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Semantic Ad Targeting: FTC Do Not Track Talk May Increase Its Attractiveness, But Hopes Are Agency Proceeds With Caution

By   /  December 15, 2010  /  No Comments

There’s a whole lot of privacy discussion going on at the federal level, with the Federal Trade Commission proposing a Do Not Track browser option. The idea is that consumers could limit cookies or other sniffers that open the door to tracking their browsing behavior for the purpose of delivering online ads. It’s the do-not-follow equivalent to the Do Not Call list.

Is that good news for the semantic web advertising space? Peer39 CEO Andy Ellenthal thinks so. “As it relates specifically to Peer39 it certainly raises the visibility of non-cookie based targeting solutions like we provide,” he says. That said, however, he’s hopeful the powers-that-be proceed with caution. “The augmentation of highly contextualized or categorized data in addition to audience data is an incredibly effective combination, so it’s our hope from an industry perspective that the marketplace and industry and Congress deals with this in an appropriate manner, and not just react to limited amounts of information, because the reality is the audience-data providers do add a tremendous amount of value to the publishes and to the buyers.”

Agreeing with that viewpoint is Raleigh Harbour, SVP of Business Development at the Rubicon Project, Peer39’s latest partner. The Rubicon Project and its technology services online content publishers, connecting them to its partners in demand channels, such as ad networks, exchanges, and DSPs, with pricing data to appropriately price impressions and audience data to make those impressions more valuable. “There are good ways and right ways to do things when it comes to targeting [to make ads more relevant for the user] and wrong ways,” he says. “We’re working towards putting in place the right structure, process and frameworks…to make this a value exchange.” And, he adds, he hopes the FTC and advocacy groups are thoughtful as they contemplate their options, “so as not to hinder a huge part of e-commerce and our economy.”

Certainly, the publishing industry – already hurting from sinking ad revenue in the real-world space – is eager for its online ventures not to be upset in the quest to make some advertising hay. Rubicon has among its clients entertainment media like NBC, job portals such as CareerBuilder, and 12 of the top 15 news publishers. That latter group particularly can benefit from the semantic classification capabilities of being able to identify and sell valuable inventory in real time. General news publishers “have a wealth of valuable content and inventory … but the challenge of news publishing is that by nature, it can be broad,” says Harbour. Individual news sections – travel, sports, and so on – are targetable by themselves, “but if you go a layer deeper and understand the content of the page with Peer39 – that it’s not just a travel section but travel to the Caribbean – that can be more valuable to advertisers with flights or hotels to sell [to that destination]. There’s a wealth of valuable inventory they can unlock if they get down to that level.”

Then, too, such content providers have the added challenge of selling against space that a lot of advertisers don’t want to be paired with; general news coverage, of course, has to include downers like natural disasters and crime. But making the match with those that do in the real-time bidding space is the charm.

Peer39 and the Rubicon Project also see opportunity for engaging more brand advertisers online, through intermediaries such as DSPs that buy on behalf of those clients. Ellenthal says he often hears the complaint that there aren’t enough data points to bid on pages of interest. In those brand cases, “you want to buy across pools of what you already know are high-quality sites, and if you can get more granular by surfacing content on the page, you start to solve some pretty big problems,” he says.   “Brand marketers are much more comfortable not just buying a specific audience but having reach and frequency as well across a large inventory pool like Rubicon has,” he adds.

Back to the whole point about online advertising and its role in e-commerce and the economy: Harbour notes that, “as an advertiser looking to leverage a platform like a DSP, if you can find the segments of inventory that are unique and more targeted you are going to buy more.” That’s good on the advertising end, creating more efficiency and value, and good for the publishers who are Rubicon’s customers and want to maximize revenue opportunities, especially in such challenging times. “There are still enough unknowns out there,” he says. “And hopefully that translates to new opportunities when you move some of that opaqueness out of the way and the noise out of the way, and grow the business for all our customers and for the value chain.”

Photo courtesy: Flickr/alexyorke

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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