How Artificial Intelligence Chooses The Ads You See

Artificial Intelligence and Ads

Introduction: How Artificial Intelligence Chooses The Ads You See

In just four years, business usage of artificial intelligence has grown by 270%. A majority of leading business ventures have existing investments in the field of artificial intelligence. There is no denying that the development of AI is driving the world forward. 

If you have ever browsed the internet and later saw an ad about something you searched previously, then you witnessed artificial intelligence in action. One of the main challenges that advertising agencies used to face was matching ads with the right audience. Through artificial intelligence, this now happens automatically based on your interests. The goal here is to increase revenues generated, but it also holds promising results for the consumer – it helps them find what they are looking for.

We discuss the methods used to ensure AI can deliver targeted ads to an audience in this article.

Also Read: How do you teach machines to recommend?

Source: YouTube

Decoding User Behavior: The Role of AI in Ad Selection

The Power of Data in Understanding User Behavior

In the realm of advertising, understanding user behavior is paramount, and this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) truly shines. Every click, search, purchase, and even the time spent viewing specific content online can provide rich data about users’ preferences, behaviors, and potential buying intentions. This vast pool of data, when processed and analyzed using AI algorithms, can help create a nuanced picture of a user’s habits, interests, and tendencies. AI tools can decode these patterns and translate them into actionable insights that drive ad selection.

AI Algorithms and Predictive Analysis

AI algorithms excel at identifying patterns and making predictions based on vast amounts of data. Machine learning models, for instance, can be trained to predict a user’s response to a particular ad based on their past behavior. They do this by identifying correlations and patterns in historical data, such as which types of ads a user is most likely to click on, what kind of products they are interested in, and when they are most likely to make a purchase. This predictive analysis plays a pivotal role in ad selection, enabling advertisers to target users with ads that are most relevant to their preferences and thus more likely to result in conversions.

AI in Personalizing Ad Experiences

One of the key ways AI decodes user behavior for ad selection is through personalization. Based on the insights gained about a user’s behavior, AI can tailor the advertising content to match the user’s preferences, creating a highly personalized ad experience. For example, if a user frequently searches for outdoor equipment, an AI system could select ads for camping gear or hiking shoes to display to that user. By serving personalized ads that align with the user’s interests, AI increases the likelihood of user engagement and conversion, making advertising efforts more effective and efficient.

Precision Targeting

Precision targeting is a strategic approach in digital advertising that involves reaching consumers with highly relevant and personalized messages at the right time. The goal of precision targeting is not merely to increase the exposure of an advertisement but to ensure that the ad reaches the consumers who are most likely to be interested in the product or service being promoted. This approach, powered significantly by artificial intelligence (AI), has revolutionized the advertising industry, transforming the way businesses approach consumer engagement and conversion.

AI-Driven Precision Targeting

Artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in enabling precision targeting. By analyzing vast amounts of data, AI algorithms can draw nuanced insights about individual consumers’ behaviors, interests, and purchasing habits. These insights can be used to segment consumers into specific groups based on various parameters such as age, location, lifestyle, browsing history, and many more. Advertisers can then target their ads to these specific groups, ensuring the content is highly relevant to the audience. This level of precision targeting increases the chances of consumer engagement and ultimately, the return on advertising investment.

Benefits and Future of Precision Targeting

Precision targeting offers numerous benefits to businesses. It reduces waste by ensuring advertising dollars are spent reaching consumers who are most likely to be interested in the offered products or services. It also enhances the consumer experience, as individuals see ads that align with their interests and needs. As AI technologies continue to advance and the amount of consumer data continues to grow, the precision of ad targeting is expected to increase. This will allow businesses to create even more personalized and effective advertising campaigns, driving consumer engagement and business growth in the digital age.

Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics in Ad Preference Determination

Artificial intelligence, and more specifically machine learning, has emerged as a transformative force in digital advertising. Machine learning is a data analysis method that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of AI based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.

In the context of ad preference determination, machine learning can analyze numerous data points about a user’s online behavior, such as browsing history, clicked links, search queries, and previously purchased items. These insights can be used to infer user preferences and predict the types of ads they are likely to interact with.

