In today’s hyper connected world, consumers research meaningful connections – Marketers understand the power of emotions, connections and engagement over pure tonnage. I have been particularly interested by a new media display format: the in- image ad.

Images and content (the good and relevant one) are powerful drivers to capture consumers attention. A picture is worth … a billion engagements. Media publishers can now harness the power of “programmatic buying”: drive increases in viewability, engagement and create new brand metrics to help fuel the next wave of growth in digital advertising (without alienating readers).

So what “In-image ad” is exactly? 

In- image ad allows publishers to serve contextual ad messages when users roll over a photo or other image on a website (take-over), can command higher CPMs and click-through rates than traditional online advertising because it is user-initiated. While in-image ads have been used in consumer advertising for a long time (about three years) , they are now starting to creep into B-to-B media markets, because it captures consumer mindset ! 

The last campaign emerged yesterday with L’Oreal ads based on hair color in online photos.


The leader in that space is GumGum 

GumGum uses proprietary technology to evaluate the pixels of each image on its premium publisher sites, combined with facial recognition and image clustering methods to identify any people or items. The company then applies its ad targeting to deliver contextually relevant ads. Through its technology, the company not only determines the subject matter of the image, but also whether it is brand-safe — based on nudity detectors and other features. GumGum ads tend to be visually engagaing, with interactive animations, video content, offers, or other experiences.

GumGum’s image takeover units have outperformed on mobile, according to Tanz (founder of the company) – 25 percent of GumGum’s traffic comes on mobile devices (source: pandodaily, 2013). Limited screen real estate and attention spans make traditional display advertising more difficult on mobile devices.


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Other key players include: Luminate and Vibrant Media

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“Photos drive more page views than any other content,” accounting for 65% to 70% of views for a typical news property. 


Cat’s Pride ran an in-image ad campaign through GumGum’s platform using rich media banner ads that expanded to show a video overlay when users engaged with the ad. The ads rean on several newspaper websites, including

According to GumGum’s stats, the campaign yielded a 1.18 percent click-through rate on the ad and a 4.22 percent click-through rate from the video overlay to the Cat’s Pride website (worth reminding that average CTR in advertising industry is around 0.2%… see Google benchmark on units at the end of the article) 

In another example, Activision partnered with Stipple to promote and drive pre-orders for its new game, Call of Duty: Ghosts. The ads included videos, photos and storefront links that appeared on hero images on gaming and social media websites. The ad content displayed when users touched the “content atoms”, or icons on the image. The engagement rates on the ads was 225 percent and the click-through rate was 54 percent. The average time spent with the ads was greater than 3 minutes.

To my mind, there is no doubt that image-recognition technology got huge potential in the future, as still currently under utilised. No brainer really, this is just a matter of time for brands and publishers to recognize the untapped source of revenue their editorial images now hold.

As IAB points out “capitalizing on even a small percentage of the editorial images online has the potential to represent a sizable portion of the $7.5 billion display advertising market in the coming years” (source: marketing land, 21 March 2014) 

Source:,marketing land, IAB

Double Click by Google Benchmark (2014) Rich media gallery statistics