Home Online Advertising Fyllo|Semasio Ditches Its Cannabis Compliance Roots To Go All In On Contextual

Fyllo|Semasio Ditches Its Cannabis Compliance Roots To Go All In On Contextual

Comic: Contextual Advertising

Fyllo thinks it’s high time to expand beyond cannabis.

Fyllo will shift its focus from targeted ad compliance in highly regulated verticals – namely, legalized weed – to more general contextual targeting, per an announcement on Tuesday.

The company is also rebranding as Fyllo|Semasio to emphasize the contextual targeting tech it acquired from Semasio in 2022.

And its president, Jeff Ragovin, who previously founded Buddy Media and joined Fyllo in 2020, is taking over as CEO.

From cannabis to contextual

Ragovin told AdExchanger his appointment as Fyllo’s president last July was a coordinated breaking-in period, with his tenure as CEO set to start in 2024.

Since he joined the company, he’s pushed the business pivot to contextual to capitalize on the Semasio acquisition and the potential resurgence of contextual advertising, which is a form of targeting without third-party cookies.

While cannabis has become more mainstream, it’s still too niche for a one-vertical business and is subject to federal regulation, which puts a ceiling on the company’s growth potential, according to Ragovin. “Having everything in that basket is just not sustainable.”

But Semasio’s contextual targeting business had more room for growth given the industrywide push for more privacy-based alternatives to third-party cookies, he said.

As a result, the future of addressability is on the mind of every ad buyer, Ragovin said. He also said Fyllo|Semasio wants to provide a hybrid platform that can wean advertisers off the “cookie crack” with context-based audiences and more first-party data enrichment.

Inside the platform


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The combined Fyllo|Semasio algorithm creates targetable audiences based on historic user browsing behavior, cross-site cookie tracking and contextual signals derived from past ad deals.

By analyzing this bidstream data, the platform creates new lookalike audiences and media placements for the brand.

Since the model has been trained on historic (read: cookie-based) data, it doesn’t rely on cookie matches going forward, Ragovin said.

Much like other contextual solutions, the Fyllo|Semasio model also relies on a web crawler that parses contextual signals from text on publisher pages.

To build a custom contextual segment, advertisers can enter targeting keywords into the Semasio platform, which then spits out a word cloud of related contextual matches. For example, a fitness equipment maker could use the keyword “treadmills,” which incorporates keywords like “elliptical” or “running.”

The platform bases these contextual matches on standard content taxonomies like those provided by the IAB, as well as Semasio’s proprietary content taxonomy. Altogether, the platform currently has about 500 always-on contextual audience segments, and advertisers have built more than 100K custom segments, Ragovin said.

The platform then provides a list of publishers whose content is a fit for the advertiser’s selected keywords, and gives a rough estimate of the impression scale for those sites. These contextual segments can then be deployed across any DSP or SSP.

And advertisers can further enrich the contextual segments with first-party data. That way, they can also apply alternative ID sets to find matches based on deterministic signals like email logins or households.

Infillion, which has been working with Semasio for the past five years, has integrated the platform’s contextual capabilities into MediaMath’s DSP, which it acquired in a bankruptcy auction in August.

A client brings a list of keywords to Infillion, which uses the Fyllo|Semasio platform to create a custom contextual segment and ship it to the MediaMath DSP for activation, said Ben Smith, Infillion’s VP of data products.

The process takes 24 hours, which is a quicker turnaround than most other contextual solutions, owing to the companies’ long-standing integrations, he added.

Future plans

Going forward, Ragovin said, Fyllo|Semasio plans to beef up its contextual video and CTV capabilities.

The platform currently supports audience-based targeting on CTV. But the company is working to add content-based contextual targeting for video and CTV by pursuing integrations with video platforms, linear TV providers and mobile apps.

However, it’s still early days on the video front, and there’s no timeline for these additional integrations.

Also on the roadmap: allowing customers to target content that expresses a particular sentiment toward a given topic – for example, distinguishing between content aimed people who love fitness and content for people who know they need to exercise more, but don’t like doing so.

The company also wants to ramp up its direct agency outreach – to dispel the perception that Fyllo competes with agencies by going direct to brands, Ragovin said. As a niche cannabis advertising services vendor, that perception was true. Now, though, he said, the tech serves as a middle layer that agencies use for their work with brands.

But the company’s top priority is to make sure the industry knows that Fyllo|Semasio is now firmly part of the ad tech world, rather than ad compliance.

“Semasio is our bread and butter, and this is our future,” Ragovin said. “The cannabis stuff was cool, but now it’s just another vertical.”

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