If the FTC’s recommended “Do Not Track” button does eventually get added to web browsers, allowing users to block cookies that allow advertisers to follow people as they surf from web page to web page and serve ads based on that activity, then contextual and semantic advertising could become a more prominent form of ad targeting. Right now, publishers say they rely much more heavily on contextual ad targeting than on the wider kind used by outside ad trackers.
Even if there are no new regulations, Microsoft’s addition of a “do not track” feature in the latest version of its Internet Explorer suggests that companies on their own my make it more difficult to serve ads based on users’ web surfing patterns. With that in mind, sell-side platform Rubicon Project is partnering with “cookie-free” semantic ad specialist Peer39 to offer its services to publishers through its platform.
Publishers were relieved by one thing in the FTC’s new proposal — contextual ad targeting is left alone. The behavioral targeting the regulators are focused on pertains to the flash cookies that are placed on sites that track a publisher’s readers from site to site to site. While the CPMs on those behaviorally targeted ads could provide publishers with CPMs that are at least 10- to 15 percent higher than a regular online ad, at this point, the revenues don’t amount to much.
Earlier this month, Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers Association, estimated that the amount of revenues her group’s members take in from behavioral targeting is in “the low double digits.” Several major publishers I spoke with insisted that in their personal experience, it’s often even less than that.
While there are differences between contextual and semantic advertising — the former looks serves ads around specific words, the latter examines the meaning, so that an article about car accidents, for example doesn’t show a car ad — both are expected to be of more interest to advertisers and publishers.
“Semantics has been on our radar, but we think this is the right time to expand our offering there because the market is definitely growing,” said Raleigh Harbour, Rubicon’s VP, Business Development, who added in an interview with paidContent that the FTC announcement served as an added factor. “But the primary focus is to improve publishers ability to sell ads. Semantics does that really well.”
Even as New York-based Peer39 could benefit from the FTC’s behavioral targeting roadblock, Andy Ellenthal, Peer39′s CEO, called the idea of a “Do Not Track” button “a bit misguided given the way the monetization of the web is set up. A more thoughtful conversation needs to take place.”
In essence, the partnership will also allow the more than 600 ad sales channels, including ad networks, exchanges, DSPs, and others, that place ads through Rubicon’s REVV Marketplace to build display campaigns around semantic targeting.
The partnership builds on a growing list of services the two companies have been pursuing separately for the past year. In September, Peer39 struck a deal with AppNexus, which serves as a real-time ad platform for ad networks, demand-side platforms, trading desks and other buy-side companies. That built on an earlier partnership with Rubicon’s rival ad optimizer AdMeld, which initially helped to extend its reach to publishers and advertisers.
Last month, Rubicon completed its acquisition of the Fox Audience Network from News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). In exchange for that purchase, Rupert Murdoch’s company received a minority stake in Los Angeles-based Rubicon. Release