Combatting online ad irrelevance: Introducing ‘Ambient Commerce’

By Chris Lee

Dr Dave Patterson is a specialist in Artificial Intelligence and the Co-Founder and CEO of Sophia, the company behind the development of the world’s first Ambient Commerce Platform. Patterson believes there is something fundamentally wrong with the current display ad models and believes his technology can disrupt the industry.

NMK asked him how.

What is wrong with existing display advertising models?

It is clear that something is very wrong. Out of the hundreds of ads you have probably seen online today, just how many do you actually remember? We have learnt to ignore ads because they almost always have no relevance or value to us. If you combine this with the growing problem of click fraud; increasing consumer concerns about personal data being captured and used without their knowledge, and falling CPMs (cost per thousand clicks] for publishers, then I think the question isn’t what is wrong, but why is more not being done to fix it? Why are billions still being spent on an outdated model that is as old as the Internet itself?

Ambient Commerce is a new approach that challenges the status quo and brings fresh thinking about consumers’ current needs, to the fore.

So what is Ambient Commerce?

Ambient Commerce understands the immediate interests of each consumer and therefore serves products and promotions that are specifically relevant right now – not what a consumer was interested in last week, or yesterday or even a few minutes ago – but right now.

The system uses sophisticated artificial intelligence to understand the entire meaning of the content being currently read by each consumer. It then automatically showcases relevant products to the consumer precisely at the point when they are most engaged. The ambient context is thus interpreted by the system to present interesting products and offers. Ambient Commerce augments each and every consumer’s experience, as opposed to detracting or distracting from it

And how does Ambient Commerce solve the problems currently plaguing the market?

The operative word here is ‘relevant’. Ambient Commerce ensures that the promotions matter to consumers. It enhances their journey, taking them from passive online browsing, to discovery of the products they need, through to a purchase. For example, if they are reading about back pain, they will be interested to see back support products, pain relief and rubs, as well as in finding out about exercises which they can do to prevent the pain.

Ambient Commerce tackles ad blindness head on – by giving each consumer what is useful precisely at the point in time when they are absorbed. Trials with leading publishers have found that the model works, too – click-through rates for some of the existing partners are up as much as 50 times over conventional advertising.

What’s in it for brands and retailers?

For brands and retailers the benefits are obvious – the opportunity to cut through the noise and instead capture the consumer’s attention when they are most engaged. Furthermore, brands and retailers are not limited to promoting a limited number of ‘hero’ products in any time period. Rather, they can automatically showcase their entire catalogue of products, even and perhaps especially in the “long tail”, across the whole of the web, to interested consumers. The resultant economies of scale make Ambient Commerce incredibly attractive.

Is it difficult to deploy?

Not at all – publishers can utilise it directly by simply adding a few lines of code to their website. For agencies, it is also simple to integrate into existing plans, without the need to rip and replace en masse – the banners and ad spots traditionally bought can be re-assigned to Ambient Commerce placement.

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