SAN FRANCISCO, CA — After 10 years of obsessively super-targeting audiences using digital profiling data, the ad industry pendulum is swinging a little back to an older method.

Contextual targeting is the practice of aligning an ad with content, not with the individual audience member consuming that content.

In truth, the outcome doesn’t have to be an “either-or”. Context and audience targeting can co-exist.

The trouble with that?

“One of the problems that people experience when they try and do that really quickly is limitation of scale,” says Daniel Oakins, VP of product and strategy at ZEFR.

“A few years ago, there was only the technology to target contexts or audiences, but the technology in order to do it together, and open up scale.

“Now we’re starting to see small tools that allow buyers to be able to hit the right audience, and hit the right scale and hit the right context.”

So, how can the context of content get targeted in an era when ad buyers still want to use digital tools to do so?

ZEFR developed technology that analyzes video content more deeply than surface-level metadata allows, to get more detailed criteria that can inform a targeting decision.

The system uses machine learning plus human review to analyze and meta data to millions of videos. This year, Zefr launched its own Context DMP.

Oakins acknowledges contextual indicators like IAB’s categories were already available to buying platforms. But, he says, they don’t go far enough, because different buyers have different goals.

“One pharma chem client might see a piece of video on YouTube as a ‘health and wellness’ piece of content,” he says. “Another pharma client might see that as not appropriate for that brand, just because maybe it’s more about ‘holistic health care’.

“Everything is truly in the eye of the beholder. If I’m trying to create a client’s classification, I need their opinions.”

The interview was carried out by Beet.TV director of editorial and strategy Jon Watts.

This video is part of  Beet.TV’s coverage  of  RampUp, LiveRamp’s summit for marketing technology in San Francisco.  This series is co-sponsored by LiveRamp and ZEFR.