Real-Time Ad Targeting Gets Emotional

Spectrum tries to leverage state-of-mind

Online ad targeting isn’t just about finding the right people at the right time, says digital media company BuzzLogic, it’s about reaching them with content that encourages the right emotional mind-set.

The San Francisco-based firm, which has pivoted a couple of times since its launch in 2005, said it’s attracted a strong roster of Fortune 500 brands with a platform that scans millions of Web pages to place ads based on audience, topic, and social activity.

Today, the company announced the launch of a new tool, called Spectrum, which delivers page-level ads in real time, based on the emotional effect the content is expected to have on the audience.

“There are three things we know about a page of content,” said Dave Hills, BuzzLogic’s CEO. “How influential it is, how authoritative it is, and, most importantly, we understand—and the thing that we're most focused on—the emotional connection that’s made between a piece of content and a reader.”

While other ad platforms reach target audiences through content verticals (such as autos, health, technology, etc.), BuzzLogic says that approach is insufficient because it doesn’t factor in the emotional takeaway a brand may want a potential consumer to have.

A beverage company could choose to target sports enthusiasts on ESPN, for example, but the audience's emotional state could vary depending on whether the story is about an athlete's injury, gambling, or a big team's loss.

“Being an ex-agency guy, the challenge I always faced was there were always two sides of analytics that I had to work on and they were very disconnected. There was the research and consumer insights that powered the planning product—getting to understand your consumer, getting into their minds, figuring out how do you excite the consumer based on the brand value proposition and who they are,” said John Donahue, BuzzLogic’s CTO, who joined the company from Omnicom. “But once that plan is baked, it went to the buy side, and it was extremely disconnected . . . It’s really just about buy optimization."

BuzzLogic said its emotive-based approach goes beyond a single website or content vertical to consider the relative value a single Web page could have to brand’s overall goals, or a dedicated campaign’s specific goals, and then capitalize on the emotion a brand is hoping to tease out.

If a company, for example, has decided that the ideal consumer for a new hybrid car is green-leaning, an innovation-oriented tech enthusiast, Spectrum allows it to scan millions of Web pages to find the content best suited to that mind-set.

Through a dashboard, a client not only enters the topical terms (“hybrid car,” “plugin,” etc.), but could also select “advice seeker” and “enthusiast.”

The tool then scans all of the pages indexed by BuzzLogic (the company said it has more than one billion pages of content in its index, and because it uses its own data, it doesn’t use cookies) to surface the specific stories or content pages that include both the topical terms and phrases like “according to” or “looking forward to” or “can’t wait.”

Donahue said the program conducts a cognitive analysis to uncover the word associations representative of the desired mind-set. It not only makes sure that an ad ends up on a “brand safe” page but in the context of content that fits with the brand’s emotional profile.

Hills said Spectrum rolls up several of the company’s services into one complete platform and that its current clients will be brought on board today.

BuzzLogic said they don’t yet have metrics to show the precise lift of its new tool but said its clients have been pleased with its approach so far, as evidenced by its 300 percent year-over-year revenue growth.

“If brands are going to actually do branding online, they’re going to have to really have a very deep understanding, at a page level, of relevance—and we think that relevance is defined through influence, authority, and understanding the emotional connection that piece of content makes with its audience,” Hills said. “And since it’s a real-time world now and since the consumer is in total control of the media experience, we build this system to address this at the page level and in real time.”