Bernard Matthews to place trust in semantics to save blushes

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  • October 16, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Controversially for someone who’s so closely associated with a display ad network, I don’t think that the premise by which many operate (i.e. that pages are classified / tagged correctly) can be trusted by advertisers. I also think that advertisers can’t rely on an ad network to ensure that ads aren’t inadvertently placed next to dodgy content.

Why is this important? If ads aren’t relevant to a web user then ROI is affected. If your ad appears on a fighting or porn site and Panorama gets hold of the story, then the consequences are much more serious: Your reputation takes a major battering as well.

As Revolution reports in its latest issue, Bernard Matthews has joined other brands to minimise risks associated with the latter problem (one attempt to assess the risks is at Brand Republic).

This is where semantics and its ability to classify and make sense of the sheer volume of new online content being constantly generated comes in. I have to admit that I’m slightly biased, having devoted much of my life since ’98 to the area (when I got the first patent relating to the analysis of textual digital content for its meaning, based on prior human analysis of words and their senses). I also have to make a disclosure, in that the Revolution story concerns a product based on the technology that I developed (SiteScreen). It vets sites before ads are placed to make sure they don’t contain any of 12 categories of content that the brand would find objectionable to be associated with.

But don’t take my word for the potential of semantics to help online marketers: ask Google which bought Applied Semantics in 2003 because it saw the power of “disambiguation” to make search results more relevant. Microsoft recently bought Powerset because it didn’t want to be left behind.

Whether it realises it or not, Bernard Matthews has just become part of the discussion about the semantic web. Academics, futurologists and technologists have expended a lot of energy trying to define terms but others have been busily applying some of the key principles, with online marketers in the vanguard.

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