When context is everything

Posted by Merchenta on November 24, 2011

As the picture below shows, it’s not always easy to ensure ads appear in an appropriate context.

This – real-world – example was in place for several days before complaints caused the billboard to be taken down. You’d have thought the bill poster might have noticed that this ad for the ‘Walking Dead’ might not be best displayed on the side of a funeral home. Likely as it was, he was following the media planner’s instruction, to the letter. Except they didn’t understand the specific placement – or that the messaging might cause offense in that spot.

So if it’s hard to ensure that a 60 foot by 30 foot billboard is relevant and appropriate to its location, just how hard is it online with display ads?

Well, it turns out to be pretty tough. As this collection of howlers shows the display ad landscape is littered with examples of ads shown in exactly the wrong place. Wrong context, inappropriate content, conflicting messaging, whatever.

When it comes to behaviourally targeted ads, the simple act of displaying ads for a known audience isn’t enough. You have to consider context.

What’s to stop an ad recommending a widget appearing on a publisher site laden with negative comments about the widget? If we simply discard all user generated content sites just in case, it’s easy to miss opportunities to display a widget ad adjacent to negative comment about a competitor’s widget. You don’t like that widget – but this one might be great!

Do you really want to show ads to people on pages covered fold-to-fold with other brands’ ads? Probably not. And what about above/below the fold – clickthrough rates tend to drop markedly the further down the page you go. So how do you know where the ad placement is – and whether it’s above the fold where it’s likely to be seen?

Try figuring all this out across millions of websites, billions of potential placements all-day every day at scale and it becomes something of a challenge. Traditional approaches of sampling ads on publisher sites after the fact just don’t work. By that stage, it’s too late.

So, this is where Merchenta//Lexi comes in. Lexi is smart enough to understand page structure, the details of where a placement occurs and its relative positioning to the fold. So Lexi can hand-pick the best spots in real-time as part of the display cycle.

More than that, Lexi also understands the context of each page that an ad is displayed on. So, inappropriate context can be identified and excluded upfront, quickly and easily.

Result? Ads that appear above the fold – and in locations surrounded with appropriate content – at scale, millions of times daily.


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With Merchenta’s split test feature we were able to conduct a test and track the results to show the value of our retargeting campaigns. Results were very positive and better than expected.