CANNES — Brands are renewing their interest in contextual signals that indicate where consumers saw an advertisement as tracking cookies and device identifiers become less reliable for audience targeting. Artificial intelligence technology such as natural-language processing can help to strengthen these contextual signals.

“It isn’t just about trying to attach your brand to specific keywords,” Joy Robins, chief revenue officer at The Washington Post, said in this interview with correspondent Tameka Kee at the Beet Villa during the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, “but actually using context — truly thinking about bringing in AI and NLP to really understand the context in which words are being said and how to align messaging — that is really what we’re focused on in terms of this next reinvention of contextual advertising.”

Weighing Brand Safety

While many marketers tend to avoid placing ads next to news coverage of disasters or pandemic death contents to avoid negative associations with their brands, journalism does deliver engaged audiences in other ways.

“This is why it’s so important not just to look at it through the lens of keywords, because there are lots of suitability standards that we put into place,” Robins said, “but it is through understanding certain words and how they are talked about in context of story. We are able to take specific words, understand their context and then appropriately target brands away from or toward certain contextual situations.”

The Washington Post developed its Zeus Insights product to help advertisers get a better idea of contextual placement. The idea is to avoid the flaws of block lists that prevent ads from showing up next to content that may mention a touchy subject only in passing.

“We see time and time again when brands are running around sophisticated quality, truthful journalism, perception and consideration goes up every single time,” Robins said. “The marriage of context plus this idea of a brand having a voice and a really relevant position and something to say. We are seeing that essentially super-serve the consumer in terms of value.”

You are watching “Contextual Advertising Emerging: Now Key in Driving Performance,” a Beet.TV Leadership Summit at Cannes Lions 2022, presented by Integral Ad Science. For more videos from this series, please visit this page. Beet.TV is an official partner of Cannes Lions.