In Image, but Out of Context?


By Dennis Clerke, president of monetization, NetSeer

There are a lot of things keeping publishers up at night these days. Navigating the waters of sell-side programmatic, stabilizing fluctuating CPMs, and the impression-count impact of viewability, to name just a few.

One of the brighter spots for publishers amidst this turbulence has been the quietly burgeoning in-image advertising movement. Editorial images have long been considered sacrosanct, and for a reason: they traditionally fall on the editorial side of the article-versus-advertising divide. But they also represent valuable, untapped real estate, along with all the trappings of engagement: in fact, articles with relevant images average 94 percent more total views than those without, according to MDG Advertising (link:

In-image advertising has come on the scene at a time when nearly every pixel of page real estate is accounted for, analyzed and optimized to drive traffic and engage audiences, often with the greater good of associated ad dollars in mind. But does this mean that every image is ripe for ad-enhancement? Heck no. Why? Because there’s more to in-image than simply slapping an ad overlay on every photo.

While imagery is fast becoming a new form of Web currency, it’s important to look at the big picture when evaluating your in-image ad strategy. Here are five guidelines to keep in mind:

Keep clutter to a minimum

In the name of viewability, many publishers are redesigning or optimizing page layouts to boost revenue above the fold, and other areas ads are most likely to be seen. Because editorial images are “found” real estate, it’s critical to use this valuable space wisely. The trick is to do this elegantly, in a way that won’t disrupt what your readers came for in the first place: to read your content.

Put it all in context

One of the cardinal rules of effective image monetization is to align ads with photos contextually. Let’s say you have two stories: one about the health perils of junk food, and another story about the latest artisanal burger craze in Brooklyn. Both stories justly could be illustrated with a photograph of a hamburger. While a reader may easily pick up the nuance of what it means in that context, your ad algorithm needs to be as smart. Whereas one points to an undercurrent of healthy eating, the other is geared to the foodie. Relying on just the image metadata, such as “beef, tomato, red, grill” isn’t going to cut it, either. Editorial context give you the power of a really relevant suggestion.

Beware the irrelevant

We all remember in-text ads. How too many underlined words on a page turned off readers, and how someone reading about pickle spears might encounter an ad for Brittney Spears’ new album? Those same types of contextual misfires can be unleashed with in-image ads if not executed properly. So it’s essential to take the total article content into account, and not just cherry-pick editorial keywords.

Don’t compete with yourself

What are banner ads? Pictures or illustrations with a text overlay, more often than not. All the more reason to offer a differentiated experience within your editorial. Let your banner ads serve their purpose, without disrupting that revenue stream. At the same time, be sure you can define which images feature in-image revenue enhancement, and that you have access to brand-safety controls.

Make the most of what you have

Images are so intertwined with editorial at this point that they’ve taken on a life of their own. Slideshows, for example, have been proven to lift pageviews. So take stock of all the ways you use photos when evaluating the associated revenue opportunity. You’re likely to find that in-image advertising is a great way to give slideshows and galleries a boost. Even if a reader abandons a slideshow, you’ve opened the door to click through to another area of interest.

Armed with a bit of insight, it’s clear that there’s a tremendous, untapped opportunity around in-image monetization. It offers the golden triad of engagement via images, intent via contextual alignment, and revenue via advertising – all packaged up in a united experience. Hopefully this will help publishers to sleep a bit more soundly, or at least wake up to a rosier picture.



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