It may not sound like the key to campaign success, but categorisation could be the difference between great targeting and wasted budgets. If brands want to retain their competitive edge, boost engagement, and stay compliant they must leverage the potential of taxonomy in general. And that means taking three vital steps: 

  1. Unlocking the value of categorisation

Although often overlooked, taxonomy underpins the efficient running of digital advertising. The main reason for this is that cataloguing makes it possible to quickly and easily sort core components of the ecosystem. In short, it’s what brings the industry into order.

For example, ad product categorisation enables sellers to choose tools capable of delivering ads in a format that suits their site, while audience taxonomies help both publishers and advertisers match messages with certain consumer segments — this is also why users’ categories are now a vital part of real time programmatic trading. Then there is content classification, which allows ads to be paired with online content that is most likely to reach their target audience and align with creative messaging, as well as brand values.

Of course, using taxonomies effectively means observing some core best practices. Accuracy is crucial – taxonomies must be granular and timely to give ads the best chance of resonating with desired audiences. For instance, it’s important to continually refresh content categories so ads can be targeted to articles about seasonal events, such as Valentine’s Day or the festive period. When it’s defined and exhaustive, categorisation paves the way for better decision-making and relevance. 

  1. Gaining a diverse array of data

Consumer data is a fundamental element of current ad tailoring. Thanks to rising connectivity, the industry has been accustomed to high availability of individual insight: with site visits, purchases, and interactions made via smart devices providing data that helps inform detailed profiles. The arrival of the GDPR hindered the data gathering process however, with advertisers unable to access data without first gaining explicit consent. The biggest impact has been around data sources where direct consent is not possible, such as third party – meaning the supply of available insights has become limited. As a result, advertisers need an alternative data source that provides a viable foundation for targeting, without jeopardising personal privacy. Enter URL data.

Information extracted from URLs has multiple advantages. For starters, it excludes any data that could identify individuals — such as name, gender, and email address — making it naturally GDPR compliant. Secondly, the information it offers about topics, access dates, and the times at which consumers are reading, empowers a comprehensive view of pages that can be leveraged to build content taxonomies and understand audience behaviour. For instance, data might show an article on the top 10 beach destinations in Europe is loaded during the time a travel programme airs on TV; indicating probable interests in short-haul holidays, flights and swimwear – all insights advertisers can harness for classification and contextually appropriate messages.

  1. Pinpointing what content means

The final stage of taxonomy refinement is using smart technology and URL data to achieve deeper content insight. By adopting true semantic tools with the ability to run natural language processing (NLP), brand advertisers can assess page-level content as the human brain does. This will enable them to surpass basic keyword presence and determine what each word means, in addition to the sentiment it will create. With such thorough content insight, advertisers will not only have the means to support more precise classification, but also ensure ads complement their context and the interests of the audience segments content attracts.

Categorisation is arguably the industry’s greatest unsung hero; allowing buyers and sellers alike to make sense of the complex media landscape, and deliver ads that keep both revenue and consumer satisfaction strong. Following GDPR enforcement, its capacity to alter the fate of campaigns with relevant and emotionally impactful ads is gaining recognition. In the year ahead, the brands that lead the market are likely to be those that appreciate the value of content taxonomy, and know how to use it effectively.

Giovanni Strocchi

Giovanni Strocchi


Giovanni Strocchi is CEO at ADmantX.