Why Contextual AI is No Longer Advertising’s Best-Kept Secret

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Digital advertising has come a long way from its email spamming origins in the late 1970s. Over the last 50 years, the landscape has evolved significantly, adapting to audience response to become much more targeted towards consumers. During this time, we’ve seen the likes of banner ads, pop-up ads, ad blockers, and social media advertising. As times change, so too do the tactics deployed by advertisers.

This battle for impressions, click-throughs — and eventually, leads — continues, but with many consumers now becoming desensitized to the ads they are served online. It has never been more important to effectively target audiences with relevant content that stands out from the crowd.

While programmatic and cookie-based advertising have been very popular over the last decade, concerns over data privacy and the development of artificial intelligence have led contextual advertising to make a comeback. 

AI leverages and analyzes data to take action toward the best possible outcome. However, contextual AI takes this one step further. It leverages the power of machine learning to provide human-like understanding of content. For brands, this means that they can serve relevant ads without the need for cookies or third-party data. Contextual advertising allows brands to engage with consumers within their universe of interest while protecting brand safety at the highest level.

Now, no longer a best-kept secret, contextual AI is becoming the future of brand marketing strategies. What makes it so effective?

Accurately Targeted Messages

Poorly targeted ads have played a significant role in giving digital advertising a bad name — seen by many as only a means of putting money in the pockets of publishers. Inaccurate ads are annoying at best and invisible at worst. They drive the number of ad blockers being used across the world, which rose from 142 million to 615 million from 2018 to 2019.

Contextual ads, on the other hand, leverage AI to understand context and target the most relevant audiences. For example, the technology can be used to understand web page sentiment, the nuance of the language being used on these pages, and the tone of images and video. In turn, AI can configure creative to complement the context in which an ad is served.

By leveraging AI to reach relevant audiences, advertisers can maximize the value of the ads they serve, improving click-through rates and optimising return on investment.

Increased Brand Safety 

While the goal for many is increased brand awareness, brand favorability is also an important aspect of advertising that organizations must be mindful of. By placing ads next to negative content — plagiarised, false, or negative articles, or negative reviews borne out of bias or insufficient evidence — brand favorability can drop by as much as 10%, according to research conducted by MetrixLab and Seedtag. Brands can quite easily damage their reputation through misplaced ads without even knowing it.

In comparison, the same study found that when running in-content contextual tools, brands are not only being associated with safe and relevant content, but their ads are also fully integrated into the article’s visual content, creating a halo effect. This was found to improve brand favorability by up to 22%, an impressive shift in the right direction.

By leveraging in-content contextual ads, organizations don’t only protect their brand, but they can also significantly enhance their brand’s favorability before target audiences have even clicked through.

A User-Friendly Approach

With relevant targeted ads, the likelihood of annoying audiences is minimal. Instead, consumers are likely to find links appropriate and more enticing. 

Rather than bombarded consumers with pop-ups, contextual advertising delivers ads that best fit the webpage. In-content display shows the right ads on the right images, videos, and content. Contextual advertising offers users exactly what they are looking for without having to go through the process of searching.

Preparing for the future

The advertising landscape is constantly changing — and so too are consumer demands. As we prepare for a cookieless world, advertisers must adapt their campaigns to not only comply with privacy regulations but also serve ads that stand out and attract clicks. The answer isn’t in frustrating pop-up ads; it is in offering audiences relevant content with powerful creatives that entice viewers.

While providing a cost-effective solution that delivers tangible results, contextual advertising allows advertisers to efficiently measure their campaigns and create strong returns on investment.

Paul Goldbaum is CTO at Seedtag.