What’s unique about the Globe’s new partnership with IAS?

Context Control focuses not on keywords and instant content blocking, but on sentiment and the big picture of articles.

These days, when it comes to digital advertising, context is key. But what does context even mean anymore?

“It’s funny, because in the digital media and advertising space, the word ‘contextual’ has become a little confusing,” says Brian Batenberg, head of programmatic and performance at The Globe and Mail.

Batenberg says there’s been a lot of mix-up when it comes to concepts like context, audience and data. However, The Globe is hoping to make a bit more sense of that, having partnered with Integral Ad Sciences (IAS) to offer a new ad product for buyers, which it’s dubbed Context Control.

Context Control functions as a targeting solution that aims to create brand-safe digital buys at scale, by allowing brands to control their ad adjacencies with a wide array of contextual signals.

For years, media companies have established new buying systems with brand safety in mind, to address the growing concerns of advertisers. And, many take context into account. But Batenberg says the main differentiation for Context Control comes from a more intangible quality. Rather than keywords, it focuses on the overall sentiment of the article.

“It’s not just about a headline, or a word, or something that might trigger a system to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and automatically add it to a good list or a block list. That’s not how we determine if something is safe,” he says. “We want to know how something will be understood… IAS is able to understand the full article, beyond just the words in it.”

The system will allow The Globe to differentiate between stories based on the overall context and sentiment. For example, advertisers can navigate common homonym scenarios that keyword-based systems cannot – such as the difference between content mentioning a “gun shot” versus a “golf shot.”

He says it’s been developed with the craft of journalism in mind. “No one is going to understand the context of something that we’ve written better than us [The Globe].”

As for what sentiments advertisers are hesitant toward, versus the ones they want to embrace, that changes every day. For example, toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many advertisers were looking to distance themselves from terms like “COVID-19″ and “coronavirus.” While that’s lessened slightly, Batenberg says it will all come down to advertisers’ comfort levels and their understanding of what kind of platform they’re on.

For example, he says, The Globe and Mail as a newspaper is firmly rooted in current events with a strong focus on business. “What we want to do is talk about issues at hand in the Canadian marketplace. Some of the news is better than others. And we are never going to change our content based on an advertiser’s needs, from that perspective.”

He adds that as a platform, The Globe doesn’t position itself as a site with unlimited inventory, “Whereas other potential walled gardens like to be seen as unlimited.” Combining the site’s more limited inventory with the focus on Context Control, Batenberg says it will hopefully give advertisers a feeling of a more controlled, predictable environment.