This predictive modeling is achieved through several machine learning techniques such as classification, regression, and clustering. Classification algorithms are often used to categorize users into different groups based on their behavior or preferences, making it possible to show specific ads to certain groups.

Regression algorithms can predict a user’s potential spending based on past behavior, helping to identify high-value users who might be receptive to certain types of ads. Clustering can group users who exhibit similar behavior, enabling the serving of similar ads to these clusters.

Ensuring the accuracy and effectiveness of these predictive models is crucial. This is where model validation techniques come into play, enabling advertisers to assess and improve their models’ performance. Techniques such as cross-validation or the use of a holdout validation set can provide a reliable estimate of the model’s performance on new, unseen data.

As these models are continuously trained on new data, they become better at understanding and predicting user behavior, leading to more effective and personalized ad selection. Despite the technical complexity involved, machine learning’s role in ad preference determination is central to the evolution of advertising, delivering more personalized and engaging ads to consumers.

Dynamic Ads and Real-Time Bidding: AI’s Game-Changing Impact

Dynamic ads and real-time bidding (RTB) have profoundly transformed digital advertising, with AI playing a significant role in enhancing their effectiveness. Dynamic ads, which can automatically personalize content based on user data, leverage AI to analyze vast amounts of user behavior data, enabling the serving of personalized ad content that resonates with the individual’s interests, needs, and past behavior. AI-powered algorithms can dynamically select which product, message, or creative to display in the ad, making the ad significantly more relevant and engaging to the viewer.

Real-time bidding, on the other hand, is a method of advertising where ad inventory is bought and sold on a per-impression basis, via programmatic instantaneous auction, similar to financial markets.

In this context, AI plays a critical role by deciding, in a matter of milliseconds, how much an impression is worth based on various factors such as the user’s demographics, behavior, location, and the context of the website. AI can analyze these factors and make split-second decisions, allowing advertisers to bid the optimal amount for each impression, thus ensuring they reach their target audience at the most cost-effective price.

Both dynamic ads and real-time bidding rely heavily on machine learning models. These models can learn from historical data, continuously improving their predictions over time as they are exposed to more data. These machine learning models can even identify complex patterns and correlations that would be impossible for humans to detect.

For instance, a model might find that users who frequently shop for kitchen appliances in the evening are also likely to be interested in gourmet food ads, thus allowing advertisers to target their ads more effectively. In conclusion, the integration of AI in dynamic ads and real-time bidding has not only increased the efficiency and effectiveness of digital advertising but also ushered in a new era of personalized, real-time marketing.

AI and Contextual Advertising: Matching Ads with Content

Contextual advertising, the practice of displaying ads relevant to the surrounding content, has been a prevalent form of online advertising for many years. Recently, the incorporation of AI technology into contextual advertising systems has greatly increased their effectiveness and precision. Through Natural Language Processing (NLP), an AI subfield that focuses on the interaction between computers and human language, AI can understand the content and context of web pages at a deeper level than ever before, allowing for more accurate placement of ads.

NLP techniques such as keyword extraction, topic modeling, and sentiment analysis enable AI systems to gain nuanced insights into the content of a web page. Keyword extraction identifies the most important words and phrases that signify the main topics of the content. Topic modeling can categorize content into various themes, which can be used to match the ad with the page’s overall theme. Sentiment analysis can detect the emotional tone of the content, helping advertisers avoid placing their ads next to content with a negative tone that could harm the brand’s image.

Beyond textual content, AI can also analyze visual content to inform contextual ad placement. Computer vision, another subfield of AI, can analyze and understand images, videos, and other visual content in a way that is similar to how NLP processes text. For instance, an AI system might analyze an image on a web page and recognize that it depicts a family enjoying a picnic. The system could then match an ad for outdoor products or family-friendly activities with that content. This ability to understand and interpret both text and visual content allows AI systems to place contextual ads that are highly relevant to the surrounding content, resulting in a more cohesive and engaging user experience.

The Role of Natural Language Processing in Ad Selection

Natural Language Processing (NLP), a crucial component of artificial intelligence, plays an instrumental role in ad selection. NLP, which enables computers to comprehend, interpret, and generate human language, forms the backbone of sophisticated ad selection systems. The application of NLP techniques allows these systems to analyze textual data associated with users, including search queries, social media posts, and website content, to understand the context, sentiment, and semantic nuances.

