This post is by Nick Welch, Business Development Director at ADmantX.

Keywords are the most commonly used indicator in the purchase of ad placements. Yet there is a problem with relying on this simplistic mechanic – probability. Keyword targeting relies on the likelihood that a word will retain the same meaning in every relevant environment. But words are shape-shifters; their meaning can vary greatly depending on the context they appear in. As such, keywords can only offer marketers a prediction of what the content might be, leaving its true context ambiguous and increasing the risk of inappropriate placements that can damage campaigns.

In fact, almost one-third of advertisers are concerned about the possibility of their ads appearing alongside undesirable content. So how can advertisers and marketers avert disaster and secure brand safety? One answer is advanced contextual analysis. Powered by semantic technology and Natural Language Processing, it identifies the emotions content elicits and matches ads with precision. Going beyond safeguarding against salacious content, this approach generates greater value for advertising campaigns and gives brands confidence that their investment is protected. Still not convinced? Here are four reasons why contextual analysis offers a more robust strategy to ensure brand safety:

1) Semantic understanding guarantees safety

Delving deeper than the surface-level of the words used on a webpage, semantic technology understands the meaning of sentences to pinpoint the exact sentiment towards a specific brand or its sector. This enables marketers and advertisers to execute brand protection on a much more granular scale. Not only are advertising campaigns placed away from generally inappropriate content, they also avoid association with pages that express negative sentiment towards the brand itself and the sector it operates within. Safe from the potential perils of adverse placements, contextual analysis protects the brand and its business interests.

2) In-depth context generates better results

Advanced contextual analysis is a valuable planning tool; giving brands the information they need to take the guesswork out of campaign construction. Instead of crafting campaigns where effectiveness depends on finding the right combination of keywords, contextual analysis allows brands to tailor creative to individual pages. Evaluation provides an accurate understanding of the meaning within the content that ads are destined to appear beside. Using this information brands can build targeted campaigns that complement the entities and emotions of a specific page – generating a better ROI, while maintaining brand safety and increasing relevancy.

3) Avoiding accidental relationship damage

Relationships with consumers help brands to encourage purchases and nurture loyalty in the face of strong competition. Yet such bonds are fragile, and it is crucial for brands to proactively ensure negative associations do not weaken them. Advanced Brand Safety – customised to the brand, its product and its values – uses Natural Language Processing to keep relationships alive. This sophisticated software understands human speech as it is spoken, highlighting the subtle differences that are lost with keyword searches and preventing placements with the potential to impair consumer relationships.

4) Staying on the right track at URL-level

A further complication inherent in the use of keywords is the inability to differentiate between pages. A keyword search may result in an ad appearing on the homepage, while the most relevant content is hidden deeper within the website. Or the presence of a keyword could see an ad unwittingly appear in an outright dangerous placement. Identifying critical content at URL-level is where semantic data plays a key role, matching ads to the content of individual pages and enabling brands to select specific negative contextual targets that ensure their safety.

With damage to reputation cited as the top risk to companies across the globe, the importance of brand safety cannot be underestimated. It has a greater potential to impact performance than fraud and viewability, making it an issue that marketers and advertisers must address to secure the future of their brand. Though post-campaigns analysis does provide some insight into the harm negative placements cause, it cannot prevent them. Only by executing real-time contextual and safety customisation can brands proactively protect the integrity, effectiveness, and relevance of their campaigns. It's time to abandon our keyword obsession and embrace a more robust form of brand defence.