Contextual advertising & targeting: capture the moment

Enter the stream of context.

What is contextual advertising? And what does it have to do with audio ads? At Spotify, we consider context-based advertising as the future of advertising. Let’s get into it.

What is contextual advertising anyway?

Getting context right — landing the right message, in the right setting, at the right time — is key to getting your message heard.

As marketers, we throw the word context around a lot — like, a lot. Count the times we say it on this page if you’ve got some free time. That’s because we know getting context right — landing the right message, in the right setting, at the right time — is the holy grail for brands. So we set out to find out how brands can use context to truly be heard in the moment.

But first, let’s define contextual advertising to get the ball rolling. Contextual advertising is the promotion of products, services, or brands based on specific actions, or contexts, of the audience. For example, placing an advertisement for athletic gear during a workout playlist is reaching that prospective customer in the proper context to be served an ad.

Here’s an audio experience that takes you into a few common daily moments: Working Out, Cooking, Partying, and Chilling. Listen along with Alex, who’s having a pretty nice Saturday. Then, keep scrolling for a guide to each individual moment.

Listen now

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Put on headphones for the full effect.

Audio flexes to the moment

Multi-device users stream Spotify for 2.5 hours per day,1 which means we’re constantly learning about how people listen in real-time through our streaming intelligence — first-party, contextual data that reveals moods, mindsets, habits, and tastes in the moment.

On the other end of the headphones, the flexibility of streaming audio allows people to match the vibe of, or even shape, key moments throughout their day with a personalized soundtrack. In fact, 73% of U.S. Spotify listeners use audio differently depending on where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with.2

To be heard, respect listeners’ context

With more devices, more content, and more ads than ever before, brands need to find a way to cut through the noise to get their message heard. Enter, context advertising. One way to get through to your audience: deliver messages that are relevant to the context they're listening in.

We asked users why and how they listen in order to more fully understand their streaming context. Listen to these contextual advertising examples to learn how your brand can be heard in the moment that makes the most impact.

Working Out

Music has become one of the best motivators to get people to move. In fact, in our research we found that motivation is the number one reason people stream while working out. Click below to learn more about the Workout moment.


For many people, cooking is a way to wind down at the end of a long week — in fact, listening while prepping food actually peaks on Fridays. Click below for more snackable insights on the Cooking moment.


Whether it’s a house party, BBQ, or Girls’ Night pre-game, music helps people set the mood for themselves, and for the folks they’re entertaining. Learn how to celebrate your brand in the context of celebrations with our guide to the Party moment.


It probably comes as no surprise that people turn to tunes to chill out. In fact, over a third of all respondents to our recent survey say the primary reason they listen to music is to relax or de-stress. Click below to focus on the Chill moment.

How to consider contextual targeting in your creative

After having seen our examples, you may be asking yourself: “what is contextual advertising going to look like for my campaign?” Here are a few best practices to keep in mind for your context-based advertising campaigns to help you create better experiences for your audience.

1. Keep your messages relevant

Contextual targeting is all about, well, targeted audiences. And that means keeping your messages relevant to that group. Consider content interests that align with your marketing goals and brand message. Through podcast audience targeting, you can now reach comedy buffs, culture lovers, and specific customers within niche topics and online communities.

For example, if you’re looking to drive awareness of a new comedy series or want to reach people who are into sports, an effective strategy is to find find listeners of podcasts with similar topics and target them with a relevant message.

2. Get the beat of your ad right

What is contextual advertising supposed to sound like? Well, that all depends on your audience. Context advertising is all about understanding how to match the vibe of the playlist the listener is listening to. Playlist keywords give us clues to the listeners’ context within the moment they’re listening: their setting, their current genre preference, and even their preferred BPM. So much so, that campaigns that include playlist targeting drive 2.1x higher intent than campaigns that don’t.

Know what your audience is listening to and match your creative to the vibe. There are over 3 billion playlists on Spotify — both Spotify-curated and personal. Whether it’s workout (Beast Mode, Workout Twerkout), cooking (Kitchen Swagger, Your Kitchen Stereo), chill (Lo-Fi Beats, Peaceful Piano), or party (Dance Party, Girls’ Night), there’s endless opportunity to get creative with how you reach your audience in context.

3. Use context to find the right canvas

Spotify’s streaming intelligence can identify when the screen is in view, or when audio is the star of the show. Audio and video advertising both have their moments of context — find the right way to deliver your message.

A video with a direct call to action is a great fit for when the screen is in view. For on-the-go moments, use the power of audio to tell a story and create a memorable impression for the listener.

1 Spotify First Party Data, global, based on daily content hours / daily active users, free users multiplatform, May 2019 2 Culture Next Report, Spotify trend survey among 500 US Spotify Users 15-37, February 2019

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