4 mins read

Serving branded content in the right context helps publishers add value to their inventory

Mark Bembridge, CEO at Smartology looks at the new world of contextual digital advertising and outlines what it offers readers and advertisers – and therefore how it benefits publishers.

Digital adverts are very good at reminding us what we have been interested in.  They are much less adept at knowing when we will be at our most receptive to seeing them.

So a business user opening their laptop at work in the morning, to catch up on news in a financial publication might see ads for holiday cottages and car rentals, based on their holiday research the previous evening.

At best these ads are seen as annoying and irrelevant, but ignored.  However, there is a risk that they damage the brands of both the advertiser and the publisher because they are intrusive.  Worse still, they may be blocked altogether.

Know thy reader – in real time

Imagine instead if the ads served related directly to the content being viewed?  Once at work the person booking the holiday the night before would see branded thought-leadership material based on the article they were reading there and then; the Chinese economy or the US commodity market, for example.  In other words, the branded content shown is based on their real-time activity rather than their previous online behaviour, or profiles built using third party data.

This is the new and exciting world of contextual digital advertising.  (Disclaimer, Smartology pioneers and develops tools that use semantics to serve targeted branded thought-leadership content, based on the context of the editorial, to be placed where a reader can click on it at their leisure.)

Rather than take evasive action, the reader is likely to perceive the advertising content as relevant and informative, something that adds value to the editorial they have selected to read. This is borne out by engagement metrics far surpassing those for campaigns using more traditional methods of audience and behavioural targeting.

A receptive audience for the brand advertiser

Clearly this is good news for advertisers, who spend large amounts of their budget on creating high-quality branded content.  Having it presented to the right audience, at the right time (ie when the reader is receptive to it) means they see a significant increase on ROI.

Publishers’ inventory increases in value

This means it is also a major boost for publishers, because they are able to provide valuable inventory to advertisers, and therefore consistently high returns, and charge accordingly. No longer are ads intrusive; rather advertising partners’ material can potentially add value because it is relevant, timely and high quality.

Putting content where it counts

Media owners adopting a contextual approach make themselves highly attractive to leading brands because they can offer valuable ad positions alongside relevant content.  But while premium priced inventory is clearly a key objective, publishers putting ‘content where it counts’ reap many other rewards.

Ad-blocking, the current bête-noir of the digital advertising industry is tackled head-on.  Readers are far less likely to resent advertising when it comes in the form of informative branded content, and so the incentive to install an ad blocker is reduced.

A publisher’s brand reputation is protected because there is no risk of brand-damaging ads appearing on their premium content.

They can also run ‘always-on’ campaigns because branded content from clients can be added continually so there is always new material.  This allows plans and forecasts to be made for much longer periods than is possible with a traditional advertising campaign.

Win, win, win

In conclusion, the reader is happy because they no longer have to fend off unwanted ads, the brand advertiser can run more effective and efficient campaigns, and the publisher can charge a premium for their inventory. Put another way, the normally incompatible objectives of all three groups can all be met by understanding that even the highest quality content is only truly valuable if it is viewed in the right context.


About Smartology

Founded in 2010, Smartology has developed an innovative and cutting-edge semantic solution for digital advertising that enables brands to optimise their content libraries by focusing on its relevance in relation to editorial articles.

Smartology’s profiling and matching technologies are at the core of its SmartMatch platform, which integrates with a media owner’s ad serving platform.  Using natural language processing and algorithms, it semantically profiles content from both the media owner and the advertiser and builds a model of the significant concepts within it.  These concepts are weighted and organised into content profiles which are used by the SmartMatch system to select the most relevant content from the advertiser, be it editorial or video, to display alongside any given article on the media owner’s website in real-time.

Smartology’s media owner partners include, Bloomberg, Citywire, CNBC, the Economist, the Financial Times, Haymarket, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal and it counts over 40 global brands, such as Blackrock, London Business School, Mishcon de Reya, RBS and Robeco Bank, as advertiser clients.

More details are available on the website: