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Linguistics Finds Home In Semantic Search, Advertising

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Language moves on. Some of the same words consumers searched on in 2005 can have vastly different meanings when searched on today, or they might not have existed. For example, some words spelled the same might have different meanings, while other words have different meaning with slightly different spelling such as Microsoft "Kinect," rather than "connect." Then there's the new words all together like "iPad" that didn't exist a year ago. Ian Saunders, managing director at Crystal Semantics, says language changes about 5% annually.

The shift occurs in nearly every market. Sport team franchises, for example, suddenly emerge, so search engine marketing and ad targeting platforms need a little tweaking to accommodate the shift. Not just in English, but in French, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese and more.

Linguists have found a place in advertising through semantics. About 40 linguists work on technology platforms for Crystal Semantics, as the company expands to support it ninth language. The company took all the words out of the dictionary and aligned them to categories from an encyclopedia. It gave the company "knowledge categories."

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The linguistics team assigned and mapped each word from the dictionary to a knowledge category. About 250,000 concepts exist. Multiply those concepts by nine languages. The plan will see the company move to include Asian languages, too. About 350,000 knowledge language categories enable targeted campaigns and optimization.

When I spoke with him Ian began talking about how Crystal will license Ad Pepper's display ad technologies SenseEngine, semantic classification, and SiteScreen, semantic brand protection technology, to ad agencies, publishers, ad networks, ad exchanges and demand-side platforms. But he soon moved on to linguistics in general and how its scholars have found a new profession advising companies building search engines and social networks.

Semantic advertising looks at more than the ad on the page, but rather the words associated with the page. It measures the value of each word. Then the technology draws a distinction about the topic of the page as a whole to determine meaning.

Aside from semantic advertising, where advertisers can select from a list of article and content themes they don't want their ads seen nearby, Crystal's technology focuses on audience profiles. Saunders says the company continues to work with demand-side platform companies and agencies to support ads near specific page context. He says the technology will be able to identify the content on a Web page, place them in a semantic category and remove those categories from the list that do not perform well.

Although the focus has been on display advertising, test-based and video advertising will come in time. Saunders believes semantic advertising through linguistics will become the viable option for advertisers wanting to target consumer ads by behavior as government agencies continue to crackdown on behavioral targeting (BT). Of course, he does.

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