I love silos. They look iconic against the rural horizon and do a great job of completely separating disparate materials so that there is just no risk that they will get intermingled, keeping our foodstuff and arsenal safe and pure.
Not so great for data
But what works so well for rockets and agriculture is just not right for data, which is critical for audience analytics and targeting. Advertisers, agencies, and publishers have been generating data for a long time -- much longer than online advertising has been even a consideration. This historical data is for the most part stored in disparate internal systems. Whether considering email systems, demographic databases, commerce platforms, or offline registration files, these systems rarely speak to each other. This is a lost opportunity, on a massive scale, to define an audience in a significant way.
Is it really a big issue?
As marketers strive to understand their consumers better and to present the appropriate messages to them, it becomes more important than ever to break down the silos in a structured way. The goal is to create an audience strategy that takes into account all key relevant attributes, all with the goal of ensuring that each message to your customers or prospects is relevant, timely, and full of value.
This shift away from single-dimension targeting (whether behavioral targeting, IP targeting, geo-targeting, or registration targeting) to a multi-dimensional audience targeting mindset has been underway for the last few years. Breaking down data silos is a critical component in completing this view of how to message to an audience.
In a basic example, an e-commerce retailer targets a display campaign to users who viewed emails from the retailer, but haven't visited its site recently. This is only possible if the email interactions are successfully integrated with the website activity, so the retailer can create a segment of users who view emails but don't visit the website. This same example can be applied to offline purchases, respondents to sweepstakes, and many other non-website visit-related activity.
I've had long discussions with Josh Dreller, VP of media technology and analytics at Fuor Digital (a data and platform expert), about this topic, and here is how he aptly explains it: "One of the things I've noticed is that when data is in disparate systems, analysts just don't look at it as often. What you lose is those little brilliant hunches... the insights that bubble up from the subconscious. Chances are a busy analyst won't necessarily follow up on these hunches every time if it means that they have to pull reports from multiple systems and then have to aggregate, scrub, and pivot the data just to see if there's any validity to the hypothesis. The more integrated data you have in a single system, the more chance someone from your team might serendipitously stumble over something absolutely wonderful that they might not have uncovered if it took them 30 minutes of data aggregation to find. In terms of data targeting, the same applies. Disconnected data is simply inefficient and will cut back on your team's ability to load up hunches on the fly. If you want to truly tap into all of the targeting opportunities to which your data could be applied, it's important that you de-silo and bring all of your various sources together in one platform."
Of course, as is the case with everything around audience targeting and data, it's critical that breaking down the data silos is done with the utmost focus on user privacy and respect. This means a few very key things: following all current best practices about giving notice to and obtaining consent from consumers about their information, using a reputable company to do data integration and on-ramping, and avoiding the utilization of any types of personally identifiable data, among other practices.
Chris Scoggins is SVP and GM for the DLX Platform at Datalogix, one of the leading companies in the online data integration field. As an astute contributor to our discussion of silos, Scoggins says, "Over the last two years, we have worked with over 75 companies (many from the Fortune 500) to transform various aspects of their offline CRM files into addressable online audiences, which are used for media targeting and insights. Our focus as a company is to break down the walls between the offline and online marketing silos that exist within large enterprises and their agencies. But none of this would be possible if not for the privacy and security controls baked into our technology and processes. Stripping out personally identifiable data, working with validated data providers, and offering users an opt-out mechanism are just a few of the controls that make this possible."
What can be done?
The first step is to take an account of all data assets you have and how they can be accessed. This might involve talking to internal groups that are rarely or never involved in advertising or marketing. (It might take some work to track down these parties.) Then a structured integration plan should be developed. Work with your targeting platform partner to see what strategies are in place to integrate data assets, and which best practices are recommended. Then finally, use these new data elements to build smart audiences and test, test, review outcomes, and test again. The output is well worth it. It will further enhance your marketing strategy and get you a step closer to the reality of delivering the right ad to the right user at the right time.
Jeremy Mason is VP and GM, AudienceScience Gateway, for AudienceScience.
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