Google is experimenting with contextual ads at "much lower costs" when it comes to marketing its own products—even as it leads the way as one of the most vocal proponents of the power of personal data for targeting ads online.
Marvin Chow, Google’s VP of marketing, peeled back the curtain on the company’s promotional strategy during a talk at Advertising Week on Tuesday. In one of the examples, Chow discussed how Google has run contextual ads on The Guardian website in the U.K. to promote Google Home Mini. Contextual ads analyze the articles, videos and images on a website to target the ad, instead of relying on data gathered from tracking the individual viewer’s past online behavior. The publishing industry has been looking towards contextual ads since privacy issues began tarnishing some of the data-collection methods that have supported personalized advertising for years.
“As you know, contextual ads have been around for ages,” Chow said during his talk. “But you also know they’re typically limited to a pretty shallow understanding of actual context.”
Chow said they used machine learning to overcome the shortcomings that have hindered “contextual” advertising in the past. The search giant worked with The Guardian’s creative development team to place ads in the recipes section of the publisher’s website. They had to teach machines to identify meals in the photos of recipes as either “sweet” or “savory.” Then the ads for Google Home Mini, the voice-activated speaker, would change depending on the context. The ads were “built dynamically, in real time as the site loads,” Chow said.