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The data tug-of-war

Since the advent of DMPs, marketers have increasingly put the collection and activation of data at the center of their marketing activities. The most valuable data is the user-level data that allows them to target, then personalize the message for an individual. But executing hyper personalized, data-driven marketing at scale can be a daunting task for many marketers. The data borders between the open web and the walled gardens force a constant tug-of-war between consistent, streamlined execution and access to the massive audiences living inside the walls.

Marketers' most prized asset

Research recently conducted in cooperation with Industry Index and Deloitte Consulting, surveying over 180 brand and agency buyers, highlights a significant gap between what marketers desire to receive from walled gardens like Google and Facebook and what they can expect to achieve with their data.

The study identifies data ownership and portability as top priorities for marketers, nearly all of whom noted the importance of applying their data assets across media sources and creative executions to achieve one-to-one personalization at scale. Indeed, a significant percentage of them noted personalization as a top goal on the CMO agenda. Not surprisingly, the study found that 95 percent of advertisers think it's important or very important to have data transparency at a user level; 92 percent believe it's important or very important that viewability, brand safety, and fraud measurement should come from a source not affiliated with inventory; and 81 percent believe that it's important or very important they have exclusive ownership of campaign data.

Data has become marketers' most prized asset. However, the desire for data control tugs against the challenge to overcome the complex challenge of activating it at scale. The study shows both marketers and their agencies employ similar criteria to evaluate platform partners, with 99 percent noting access to expertise, 97 percent noting ease of use, and 95 percent noting scalability as top importance. Scalability in particular tends to favor walled gardens, and for some marketers, their integrated nature presents as easier to set up and maintain than a combination of separate "best of breed" technologies that could provide more control and flexibility in leveraging their data.

Ask the questions

But as is often the case, these perceived strengths come with major costs. So, in light of marketers' desires and priorities, what they can expect to get from working within the walled gardens, the closed stacks, greatly differs. For marketers, the very real cost may be the loss of control of their most precious asset: their data. As a result, restless marketers have begun asking hard questions around access and use of their data and how much they will have to compromise their desire for exclusive ownership and their ability to personalize ads in order to access the scale of the walled gardens. To ensure they are making informed decisions, advertisers need to ask a set of questions in a few key areas of every platform partner:

Ownership and portability
Who owns your campaign and audience data? Does your platform partner provide ownership/access of user-level data generated of the course of running campaigns? Is this data easily portable? For instance, can audience segments built for one channel or publisher be used with another and can you use your DMP to coordinate? And, how is the campaign data generated by your media buying dollars being used? Will it directly or indirectly help your competitors who are also on your platform? Though it may be aggregated, will your data inform programs for competitors? Will your CPA goals and results be used as benchmarks for competitors?

Service and expertise
Will the partner provide the expertise and service needed to help you achieve your personalization strategy? What's the platform's service model? Are they helping you create, serve, and measure better ads, or just looking to sell you media and add-ons? Do they provide real expertise and hands-on support when you need it? Do they play nice with other tech stacks and help facilitate campaigns across partners or are you restricted to running siloed campaigns on closed stacks?

Potential for media bias
Can your platform provide an unbiased and trusted source of truth? Does the platform selling you media also want to be the one telling you whether or not it worked? If so, can you be assured that there is no media bias toward your inventory and can it help optimize your media buy and creative? Is your inventory limited by cookies or proprietary IDs for measurement vs. newer technologies like device recognition that can span media channels and screens? Speaking of cross-channel, is the data provided by the platform specific and portable enough to be actionable or simply "nice to know"?

In a way it's ironic: the very tools and platforms that excite marketers the most can cause them the most angst. By investing in DMPs, they seek to activate their data for precise media decisions and personalized advertising, yet in order to access the scale of the walled gardens, they have to compromise the use and control of their data. Of course, it is within the platform's rights to set their rules and run their business to their benefit. But marketers need to be better armed with honest answers to these questions, so they can manage this tug-of-war between their need for data transparency, portability, and ownership, and the desire for ease-of-use and scalability. 

John leads strategy and execution for the company's ever expanding business around the world. John comes to Flashtalking most recently from X + 1 where he led that company to an extremely successful exit through acquisition by Rocketfuel. His...

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Commenter: Barbara Schweitzer

2016, September 30