Make way for better banner ads — The Financial Times rolled out “FT SmartMatch” last week after a trial period. The ‘content matching service’ weeds out semantic relevancy between editorial content and ad creative, making sure that advertisers show up where it makes sense.
It’s pretty sophisticated, as Jon Slade, FT’s commercial director for global digital advertising and insight, explained to me.
First, they audit editorial content to rank and weigh it, semantically. Then, they do the same with advertiser’s content — their website, their videos, their white papers. The third step is about creative — if there are 500 pieces of content, they create 500 pieces of ad creative. Lastly, comes what Slade calls the “special sauce” where an algorithm knows how to link the two pieces together. Says Slade:
It’s two fold benefit. We not having to place 10,000 ads, we’re only placing an ad when there’s a good match. So its much more efficient, click through and engagement rates are about 10 times more than the standard.
It’s more than efficient, I like that it’s not about going native and making the content look like editorial — it just situates similar things together. Slade is interested in moving towards more intelligent advertising, too. And he doesn’t think banner ads need to go anywhere:
There’s the idea that the banner ad is dead. We just think it needs a bit of love… advertisers are very sophisticated in their targeting, but still applying the one creative message across all of their audiences. We think that’s not making the most of the opportunities that digital can offer. So the creative in banner advertising needs a little bit of love and secondly, the placement needs to get smarter. Making sure you’re in the right environment is still important in any media buy.
Be on the lookout for better banner ads then, journos. Smart Match is a product of the FT’s partnership with Smartology, which provided the technology for it. Smartology is making their rounds to other publishers, too, so it’s not exclusive to FT. What do you think about automated advertising?