Photo courtesy: Flickr/sskennel

Expert System has spun out a new company that’s leveraging its semantic IP in the service of improving online advertising. Named Admantx (ads + semantics), the startup has Expert’s CEO J. Brooke Aker as its new CMO, its idea being to take contextual advertising to the next level, beyond the keywords, to improve content-ad matches, and to do it with a bit of Madmen flair. There are implications for product advertising, but the real beneficiaries, Admantx thinks, will be the brand advertisers.

“We can deeply analyze content on the page to form entities, names, places, concepts, ideas, all the traditional markup,” Aker says. “But here is the interesting extension – we’ve worked very hard to extend semantic understanding into the realm of emotions, behavior (as in, what kind of behavior does the content elicit in the reader) and motivation.” Appealing to emotions and motivations always has been the way advertising has worked in other mediums, he says, and it needs to have a bigger role in online advertising, as well – bringing Don Draper into the 21st century, so to speak.

That character wouldn’t be satisfied with an ad that matches, say, an article about an industrial entrepreneur winning a prestigious award with an ad for a manufacturing trade show. Sure, keyword matching could accurately lead you to the conclusion that someone reading that piece is himself in the manufacturing industry and could be interested in attending that kind of event – but where’s the creativity and excitement in that, Aker asks. “We look for what else on the page we could leverage,” he says. When Admantx processes the content page it delivers concepts, tags that could be used by an ad server that says that the story calls forth some deeper sentiment – that in fact it’s associated with things like prestige, success, joy, and honor, which leads to a very different view of the page.

“With those kinds of tags you could replace the manufacturing trade show ad with the “BMW is joy match, something that tugs at the heartstrings, that appeals to the readers’ aspirations—that success buys you these kinds of rewards.”

Brand advertisers are willing to pay more for the privileges of direct placement rather than devolving into exchange and remnant environments, he says. “Direct advertising is a premium category—a small slice overall but we think Admantx technology can convert or preserve a larger share of the premium ad category for those with space to sell, exchanges or publishers.”

Admantx is designed to leverage the cloud in order to make it possible to adhere to the fast pipes requirements of the ad exchanges that want to lay on the data service, and also has an API available for integrating custom efforts with the service. Aker says the company was focused on making the interface extremely simple so that media planners, advertising strategists, agency professionals and non-technical personnel at ad exchanges could very easily type out concepts for generating ad campaigns in a Google-like search box and test them out.

“That’s how TV ads are done—the agency does the creative, tests with a focus group or more traditional market research means and then puts it on TV,” Aker says. “That’s missing in digital advertising.”

So, if work is being done on a BMW campaign to associate the brand with joy, Admantx lets testers see graphically where the concept sticks, reporting stats by URL, including which URLs may bring some negative concepts advertisers wouldn’t want next to their brand. That gives them an opportunity to go back and remove offending concepts, such as violence, from the mix – those story arcs that may, for instance, depict violence even if that word isn’t specifically mentioned – and  test it all again. Alternative approaches include a suggestions button or link that, rather than engineering ad matches from preconceived notions, lets you see a tag cloud of the day from the perspective of topics, entities and emotions that you can navigate through to find the right ad matches.

Perhaps the most buzz-worthy one, though is analyzing social media, looking at tweets or sentences from blogs – that’s the real voice of the customer, so why not associate the campaign with the ideas your buyers are themselves latching onto. The technology lets you paste this information in and then turns those words and sentences into a series of tags that embody the ideas.  Internally, organizations working with ads also can do some social collaboration around their colleagues’ previous ad campaigns for the same brand, drawing from the bucket of concepts used in past efforts.

“It’s fun, simple to use, and has a lot to do with creativity,” says Aker, referencing a recent Comscore report , When Advertising Goes Digital, that suggests that’s the very thing that needs to be brought into the digital ad world, because brand advertisers are not adopting digital advertising at the rate anyone expected.  “The extensions on our semantic process are about restoring creativity.”

Currently the service is in private beta, and Admantx is actively looking for additional testers. A public release date has not yet been disclosed.