Home AI How A Digital Media Agency Built Its Own AI-Powered Contextual Targeting Tool

How A Digital Media Agency Built Its Own AI-Powered Contextual Targeting Tool

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Comic: Contextual 2.0

There’s no need to cry. It’s just emotional targeting.

Jokes aside, the Toronto-based digital media agency Hotspex Media claims it has developed an AI self-service tool that allows brands and agencies to target ads based on emotions. The agency’s emotional contextual tool, called Reticle AI, analyzes the emotions an ad is trying to evoke and the context of where the ad might show up to find congruent ad placements.

Context is critical. “If I showed you a bouquet of flowers without the context, you don’t understand why that’s there,” said Josh Rosen, president of Hotspex Media.

Whereas sentiment analysis tools typically classify content along a spectrum of positive, neutral or negative, Reticle AI targets specific emotional signals for advertisers to bid on, Rosen said. Advertisers can select attributes such as uplifting, calm, open minded, wise, nurturing, exciting and reliable. The agency also creates custom signals for advertisers.

By prioritizing ad inventory with a similar emotional tone to the ads, clients have seen an average 21% lift in ad recall, a 20% boost in attention and a 9% increase in purchase intent, according to Rosen.

Help yourself

Most brands have a well-developed lexicon of the emotional characteristics they want customers to associate them with, Rosen said. Armed with this understanding of “where they want to go and how they want to be seen,” programmatic media buyers can survey Reticle AI’s emotion taxonomy and self-select the emotional signals to bid on for a brand account or a single campaign.

To better understand the context for potential ad placements, the tool ingests individual URLs (such as a link to a specific article about a celebrity breakup) rather than domain-level URLs (like a link to People magazine’s homepage), Rosen said. The tool also picks up on what’s going on around a piece of content. For instance, a video, news story or product listing could be scanned for comments and messages.

Based on the signal sections, the AI model provides a sample output of representative URLs. Advertisers create deal IDs based on those previews, which can be loaded into the DSP of their choice.

As for the tool’s limitations, Reticle AI does not work on social media, where endless scrolling and personalized feeds make it difficult to isolate the emotions in a piece of content, Rosen said. It’s also currently only available in English.

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Feeling it

Reticle AI scrapes its data from the web, including CTV, native placements, display and mobile ads. There’s an integration with contextual targeting company Peer39, which vets URLs for brand safety and suitability. Reticle AI is also integrated with several SSPs, including Xandr and PubMatic, and the attention metrics provider Adelaide.

Rosen says the first DSP integration will come soon.

The team mostly built its natural language processing model in-house within Google Cloud, though Hotspex uses ChatGPT to validate and train the model, Rosen said.

Hotspex Media straddles the line between agency and tech provider, depending on the needs of its clients, Rosen said.

“We’re not a licensee or layer that sits on top of other people’s technology,” he said. “We have some skin in the game.”

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