By Angie Lopez, co-founder, WeSEE
The ever growing mass of user generated image content on the Internet has created a huge untapped sales opportunity ready to be exploited by advertisers.
Social networks are the holy grail of this gaping opportunity. Facebook’s 500 million users are sharing 6 billion photos a month and currently 60 billion photos are being hosted on the social networking site, with that figure predicted to rise to a staggering 100 billion images by the end of this summer – and that’s just on Facebook, let alone the numerous other photo sharing services such as Flickr, Photobucket and Imageshack.
To take advantage of this wide open ad inventory brands must embrace new technologies to not only enhance their advertising opportunities but also to protect their brands’ reputation and ensure they advertise responsibly to their target audiences.
Create revenue from all online image content
A lack of relevant text metadata and cataloguing means advertisers are unable to place ads around the most contextually appropriate user-generated images. Also, social networks can’t monetise all their content and are paying ever increasing costs to host images in the hope some innovation will come along that enables them to see a return on investment.
Social networks need an ad system that can recognise images that are brand safe, thus enabling ads to be placed around this unmonetised content. Advertisers can then place their messages on social networks as they do in newspapers and magazines, placing targeted ad campaigns alongside relevant, brand-safe image content and user generated content. Websites with high levels of image data can then offer targeted advertising platforms, enabling brands to make effective use of inventory around unstructured web content – such as untagged photos.
Use image recognition to guarantee brand safety
The potential brand damage from having ads appear against less desirable user generated content is rightly a major concern for advertisers. Social networking sites and other internet companies currently moderate inappropriate content by relying on text labels, trusting their users to report abuse or manually intervening. The process is technically difficult when images aren’t tagged, inaccurate when relying on users, and time consuming and costly when reliant on employed moderators.
IASH (the Internet Advertising Sales House Council) helps advertisers to prevent their display ads from appearing on websites which could damage their brand. But in terms of monetising images on social networks the technology used to regulate this must move on from a text based service to image recognition, as a major proportion of online image content is untagged.
Advertisers must ensure their ads are only hosted by websites that are taking measures to publish brand safe image content, both by relying on human intervention and employing the most robust technical resources. Image recognition technology can help to reduce the risk for both advertisers and users alike. WeSEE Ads, for example, uses a unique combination of hybrid search – utilising pattern recognition technology as well as text indexing – to enable publishers like social networks to monetise the untagged images they host, while advertisers can improve their ad targeting by making the content of images and videos the basis of contextual advertising campaigns. For example, an advertisement for deals on flights and luxury hotels in New York could appear next to a striking photo of the Statue of Liberty taken in an album of somebody’s holiday snaps.
An image detection service like PiFilter will automatically detect inappropriate images, such as unwanted adult content and sexual images already hosted on networks, but more importantly at the point of upload from mobile phones and PCs. This enables social networks to keep images they don’t want to display off their sites in addition to helping users, particularly vulnerable users such as children, to self-regulate in an age where consumers are increasingly and rapidly becoming the editors of the Internet.
Responsibly target ads to consumers
Brands and advertisers are likely to face serious implications when a review into the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, commissioned by Childrens’ Minister Sarah Teather, is published later this month. The Bailey Review has laid out plans for the Advertising Association (AA) to launch an expert industry panel to examine industry practices around advertising and marketing communications to children. The panel will address parents’ concerns over their children being encouraged to act older than their age through influences like celebrity culture; brands targeting children with inappropriate advertising; products being targeted to age groups that are too young for them; and a rise in phone and text adverts for products being viewed by children.
Therefore brands must look to a targeted advertising system that aids brands in following the IASH code of conduct and any new codes resulting from the Bailey Review to ensure their ads only reach appropriate target audiences. The issue is likely to come up again in Government soon, with David Cameron having already slammed marketers as 'irresponsible', so now is the time for marketers and online publishers to embrace new technologies to control the placement of their advertising and to prevent children accessing and sharing inappropriate content online.
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