Knowing Consumers' Frame of Mind = A Best Ad Match

by , May 24, 2011, 7:00 AM
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The holy grail of matching ads to a page has been described as knowing "the right consumer, at the right time, at the right time." Behavioral Targeting and Audience Buying can take care of the right consumer part of the equation.  IP sniffing and a few other tricks, more or less, take care of time and place.  But if you are concerned about brand safety and improved response, you are missing a key metric:  the right frame of mind. 

What influences a consumer's frame of mind? Many things, but a primary driver is what a consumer is reading.  Read about a nuclear disaster and you feel very differently in comparison to reading about Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen on the hit TV show Two and a half Men

Contextual technology is the current approach, a dressed up way of saying keywords.  And keywords are notoriously bad at true contextual understanding.  In fact, keywords suffer from three fatal flaws;

Same Word Different Meanings -- keyword technology doesn't even attempt to know whether Jaguar is a cat or a car.

Different Words Same Meanings -- keyword technology never connects "equal opportunity law" and "disability legislation" as the same thing.

Different Words Related Meanings -- keyword technology cannot tell me that company, charity and trade union are examples of organizations. 

Ad traffickers that rely on keyword technology get bad matches in the first case, miss many matches in the second, and get too many or too few in the third.  That doesn't mean that a consumer's frame of mind cannot be understood.  Semantic technology is one way of accomplishing this, and its importance lies in the accuracy it brings to targeting.

 Jaguar-Eats-Gas

Semantic technology looks at the larger picture and makes deductions that result in true contextual meaning.  Back to our cat vs. car example look at this semantic output where Jaguar is understood to be a cat.  It is the presence of the word meat that provides the clue in example marked 1. Now change just one word - meat to gas and in example 2 you see that Jaguar is now understood to be a luxury car.  In example 3 you see a tougher test.  The word gas is in the sentence twice, but semantics can take all the clues and know the first gas is fuel and the second is a pedal. 

Take this accuracy-based approach and extend it now into the realm of emotions, buyer intentions, people, places, things, brands, standard categories and dynamic categories. You get a rich data stream that is, in fact, the consumers' frame of mind. 

The use of semantic technology to establish context is really about correcting and expanding on keyword understanding.  Both correcting (disambiguating common, multi-definition words for their in-sentence meaning) and expanding (looking for the story-arc across all the content) is a classic segmentation scheme. The deeper the segments, the more potential matches, the better the accuracy of the ad match.  Combine a semantic set of data with audience data and you will get the 40% improved engagement recent research by Yahoo/InnerScope suggests. 

In the end, semantic targeting -- a higher form of contextual -- can add much to your efforts to connect with consumers. As Amy Manus, media director, Nurun, aptly says: "Today's form of advertising is about earning consumer attention vs. shouting for it."

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