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Using AI to replace cookies with context



Advertisers and publishers are scrambling to find alternatives to the third-party cookies which have been prime way of understanding audiences and their interests, but which are soon to be history. One alternative, which seems almost too obvious to mention, is contextual advertising.

Contextual advertising doesn’t intrude on audience identity at all: what the advertiser needs to know is what content is being consumed so that ads can be served appropriate to the audience which would consume that content. Easy, right? Also, as old as the hills. Soap operas, after all, got their name from the understanding that the audience watching them was the same audience which shopped for laundry soap.

AI-powered contextual advertising. But of course, the technology has changed, and contextual advertising can now be much more agile and precise. That was our takeaway from a conversation with Phil Bohn, SVP of Sales and Revenue at Mediavine, the full service ad management agency which has just partnered with contextual intelligence engine GumGum to apply AI to the contextual advertising space.

“The AI adds a layer of comfort for marketers,” he explained. “Yes we can say, we have three thousand food sites, and this is a food blog or a food article, but to drill down and find more information about it is where the AI comes in. Cool, it’s a baking article, but is it sweet, is it chicken? The kind of information an advertiser might be looking for.”

Brand safety monitoring. The GumGum tool is called Verity. It reads text (natural language processing) and also analyses images and metadata, in order to derive contextual data at scale (Mediavine has around 8,000 partner websites). It also looks at brand safety. “That’s the easy part, right?” said Bohn. “You can find ‘earthquake’ and rule that out as a page you want to place an ad on, but to look and know that there’s an earthquake cake, and put that into context, makes a big difference.”

Choosing GumGum as a partner was an unusual move for Mediavine, Bohn said. “We build a lot of our own products. We built our own video players for instream and outstream, we built our own wrapper infrastructure. So we had to talk about, is this something we build in house? We probably could have pulled it off, but it would have required quite a bit of resources.”

Integration with The Trade Desk’s UID. Another proactive response to the coming cookie-less world has been the development of persistent audience identities based on first party data collected with consent. One of the leading initiatives in this space has been The Trade Desk’s Unified ID (currently Unified ID 2.0), which is also embedded into LiveRamp’s infrastructure for use by SSPs and DSPs.

Mediavine announced this week that it’s bringing its proprietary audience engagement framework to the party. The significance of is that, although Mediavine has some enterprise clients, it tends to partnermainly with small-to-medium publishers — just a lot of them. As Bohn explained, users are much more ready to give up personally identifying information, like an email address, to consume content from a site like The New York Times than content from a blog.


“The rationale behind is to build something open to scale — we’re going to open this up to other publishers, not just the 8,000 Mediavine sites — that will nudge people into giving their email address, and give them privacy tools to opt in and opt out,” said Bohn. “We have 1,800 publishers using right now. We talked to The Trade Desk, and thy realize there’s a whole lot of sits they’re not getting first-party data from, and so we built this and became the first publisher to integrate with UID 2.0.” The first-party data made available is not the email address itself, but hashed data.

Mediavine also has an integration with LiveRamp., said Bohn, “is essentially going to add to the pool, and make the inventory available on those sites more valuable with the data attached to it.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today.


Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech Today. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.



Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster



Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”



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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.



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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.


But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.


One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.


Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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