How Semantic Technology is Creating Opportunities for Advertisers and Publishers

After the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organizations are required to get consent before collecting cookies that include personal data from European users.1

Perhaps not surprisingly, research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism discovered a 22 percent drop in the number of third-party cookies across all new sites, demonstrating a decrease in third-party content and cookie use since GDPR went into effect. 2

One development that’s showing promise? Semantic contextual targeting, a cookie-free way to ensure brand safety and contextual relevance.
Here’s what semantic technology is, and the benefits it brings to both advertisers and publishers.

What is Semantic Technology?
Semantic technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret the meaning behind text, images and even videos more effectively and efficiently, from a natural human perspective. Empowered by this technology, contextual targeting is no longer just scanning for keywords – it’s now much more powerful in understanding the true context of a given page on a massive scale.

An example: The phrase “Big Apple” can take on two completely different meanings, depending on context – either representing New York City, or a larger than average fruit.3 In this example, semantic technology can assist publishers in accurately analyzing the actual meaning of “Big Apple,” and accurately deliver relevant ads to users who are reading articles on their sites.

The value of semantic technology is to effectively serve the most relevant ads. By understanding why, how and where editorial content on each page is framing certain topics, semantic technology is able to deliver the effective contextually targeted advertising. 4
Indeed, effective contextual targeting has several benefits.

Semantic Technology Increases User Engagement
When audiences are served a video, machine learning analyzes video features, including the overall concepts, clip summarization, speech-to-text and embedded text, and other metadata.5 From these factors, the technology can identify events and themes of the video and serve relevant video ads that have similar events and themes in real-time.6

Take, for example, a video that includes a cooking scene in a light-hearted setting. After using semantic analysis to identify the event and theme, the system is able to recommend a relevant ad – say, an ad for chocolate, instead of a microwave ad.7

This method enables a better interaction between brands and users. According to Yahoo’s research, user engagement experiences a 40 percent increase if emotional and contextual targeting are used together.8

Semantic technology also allows brands to increase engagement with readers by augmenting reader behavior and content data in recommendation services. The Financial Times developed a content recommender powered by a semantic engine that successfully drove user engagement by giving users better recommendations and a more natural experience, combining both user behavior and semantic profiles of content.9

Semantic Technology Increases Ad Revenue
There is a positive correlation between contextual relevance of ads and ad revenue. Online publisher LittleThings saw a thirty-six percent increase in revenue when it switched to use user-initiated video and contextually relevant native content advertising.10

As semantic technology enables analysis at page level, advertisers can optimize the relevance of ads by targeting ads in either higher-level context categories like ‘personal finance’, or in specific categories such as ‘insurance’.11 Difficult-to-sell publisher inventories are now more valuable with semantic technology, giving the opportunity to move low performing inventory to high cost per impression direct sales channels, in another word, to increase revenue.12

Semantic Technology Ensures Brand Safety
Brand safety is an important concern for the majority of advertisers. A survey conducted by the advertising and media company Oath showed that 99 percent of the respondents expressed concerns about brand safety.13

Semantic technology, when combined with natural language processing, understands the sentiment expressed in an article and avoids placing ads that could harm brand safety.14 For example, AI-powered native advertising technology wouldn’t place an ad for chocolate within content about obesity. 15

On the other hand, advertisers can choose the specific contextual categories they would want to prevent in response to real-time events, and even use industry-specific categories to avoid irrelevant and inappropriate content for their own sector.16 An example is that Golf brands used semantic technology to prevent serving ads in Tiger Woods scandal news to protect themselves from appearing next to the high-risk content.17

Overall, semantic technology enables more effective contextual targeting which not only allows publishers to better monetize inventory but also helps advertisers to build better engagement with audience and protect brand image.18 There has been a 20 percent increase in requests for semantic contextual targeting since GDPR was implemented. It appears that the industry is ready for the technology. 19

1. Onorato, Amy. “Cookies And Consent: How GDPR Impacts Online Tracking.” DMN, DMN, 25 May 2018.
2. Tannam, Ellen. “GDPR is having an effect on websites using third-party cookies.” Siliconrepublic, Siliconrepublic, 16 Aug 2018.
3. Flood, Vincent. “The Tech Sessions: How Semantic Contextual Targeting Works.” Videoadnews, Videoadnews, 16 Jan 2017.
4. Rowntree, Lindsay. “’Deep Native’ is Native Advertising’s Evolution: Q&A with Dale Lovell, CDO & UK MD, ADYOULIKE.” Exchange Wire, Exchange Wire, 27 Jun 2017.
5. Madhok, Rishi, & Mujumdar, Shashank. “Semantic Understanding for Contextual In-Video Advertising.” The Thirty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
8. “Four reasons semantic targeting is future proof.” Admantx, Admantx, 5 May 2015
9. “Scaling Semantic Technology to Increase User Engagement –” Semantics Vienna. 2018.
10. Hodson, Rupert. “Publishers: Get More Value From Fewer Ads.” Dianomi, Dianomi, 7 Nov 2017.
11. Gosen, David. “Could AI combined with context negate the need for third party data?” Marketing Tech, Marketing Tech. 8 Jan 2018.
12. Solomon, Amiad. “Semantic Advertising Technology – There’s a New Sheriff in Town.” Huffpost, Huffpost. 25 May 2011.
13. Sutton, Kelsey. “Advertisers Are More Concerned Than Ever About Brand Safety, According to New Study.” Adweek, Adweek. 7 Jun 2018.
14. IBID
15. Levine, Barry. “Watson helps AdYouLike screen content for native ads.” Martechtoday, Martechtoday, 14 Jul 2017.
16. IBID
17. IBID
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19. IBID