cell phones, which featured all content around mobile devices and plans, and built a dynamic category around mobile plan upgrades and new SIM/PAYM contracts. The combination of the two allowed Vodafone UK to achieve significant scale while driving impressive down-funnel results.


DV Custom Contextual drove an average cost per incremental acquisition (iCPA), measured through Vodafone’s multi touch attribution solution, that was 54% lower than Vodafone UK’s benchmark and 67% lower than a competitor’s contextual strategy.

The secondary KPIs also outperformed Vodafone UK’s benchmarks, with 10% higher viewability rate, 21% higher clickthrough rate and 25% higher eCPM.