In Online Advertising, Placement is All Semantics—or Should Be

“I’m not sure that I really care about what people think about my brand because I know that most of the decisions [consumers] make have nothing to do with thinking. If you’re not catching people emotionally, you’re not going to catch them at all.”

Wise words from Brad Brinegar, Chairman and CEO of McKinney advertising agency. [Source].

If you’re not responding to the emotion of consumers, you’re wasting your advertising dollars. So, the question is: How do you catch people emotionally, especially in digital advertising?

Making sure your web banner or other digital ad evokes the desired emotions isn’t enough (and isn’t easy). You can be doing so much more to capture an audience—and still protect their privacy.

How? Semantics.

Semantic targeting focuses on sentiment. Instead of using cookies and other tracking methods to snoop on the individual visitor and his or her interests, semantic targeting focuses on the emotional context of the page where the ad will appear.

Contextual, Behavioral & Semantic Targeting: What’s the Difference?

Contextual targetingBased on the actual content on the page. Your ad is placed on certain web pages due to to keywords on that page that match your criteria. The picture below shows exactly why this method is not good enough—and often dangerous for your brand reputation.

Web page with Kingsford grilling ad near headline about a couple who grilled toddler

Behavioral targetingBased on a consumer’s online actions. For example, I mentioned a Wawa convenience store in one of my Facebook posts. When I moved to another page a Wawa hoagie ad appeared onscreen. Convenient for advertisers. Creepy for consumers. The FTC is currently considering creating a “Do Not Track” system for easy opt-out of these ads.

Semantic targetingBased on the measured sentiment of the content on the page. Semantic targeting works by sifting through page content relative to multiple factors. Every word on the page is analyzed in terms of:

  • Role: What part of speech is each word? Many words in the English language can be used as different parts of speech, and it can make a big difference in meaning whether a word is being used as a noun, adjective, verb, or adverb. Semantic targeting nails down how each word is being used.
  • Relationship: How does each word relate to other words in the story, the same paragraph, and the same sentence? If your product is being mentioned, this is how semantics help prevent your ad from being placed in a story where your product is mentioned negatively or where readers would react negatively.
  • Meaning: What does each word mean? Definitions are determined for each word based on the other words around it.
  • Emotions: How is the message (of the story/content) being received? What motivations is it inspiring? Here lies the ultimate differentiator from other types of targeting. In order to place your ad for maximum effect, your ad publisher should know the role, relationship and meaning of the words to be able to assess sentiment, emotions and motivations.

The Kingsford grilling ad above would not have happened if the ad publisher used semantic targeting. In fact, none of the ads highlighted in the blog post where I found that photo would’ve occurred using this newer method of ad placement.

Think about that and what it means to your advertising. Now, how does that make you feel?

About the Author

Ryan Gerardi
Creative, resourceful, and resilient B2B sales and marketing technologist who works with people and businesses on a variety of levels to help elevate their game, their brand, and their businesses.
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop