How to avoid contextual tragedies

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The relationship between online search and advertising is inextricable. With any new development in search technology comes a correlated development in advertising technology.

Today, the search market is buzzing about semantics (i.e., using the science of meaning in language to produce highly relevant results). It's a departure from keyword methods, which use ranking algorithms to predict relevancy (e.g., everyone's favorite search engine, Google).

Now, the advertising market is buzzing about semantic advertising, because like semantic search, it holds promise to improve the all important issue of relevancy.

The disconnect
Advertisement relevancy is the core issue affecting the online advertising market. Frequently, ads appear on pages that have little significance to the assigned content, thereby rendering the placement ineffective or producing counterproductive effects. For example, an ad for a Caribbean vacation package may appear near an article about a massive hurricane that ripped through that region -- not exactly the association that the brand manger at the vacation company wants!

Let's consider a few examples that further underscore the problems of contextual ad relevancy:

In this example, an ad for a free dinner at Olive Garden is placed (via keyword ad system) next to an article about 250 people getting sick after eating at an Olive Garden restaurant in Indiana. 

In this example, we see ad for a Samsung Blast cell phone next to an article about how a man might have possibly died from the explosive blast of a cell phone battery, again driven by the match of the keyword "blast" without using any contextual background to the use of the word.

In this example, a banner ad on CNN for a moving company, Putyourfeetup.com, has the regrettable distinction of being placed above a story about severed feet washing up along British Columbia's shores.

What all these ads say, rather loudly, is that there's a real problem with business as usual in the advertising arena -- keywords do not take into account context, and they should. Not only do these misplaced ads not reach their intended audience, but it's clear that there's also real potential that these ads are reinforcing negative brand impressions.

Real-life examples like the above keep business executives up at night, but with the advent of semantic advertising, executives can now rest assured that their ads are properly targeted and set alongside only the most relevant articles. 

Semantic advertising 101
Improving relevancy isn't just about avoiding negative associations with articles on a given page. By improving relevancy, semantic advertising also significantly increases clickthrough rates, which, in turn, ensures that the ad is relevant to the content that the reader originally engaged with.

For advertisers, understanding the interests of the reader/potential customer will mean a more effective, revenue-generating, contextual advertisement. With semantic advertising systems, agencies and publishers can now unlock previously hidden value on the content of a page (as well as blogs and social networks) by publishing more relevant ads. 

To optimize the supply and management of these contextual advertisement outlays, semantic advertising systems rely on at least three distinguishing features: precise automation, real-time analysis and monitoring and socio-cultural connections.

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