By leveraging NLP, ad selection systems can identify keywords and topics that indicate a user’s interests and needs. For instance, if a user frequently searches for phrases related to travel or consistently engages with travel-related content, NLP algorithms can deduce that the user is interested in travel and may respond favorably to ads for flights, hotels, or vacation packages. Sentiment analysis, another vital NLP technique, can assess the user’s emotional tone towards particular topics, helping to avoid showing ads that could potentially upset the user.

NLP plays a significant role in contextual advertising by helping match ads with content. Using techniques such as topic modeling and keyword extraction, NLP can understand the themes and subjects of a webpage, and subsequently ensure that the displayed ads are relevant to that content. As a result, NLP aids in creating a seamless and engaging browsing experience for users, while simultaneously improving ad performance by ensuring ads reach the most interested and appropriate audience.

Ethical Considerations and Privacy Concerns in AI-Powered Ad Selection

AI-powered ad selection, while offering significant benefits for both advertisers and consumers, also raises important ethical considerations and privacy concerns. The crux of these concerns revolves around the vast amounts of personal data that AI systems require to function effectively.

The automated analysis of user behavior, interests, and demographics for ad personalization purposes entails collecting, storing, and processing sensitive personal data. While this facilitates more relevant and engaging advertising experiences, it also poses risks related to data security, privacy infringement, and potential misuse of data.

In response to these concerns, there are increasing efforts to establish robust data privacy regulations and standards. Examples include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States, which mandate explicit user consent for data collection and provide users with rights over their data, including the right to access, correct, delete, and transfer their data.

Advertisers and technology companies are required to comply with these regulations or face significant penalties. AI systems that power ad selection must therefore be designed and trained to respect these rights and ensure compliance with data privacy laws.

Transparency and explainability in AI decision-making are other important ethical considerations. Users have a right to know how their personal data is being used, and how decisions about the ads they see are being made. This necessitates designing AI systems that can provide meaningful explanations for their decisions.

AI systems should avoid unfair bias in ad selection, which could lead to discriminatory practices. Ensuring fairness, transparency, and privacy in AI-powered ad selection not only respects user rights and upholds ethical standards, but can also build user trust and enhance the long-term success of advertising campaigns.

The Future of Advertising: Next-Gen AI Technologies in Ad Selection

Interest-based advertising, powered by next-generation AI technologies, will keep transforming the future landscape of advertising. AI has grown increasingly sophisticated in its ability to analyze and predict user behavior, and this is most evident in its role as a default search provider. Here, AI assists in understanding the intent behind user queries, even suggesting search terms that align with users’ past searches and clicking patterns.

This understanding provides insights into users’ interests, and these insights can then be leveraged to serve personalized advertising that matches users’ preferences and needs. The use of AI in programmatic advertising, which automates the buying and selling of ads in real time, has also been revolutionary, offering highly targeted and efficient ad campaigns.

This remarkable progress does not come without potential negative consequences. The increasing use of AI technologies in ad selection necessitates a high degree of vigilance regarding issues such as user privacy, data security, and the potential for discriminatory or biased ad targeting. These challenges highlight the need for ethical AI practices, which include respecting user privacy, maintaining data transparency, and implementing mechanisms to identify and mitigate biases in AI algorithms. As we look to the future, it’s clear that the next generation of AI technologies will continue to revolutionize advertising, but it is equally important to ensure that this technology is deployed responsibly and ethically to maintain the trust and safety of users.

Success Stories: Case Studies of AI-Driven Advertising Campaigns


Coca-Cola is a well-known brand that has made use of AI to drive their advertising campaigns. They leveraged AI’s data analysis capability to understand their customers’ preferences better. Using chatbots on social media platforms, they gathered customer feedback and used this data to influence their product development and advertising strategies. The result was a more personalized customer experience and a significant boost in their engagement rates.


Netflix is a prime example of successful use of AI in advertising. Netflix uses AI to personalize content recommendations for its subscribers based on their viewing history and preferences, which is a form of indirect advertising. The company also uses AI to determine the best thumbnails to display for each viewer, significantly increasing the click-through rate.

