Get Ready for the Age of Image Recognition

By Ben Plomion, SVP of Marketing at GumGum

According to a recent influential market research report, the global image recognition market is expected to double in size over the next few years to hit almost $30 billion by 2020. It’s not surprising then that many of the world’s largest brands are falling over themselves to take advantage of this burgeoning technology. Amazon has become the latest, announcing a new patent facial recognition technology that would allow customers to purchase items by simply taking a picture of themselves.

It’s a very exciting time for GumGum as we’ve been innovating in this space since 2008. Our founder, Ophir Tanz, saw a gap in the market for a new approach to digital advertising, one that utilized image-recognition software to serve ads over relevant editorial images. The format he created has since come to be known as ‘in-image advertising’.

GumGum’s technology is sophisticated enough to recognise multiple characteristics within an image – from gender and facial features to colour tone and brand logos. For example, it could be used to detect a picture of a clean-shaven man and serve an ad within it for a razor product. Or it could identify a picture of a woman with very white teeth and then serve an ad for a toothpaste brand.

In-image advertising has grown significantly over the past few years, thanks in large part to a phenomenon we like to call the ‘visual web’, a term that describes the increasingly visual nature of the internet. The wide proliferation of smartphones means practically all of us have constant access to digital cameras. And boy are we using them – almost two billion images are uploaded to the web every day.

Countless eye-tracking studies have shown images and other visual content are the first things we look at when we visit a site, which is why the opportunity to serve an ad over editorial pictures is such a compelling one. In-image ads are in effect the perfect answer to the long-standing viewability issue, consistently delivering rates of up to 80 per cent, far beyond what traditional digital ad formats achieve.

In-image ad formats can also play an important role in tackling another big issue facing the advertising world – the rise of ad blockers. Many advertisers advocate moving towards high impact formats to make ads more engaging for consumers, thus making them less likely to download an ad blocker. This is of course part of the solution, but it will be pointless if we just continue to use the same old retargeting methods that web users have become so fed up with. Surely the real solution is to make advertising more relevant to the content users are actually viewing.

Thanks to the image recognition tech underpinning them, in-image ads are designed to do just that – blend in with existing content and avoid disrupting the user experience. They are emerging as one of the most effective forms of native advertising around.

The growth of image recognition is already revolutionising multiple industries, from retail to security, and the role it can play in improving the digital advertising experience for consumers is only just beginning to emerge. We might be too late to save this generation of ad-blockers, but if we act quickly and listen to what consumers are saying, we might just be able to save the next.