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AI Improves Contextual Targeting for Brands: UM Worldwide’s Joshua Lowcock

Technology companies including Apple and Google are giving people more ways to protect their online privacy, limiting the availability of consumer data that help advertisers reach target audiences. Contextual ad placements within quality content are making a comeback.

“Contextual advertising feels a lot like ‘back to the future’ in the sense that we have been talking about it forever,” Joshua Lowcock, executive vice president and chief digital officer of UM Worldwide, said in this interview Beet.TV. “We pivoted to data-driven advertising and somewhat forgot about contextual until brand safety emerged as a challenge.”

He is optimistic that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will improve contextual targeting while also respecting consumer privacy.

“My biggest hope for contextual is that it opens the door to people thinking more intelligently about the mindset certain people are in when they’re consuming certain kinds of content,” Lowcock said.

Power of Publishers’ First-Party Data

Lowcock recommends that publishers harness the first-party data collected directly from their audiences to boost the value of their advertising inventories by helping marketers reach targeted consumer groups.

“Publishers are still the owners of first-party data and will be for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Blend contextual data with your first-party data, and that enables you to leverage the power of both contextual and first-party data for a better result at more efficient scale.”

Strategies for Brands

Brands must align their ad creative with the surrounding content to optimize the effectiveness of contextual targeting.

“One of the things we don’t often talk about is from a purely media perspective is the creative message,” he said. “Most of the challenges that you have when contextual advertising goes wrong, it’s because the ad messaging itself is not as respectful of the contextual environment.”

Better Than Blocklisting

AI technology can help to provide a more nuanced approach to contextual targeting that considers the reputation of a media company and the specific content it publishes. That approach is more effective than key-word blocking that can prevent ads from appearing alongside appropriate content.

“One of the greatest failings that contextual had in the past was that it was a blunt-force object, and it really was key-word targeting,” Lowcock said. “If we can move away from seeing key-word targeting as equaling contextual targeting, and use AI to mean semantic analysis, that’s when AI becomes a powerful part of the contextual toolset.”

You are watching “Reshaping Contextual Advertising,” a Beet.TV leadership series presented by OpenSlate. For more videos, please visit this page.