Why Adtech Needs Context-Specific Targeting

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The advertising problem: advertisers and users are struggling

Advertisements are all too often a nuisance to users. Many ad-blocking software and hardware invented is a proof for this.

While advertisers have come up with an impressive array of methods for breaking users’ attention, users do not welcome such disruption to their browsing. What started with popups has led to videos, enticing headlines, and rich-media Spiderman jumping across the screen. However, these methods, though technical developments, are not without their downsides.

Advertising should not be a struggle or an arms race between advertisers and users. It should be an exchange that benefits both sides.

The advertising solution: advertisement needs to add value to users, and advertising technology should identify and pick the right target audience.

Advertisements can be well-received. Consider, for example, SuperBowl ads. Americans often tune in to SuperBowl more for the ads than for the football game itself; in a study conducted after the 2013 SuperBowl, 39% of respondents claimed that the commercials were their favorite part, while only 28% said the football game itself was their favorite part. [1] SuperBowl ad campaigns can become cultural phenomena; the Budweiser frogs are an example of this. The audience does not merely tolerate these ads, people enjoy themas entertainment.

In order to be well-received, advertisements need to add value to recipients. This can happen in many ways. In the case of SuperBowl, the ads are enjoyable as entertainment, but making entertainment need not always be the way advertisers prove that they are worth the audience’s time. Most ads that a user perceives as relevant, especially if recommending an unknown product, will be welcomed by the user. (In fact, even ads that are simply perceived as less intrusive are better received; video ads that can be skipped after the first five seconds do significantly better in customer satisfaction surveys than video ads that cannot be skipped.) The less the user feels impinged upon by the ad, and the more relevant the user feels the ad is, the more effective the ad is.

While much of the progress toward making ads better for users (and thus more effective) can be made in ad design, advertising targeting technology holds great opportunity as well. Ad design can make great ads, but only advertising technology can pick the best audience for those ads.

Adtech past

Adtech has come a long way in quite a short time. It was not so long ago that crude misuses of NLP resulted in algorithmically-generated disasters of advertising. (See, for example, the “PutYourFeetUp” incident from 2008. [2]) We have come far from then, but still not far enough. User-targeting – the “who?” question – has been the focus of much research and development. But the “when?” and “where?” questions have not been handled well enough yet. Companies may target based on geo-location, or by time of day, but the notion of context has not been developed well enough yet.

Adtech present & future: cross-screen targeting

Context is the next frontier for the development of advertising technology. Consider, for example, a football fan. A book about Joe Namath will be more relevant during this user’s subway commute than it will be while the person is at his or her office job – because people read during their commutes. (By contrast, while this person is at his or her office job, an ad for a productivity app may be more relevant.) If we could target based on the context of “commute”, then these ads could be made more relevant to users, and thus more effective.

This is why Appier cross-screen targeting was born. With cross-screen targeting, advertisers can deliver the right content to the right audience on the right screen at the right time. Our technology can predict user’s owned devices and follow the pattern from the specific user behavior across different devices. Now we are not just finding the right user, but all the context the user engaged with different devices.

[1] AdWeek. “Ads Trump Football in Super Bowl Survey.” http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ads-trump-football-super-bowl-survey-146776

[2] Mashable. “When Contextual Advertising Goes Horribly Wrong.” http://mashable.com/2008/06/19/contextual-advertising/

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