Radio and Context and Advertising

Clear Channel recently announced a landmark effort to tailor advertising to the context surrounding that advertising.  Hence, dialogue or airplay about a certain topic or item will be matched to advertising on that same topic or item, for example.

The king of contextual advertising is, of course, that little company called Google.  But what Clear Channel is doing is different from what Google does in at least one important way:

One is active, the other is passive.

Let me explain.

"Active contextualization" (try saying that three times fast) means matching messages to what consumers choose to seek out.  If I search for snow machines, then I, the consumer, am actively creating a context. If your spot relates to snow machines, so much the better for me.

That's the Google approach demonstrated every time you click "search."

"Passive contextualization" means matching messages to what the station is talking about or playing, not what consumers choose to seek out.  In this context, it doesn't matter what the consumer is searching for. It only matters what context we, the station, create. Then we match our own context with advertising that fits it.  Left out of this loop is the will of the consumer.

To be clear, passive contextualization beats none at all.  

And while active contextualization beats the passive version, it is scarcer since it requires consumers to volunteer their interest rather than have that interest seduced from the outside.

In fact, there is a tiny bit of active contextualization in all radio listening today since every "format" creates some of its own context, although not enough to address my needs as a consumer.

So my point is that all contextual advertising is not created equal.

And that just about anything in context is better than anything out of it.

(and my apologies for a particularly dense post).

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