Globe and Mail gives advertisers extra context

The Globe and Mail is adding new ad technology to its digital sales toolbox in response to the growing problem of advertisers excessively blocklisting publisher content.

Context Control is a solution recently introduced by leading ad verification company Integral Ad Science (IAS). The technology, which offers sentiment and emotional classification of content, is meant to provide more accurate assessments of brand suitability beyond the blunt tool method of blocking any content containing blocklisted words or phrases.

According to a press release, the tool “delivers a precise semantic understanding of page-level context.” An advertiser may want to block content containing the word “shot,” for example, but stories about gun shots are very different than stories about golf shots.

Publishers have felt mounting pressure in recent years as advertisers expand the lists of keywords they consider unsafe for their brands. (At the same time advertisers continue to spend with social media despite its well-documented problems with a wide range of toxic content.) 

In the spring for example, multiple journalistic outlets said their advertisers were blocklisting “coronavirus,” which meant any content using that word was deemed unsafe for a brand.  

The Globe and Mail‘s partnership with IAS is a way to ensure more of its content isn’t unnecessarily blocked by advertisers, said Brian Batenburg, the Globe’s head of performance and programmatic advertising

Advertising buying direct from The Globe and Mail know what content they are getting and that it is brand safe. But when they are buying the publication in the open market, through programmatic channels, they are using tools that include blanket blocking of key words.

Context Control allows The Globe and Mail to proactively provide greater transparency to buyers, said Batenburg, “as opposed to relying on tools that are applied only on the buyer side and don’t have full insights into our inventory.”

Asked about the problem of advertisers effectively defunding important news coverage by expanding their blocklists, Batenburg said advertiser concerns have no effect on editorial decision-making.

The deal with IAS is meant to better monetize the content that advertisers consider brand safe, but might unwittingly block using their current ad buying technology. “From an editorial standpoint…we would never change or reengineer the type of editorial we are providing Canadians,” said Batenburg.

“We want to continue writing the same content we’ve always written. What we want to do differently is to have an infrastructure that allows advertisers to be placed where they’re most comfortable or best suited. That is the importance of the tool.” 

David Brown