Under Armour

Under Armour partnered with IBM’s Watson to create an app called “Record.” This AI-powered app analyzed data from its users, such as workout performance, sleep, and nutrition, and provided personalized training and lifestyle advice. The brand then utilized these insights for targeted advertising of its product lines, creating a personalized user experience that drove product engagement.


Spotify uses AI to analyze data from millions of users worldwide to understand listening habits and recommend personalized playlists. This not only increases user engagement but also serves as an indirect form of advertising for artists and albums. Spotify uses this data for targeted advertising, allowing brands to reach specific audience segments based on their music tastes and listening habits.


Amazon is known for its use of AI in advertising, providing customers with product recommendations based on their search history, past purchases, and browsing behavior. This personalized advertising has significantly increased their cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, leading to higher revenue. Amazon’s success story demonstrates the power of AI in delivering a highly personalized and efficient customer experience.

Multi-Arm Bandit

Reinforcement learning is the type of artificial intelligence used in ad serving platforms. This technology is commonly used in games but doubles as a tool for delivering targeted ads. With games, reinforcement learning detects when a certain goal has been reached and takes the most appropriate action based on the player’s performance, current stats, and other factors. 

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence in Journalism

When it comes to serving ads over the internet, a strategy is used that experts generally refer to as a multi-arm bandit. The goal here is to create a single-step learning program that uses artificial intelligence to analyze ads – including performance, impressions, consumer behavior, and other factors. How artificial intelligence chooses the ads you see ?

The objective here is to find the ads that have the best performance while also ensuring the entire budget is not spent on this test. The process results in higher CTR rates and better results for the advertiser. 

A/B Testing

A/B testing is something referred to as split testing too. The idea behind this method is relatively simple. You decide to run two different ads in order to find the one that offers the best results. You continuously monitor the performance of both ads over a period of seven days – or perhaps even a few weeks. 

By the end of a specified timeframe, you have enough data to determine which ad gives you the best CTR or click-through rate. You then increase the budget on this ad and may consider stopping the other ad. 

Source: YouTube

While this is a simple scenario, consider the fact that advertising platforms generally serve billions of text, banner, and video ads every single day. Manually testing different ad formats can be time-consuming, especially when this is expected from the agency and not the advertiser. 

Artificial intelligence can help to streamline the process of A/B testing. This technology automatically places ads and analyzes their performance. The AI technology can be configured to automatically adjust spending on ads, placements, and other factors as it learns more about the performance of each unit in the group. 

Also Read: AI And Space Exploration

Exploration Vs. Exploitation

This is an area that is often difficult to choose between. With an exploitation model, ads that have already been proven successful will be used. The company will not implement new ads, as they have already conducted appropriate tests and will now stick with the text, graphics, and other content that have been established. 

Also Read: Using artificial intelligence to make publishing profitable

Exploration, on the other hand, means continuing to test additional options while prioritizing the ads that perform better. 

There are times where one ad may not perform well during an initial test but could outperform other ads at a later time. By choosing an exploration model, it is possible to avoid missing out on such an opportunity. 

AI systems used in ad-serving platforms will usually weigh exploration versus exploitation. The system may start by running a few different ads, then see which ad gets the highest CTR. The system then chooses to focus on this ad but may still offer the other ads a chance to be displayed on certain occasions. 

Source: YouTube

Adding Context To The Model

Another way that ad targeting is customized with AI would be related to context added to the strategies. Most people have smartphones. These devices are useful – but they also contain a lot of personal details of an individual. The data is collected in the background and stored in a database. The same happens with social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. 

The information collected helps ad serving platforms determine your age, gender, where you live, the type of device you use, and your general interests. This data can be used by AI to customize ads according to who you are, where you are from, and what you like. The ads become more personal, making them more effective on the audience. 

Also Read: Future of Hospitality with Artificial Intelligence.


AI is using various methods to deliver better targeting with advertising campaigns. The technology analyzes billions of internet users, detecting interests, behaviors, and other data. The information is then processed and utilized to target individuals who may be most interested in a specific ad, based on keywords provided in the copy and other media used in the ad format. 


Introbooks. Artificial Intelligence in Advertising. 2020.

Team, IntroBooks. Artificial Intelligence in Advertising. IntroBooks. Accessed 5 June 2023.