Semantic Advertising and the AD-Tech Space; Are we missing something?

Semantic Advertising and the AD-Tech Space; Are we missing something?

Brands are investing more in digital marketing today than ever before. Digital ad revenues hit a record high in the first half of 2014, surging to $23.1 Billion, suggesting ad spend is growing steadily and not slowing down anytime soon. The Ad-Tech sector is definitely, “hot right now”, innovation and disruption within the industry is primarily focused on Programmatic Advertising, Cross Platform Advertising, Social Advertising and Mobile.

But are we missing something? Are we forgetting that web users don’t like ads and that ad targeting, in general, is less than satisfactory?

The digital ad space today is made up of display ads, banners, pop-ups, search ads and so on that are targeted on the actions or behaviours of an internet user which can all be placed under the Behavioural Advertising umbrella.


Behavioural vs Semantic Advertising

Behavioural Advertising, is what most of us are used to and quite frankly, are sick of. It’s a form of display advertising that takes into account the habits of a web user. It focuses on the behaviours of a web user and usually relies on cookies to track the actions or activity of a user, whether that’s a search made, a visit to a site or even the geolocation of a user.

Semantic advertising is different. It applies semantic technologies to online advertising solutions. The function of semantic advertising technology is to contextually analyze, properly understand and classify the meaning of a web page to ensure the most appropriate advert is displayed on that page. Semantic advertising increases the chance that the viewer will ‘click-thru’ because only ads that are relevant to what the user is viewing and, therefore, interested in, will be displayed.

Why is Semantic Advertising important?

Unfortunately, digital ads online are pretty poor, often times they’re just annoying and sometimes they can be damaging for a brand. In a nutshell, as the amount of content published and consumed online increases, ads are becoming less targeted, more intrusive and a lot less effective. Don’t believe me? Check out some of these sound bites and stats gathered by HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe. (My favourite has to be this one: “You are more likely to summit Mount Everest than click a banner ad.” )

Who should care?


The publisher, for the most part, will own the web pages the ads are displayed on. Their goal is to maximize advertising revenue while providing a positive user experience.

Today more than ever there are more people browsing privately, privacy laws are tougher than ever and advertisers are looking for more bang for their buck. Publishers need to embrace moves away from traditional cookie-based targeting to more semantic-based approaches.


The advertiser provides the ads. These ads are usually organized around campaigns which are defined by a set of ads with a particular goal or theme (e.g. car insurance) in mind. The goal of the advertiser is to promote their given product or service in the best way possible to the right audience at the right time.

Reaching a target audience for advertisers is harder than ever before online.  The main issue limiting the display market is context or the disconnect between ad placement and content on the webpage: misplaced ads can often impact negatively on an ad campaign and its effectiveness. Advertisers, need to focus on more strategic targeting methods, in order to meet their target customers where and when is most effective.

Ad Networks

An ad network acts as a middle-man between the advertiser and publishers. They select what ads are displayed on what pages. Ad networks need to care about keeping their advertisers happy and providing ROI. Brands and advertisers do their best to avoid wasting ad spend on misplaced or poorly targeted ad campaigns. That’s why Ad networks need to differentiate themselves by offering alternative targeting options like semantic targeting to improve ad matching and the overall return they provide.

In our next blog, we’ll focus on the basics of how semantic advertising works, for more on the benefits of Semantic Ads check out our previous blog post Semantic Advertising and Text Analysis gives more targeted ad campaigns.


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