Today’s column is written by Niladri Batabyal, vice president of innovation at PlaceIQ.
It seems like only yesterday that the big data movement revolutionized the way brands and marketers connected with their consumers.
The first phase was all about “getting it.” The more data we had, the better the targeting, measurement and insights capabilities we could attain.
But now, as we embark on the next chapter of using data to understand consumer behavior at scale, there are a few points that will soon take center stage.
All data are not created equal. With a seemingly limitless ecosystem, the sheer volume of data being produced and collected continues to expand at a staggering pace. Going forward, however, the real value of data will depend on quality over quantity.
The advertising industry has gotten used to taking shortcuts in their use and abuse of data that’s deemed “good enough.” But as with other industries, we have entered an era where gut instincts are being trounced by more scientific methods. In science, of course, acquiring new knowledge follows time-honored principles based on measurable and explainable evidence.
Consider the following questions when valuing every piece of first-, second- and third-party data that’s used to make revenue-defining decisions:
- Is it accurate? In reality, the "hyperlocal" GPS coordinates that look really precise, for example, may be hundreds of miles away from the actual location of a device.
- How often is it collected or refreshed? Is that real-time data days, weeks or even months old?
- Does a given data source illuminate a breadth of understanding or a depth of understanding? Rarely will a single source provide both.
- Is a data point strictly deterministic or modeled based on other factors? In other words, do you actually know that a household watches a particular television show, or do you only know that a survey resulted in that household’s entire zip code indexing highly for the show?
To date, the largest media channels – from direct mail and television to desktop and mobile – have largely existed in independent silos. The same can be said for the data associated with each channel. The tides, however, are quickly turning, as the cries for omnichannel messaging and cross-screen engagement grow louder.
The challenge remains in matching offline customer data to cookies in a desktop environment and, finally, to a mobile landscape where no single point of identification seems to exist. Though many of the big names have claimed universal logins capable of tracing usage across their networks, a closed system with little transparency does not bode well for the ecosystem as a whole.
Other third party vendors have released solutions employing a number of different methodologies, but the accuracy and scale of matches for many of them have already come into question.
In the end, the industry must rally around more open standards and practices for connecting, sharing and learning from data. The future will not be about a single data source but rather the corroborative power that can only be attained when multiple points are referenced together. Imagine a world where the combined FMOT, ZMOT and every MOT in-between becomes an opportunity to truly learn from and reach your customer.
When asked about privacy at a recent advertising conference, a prominent CEO declared that as long as you deliver value, consumers would be less concerned about the security implications surrounding personal data. Citing the example of recent Web browsers that disable cookies by default – and the backlash it caused when users received completely open advertising – his points seemed to be well received by the crowd.
In context, there’s plenty of truth to this industry leader’s perspective. However, imagine if the NSA’s press secretary stood in front of a room of reporters to deliver a similar message.
Like privacy, the tradition of turning the other cheek to security concerns in an effort to bring new capabilities to market faster continues. Eventually, those unmitigated concerns are brought to light, however, usually by way of a scathing front-page headline.
So as an industry, why not take charge and self-regulate? Let’s make sure we separate personally identifiable information (PII) from the not-so-PII and provide appropriate channels for users to opt out. Let’s make sure we make every effort to lock down our systems and encrypt the data that sit on them, whether in the cloud, on a local server or while being transferred across the wire. Perhaps, most importantly, let’s make sure we are fully committed to our consumers in sharing what data we have and how we use it.
Call it big data 2.0, or simply the next generation of data-driven thinking. As the market continues to embrace new ways of collecting, analyzing and activating unprecedented amounts of incredibly detailed data, our ability as marketers to contextualize real consumer intent will expand by leaps and bounds.
Clearly, we have only begun to understand this major shift in the way the advertising business will be shaped for years to come.
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