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L'Oreal Targets Ads Based on Hair Color in Online Photos

Ombre Products Designed for Two-Tone Trend Sprang from Google Research

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The technology looks for appropriate images and then inserts relevant ads.
The technology looks for appropriate images and then inserts relevant ads.

L'Oreal Ombre hair color products -- born last year from a project that mined YouTube data to tap into a hair-highlighting trend -- have become the first brand to use a technology that places ads on publisher sites based on the hair color of women in photos.

The ad-targeting technology from "in-image ad platform" GumGum earlier this month began placing ads for L'Oreal Freia and Preference Ombre products within photos across its network of 1,000 news and entertainment sites from such publishers as Tribune Co., New York Times Co., and E.W. Scripps Co. Different products are featured based on the hair color of the women in the photos. The ads themselves appear at the bottom of the photo within editorial content, and in some cases within a "canvas" ad unit that temporarily takes over the image shown.

The Ombre lineup, expanded earlier this year, was the product of a brand research and innovation team that had noticed a trend toward celebrities using highlights from the jawline down to the ends. The team then turned to a Google research team to analyze the trend in a "social listening" project focused on YouTube, said Malena Higuera, senior VP-marketing for L'Oreal Paris. At-home kits were launched to help consumers recreate the look.

The Ombre look has in many ways "become the modern-day highlight," Ms. Higuera said. L'Oreal and its digital media shop DigitasLBi turned to GumGum's image-recognition technology in order to "provide the tools for achieving a particular look the moment the consumer is inspired by it," Ms. Higuera said.

"I think we're a marriage between native advertising and display," said GumGum CEO Ophir Tanz. "We are sitting within the frame set of content, of an image, but it's clearly demarcated as an ad."

GumGum is in the rich-media ad business at a time when many packaged-goods advertisers have moved away from such ads in favor of video, often adapted from their TV campaigns. But Mr. Tanz said CPG is actually GumGum's fastest-growing category, though clients also include car companies targeting photos of cars or movie studios, such as Paramount, which targeted photos of Katy Perry to promote her film "Part of Me."

"Photos drive more page views than any other content," accounting for 65% to 70% of views for a typical news property, Mr. Tanz said. While GumGum may sound like a niche player, he said its ads reach 70 million unique visitors monthly, according to ComScore.

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