In-text ads are distracting, they smear the line between content and advertising, and they're easy to trigger accidentally. For these reasons ClickZ News has tended not to cover them, though we recognize that every publisher must find its own balance between a degree of ad intrusiveness and a smooth end user experience. And so must each advertiser. Users will vote with their clicks.
Exponential, which owns ad network Tribal Fusion, has plunged into the in-line arena with a twist on the usual approaches that bears mentioning. Its EchoTopic in-line ad network uses semantic analysis of the content of a page, rather than the keywords buried within it, to target the ads. I spoke to VP of Strategic Marketing Alistair Goodman about the contextual offering, and with regard to the intrusiveness concern, he said the same thing I've heard from Virbrant Media and others: that it's up to the site owners and the advertisers to make the call about whether the ad format is appropriate for their content and audience.
He claimed however that click-through-rates during tests on 15 sites in Tribal Fusion's tech channel have been two to three times those of keyword-targeted in-line advertising. This, he argued, indicates it's providing a more relevant ad experience and hence a better overall end user experience.
A number of campaigns are already running on the EchoTopic network of 25 publishers in the tech vertical. Exponential would only name one advertiser, PC Tools, but Goodman said an employment-related advertiser is using the system to combine contextual with geo-targeting and serve tech job ads by region. The semantic analysis of sites in the Tribal Fusion network, in development for three years, will be applied to display advertising as well.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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