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Is Unstructured Data the Future of Ad Targeting?

Audience segmentation is a crucial part of advertising. It is a marketing strategy that essentially breaks down your target audience into smaller subgroups based on behaviors like purchasing history, geographic location, age, income, and more. Display and video targeting typically use segmented audiences. While that strategy has worked for generalized targeting, it could be improved for online marketing by using unstructured data to get a more granular level of targeting. Unstructured data is a proprietary technology developed by Simpli.fi. 

Unstructured Data: An Overview  

Everything we do creates data. It is estimated that humans create approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. For context, one quintillion = one million x one trillion. That is a lot of data about a lot of people, and, for businesses, it is invaluable.  

So how do those businesses isolate relevant data from irrelevant data? Until recently, the prevailing technique was segmented data. Segmented data is compiled with more generalized targeting compared to unstructured data. Unstructured data can be more easily optimized as it is not compiled and therefore not subject to broad categorizations.  It allows marketers greater options and more flexibility to use data to find their customers and tailor the experience to them. 

Gain More Insight with Increased Data Transparency

Greater transparency creates more specificity in your data. Unstructured data give you the transparency that allows you to drill down to a more granular level of detail about your audience. Conversely, pre-packaged, segmented data is sold to you as blocked-off information. FDS uses an excellent analogy of a bag of Skittles to explain the difference. 

Segmented data is like an unopened bag of Skittles. You know it contains candy, but you don't know what colors you'll find inside. But what if you only want yellow Skittles? Unstructured data means you can access only the yellow ones or the red ones, or...you get the idea.  

Let's say the bag of Skittles represents data about people who are booking travel. You are a travel agent that wants to advertise to people interested in a Disney vacation, represented by yellow Skittles. In the segmented world a consumer who has shown any kind of travel interest, like Disney searches, as well as someone going skiing in Colorado, would be part of that bag of Skittles. Both of those individuals would be targeted with that Disney cruise ad, so good data with bad data, right?  Unstructured data allows you to choose whatever you need, like the yellow skittles, providing improved insight into how customers interact with your brand, letting you map your consumer journey more accurately.   

How Unstructured Data Works in Action  

Let's contrast how unstructured data operates in action compared to segmented data. 

Shows Actual Behavior  

In the Skittles analogy, segmented data is the unopened bag. The data is compiled and sanitized, obscuring the actual behavior of the group. With the opened bag of unstructured data, all the data elements are exposed, allowing you to see the actual consumer behavior.  

Presents More Recent Data 

With segmented or structured data, all data is lumped into an analogous group. New data and old data are combined. In stark contrast, unstructured data maintains the timestamp associated with every piece of data. That means you always have the most current data from instantaneous recency up to 30 days.  

Improved Data Quality  

Segmented data has been scrubbed of all the data points with no justification for why any user is in a particular audience segment. With unstructured data, all the data points are there to allow you to drill down with accuracy and recency to reach a high-quality targeted audience.  

Better Optimization Capabilities  

Optimization can only be performed at the campaign level with segmented data because it is a fixed audience that is more of the set it and forget it.   Unstructured data can always optimize as each data piece is analyzed using 1,000x to 10,000x more data than traditional methods.   

Increased Audience Flexibility  

Segmented data in arbitrary groupings can only be sliced thinner at a significant cost. Unstructured data is dynamic, allowing access to more information, increased reliability, and enhanced flexibility. 

Make Your Programmatic Ads More Impactful

Unstructured data revolutionizes programmatic ads. It allows you to put an effective ad in front of the people it will resonate with most. Even more important, unstructured data conduct targeting using a more granular timeline for recent information. The more recent the occurrence of the purchase or the search, the more relevant the data to your marketing efforts.   

While a segmented audience is more upper-funnel, highly targeted unstructured data allows you to have a one-on-one conversation with your consumers in your digital marketing. Because you can identify data at the element level, you can serve ads to your audience in real-time. An ad served up within minutes of visiting a brand's website has a higher click-through rate than those served outside a 30-minute window. Old, sanitized, segmented data can't deliver at that level. 

Achieve More Campaign Success With Unstructured Data 

Approximately 80-85% of all data is unstructured data consisting of keywords, emails, videos, web pages, and much more. Segmenting data was an early attempt to wrangle the tremendous amount of available data into a more manageable format in the initial days of the internet. However, it has significant limitations in recency, specificity, and quality. Now we have a better way. Unstructured data gives you the clearest insight into who your customers are, allowing you to achieve a much higher level of success with highly targeted programmatic ads.  

Shannon Allen

Written by Shannon Allen

Shannon Allen is the Chief Revenue Officer for Federated Digital Solutions. She has over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing and over 15 years more specifically working in the digital world. Her passion for digital marketing is what drives her to find the best digital solutions for clients as well as for FDS. Shannon believes that true marketing starts after the sale with strategic campaigns and detailed reporting to help all FDS clients with an ROI, so they see the value in digital marketing.

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