As Metrics Fragment, Data Ownership Issue Gains New Urgency

broken-analyticsThis is the first in a series on what’s broken in the analytics space. Part one deals with data ownership, part two will address technology and part three will focus on people and processes.

Like a sports car missing a few key parts, marketing metrics look tantalizingly complete from an outsider’s perspective. But ad tech mechanics are turning up discrepancies.

Only about a third of CMOs give marketing analytics a high mark for contributing to their company’s performance, according to a recent survey of senior marketers from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. In spite of increased data collection across all marketing channels, or maybe because of it, businesses today are struggling to create a complete data picture that can guide advertising decisions.

“Most marketers would say that they’re incredibly data-rich but insight-poor into the fundamental big questions around what’s actually working across all of those things that we’re doing,” explains Jennifer Zeszut, CEO of Beckon, a marketing performance SaaS provider.

The biggest question lies around the interplay between channels. As Zeszut puts it, talk to any marketer and they’ll tell you, “I know everything I need to know about every single one of my channels.”

“But if you ask a question like, ‘But what works best across all of those things?’ or ‘What is the role of one vs. another?’… that is where the entire universe kind of stops,” she said.

In a Teradata survey of 2,200 marketers, 65% report that silos within their marketing department prevent them from gaining a holistic view of a campaign or initiative. That’s a problem, considering the meandering path most consumers take during the purchase journey.

“A user will never convert just because they saw a link on Google, right?” said Ran Sarig, CEO of Datorama, a cross-channel analytics platform vendor. “In the real world there are a lot of different interactions with a brand that raise your awareness of that specific brand.”

The cross-channel visibility problem has worsened as the digital marketing field continues to fragment. Not only are internal silos causing problems, but often the most vital information is locked away in databases run by agencies, DSPs, SaaS providers and other external parties.

“As consumer packaged goods and retail organizations look to make real-time, personalized consumer decisions, they need the data from the agencies to drive decisions across the organizations,” said Justin Honaman, a former sales and marketing leader at Coca-Cola and current consultant for Teradata focused on CPG and retail. “Agencies can be slow to provide the data and at times, not willing to share the details if they feel that they ‘own’ the data.”

Which is why marketers need to negotiate the data ownership minefield before they can achieve cross-channel insights or intelligently drive marketing decisions through data. Mark Zagorski, CEO of data-management platform eXelate, said his firm sees conflicts rising between agencies and processors as they vie for the ability to deliver results for mutual customers.

“Particularly in cases where data management is centralized outside of the agency stack, agencies feel threatened that their touch points are being challenged,” Zagorski  said. “Ultimately this will lie in the hands of the marketer, and as they get continually more savvy with data, they will drive a more sophisticated relationship between all of the parties.”

Marketers will increasingly need to pressure agencies and service providers to loosen the grip on data they collect. As things stand, many third parties are turning to a walled-garden approach with data out of fear, said Casey Carey, CMO of Adometry, an attribution provider.

“Many of our brands do not have access to publisher-level performance for their affiliates because their agency is afraid the most fruitful relationships will be taken direct or in-house,” he said, explaining that blockading data out of fear will turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy as data transparency becomes the new norm. “Those who can’t or refuse to readily supply data will increasingly find themselves on the outside looking in.”

For example, one of his customers – a large cable company – gave its agencies an ultimatum when it asked for their participation in its attribution and analytics program roll-out.

“The message was clear: ‘You are part of the process, you will be supportive and bought into the decision, and if not, we’ll find someone who can be,'” Carey recounted.

Ultimately, though, marketers must make contractual language the arbiter of data-ownership and data-flow relationships. Marketers often fail to clearly define in advance the data they expect from third parties throughout a campaign or a long-term relationship.

“Because clients may find themselves at the mercy of agencies and other third parties when it comes to customer data, they must seek some clear parameters and ground rules,” said Mike Lempner, practice executive for customer intelligence at the consultancy Infinitive.

This is a critical point, agreed Jay Stocki, VP online marketing for Experian Marketing Services. He explains that many agencies view a marketer’s data as intellectual property on par with creative work.

“As marketers have learned in the past, they must clearly specify that the creative work is ‘work for hire’ and that they wish to retain rights and ownership of the work,” Stocki said. “Marketers must create a clause in their agency agreement that indicates the desire to retain complete ownership of all data, including data purchased from third-party data providers and data gathered during the execution of a campaign.”

This is really only the first obstacle to overcome, though. Both Stocki and Lempner warned that technical limitations on the agency side may make it too cost prohibitive or downright impossible to share real-time or integrated data in the way a marketer needs it.

“Even if clients ‘own’ all campaign data, accessing it may be a different story,” Lempner said.

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  1. As you note, Ericka, the data ownership issue is creating a series of “border skirmishes” between digital channels, agencies and marketers.

    But the real quagmire, especially as programmatic channels become more dominant, will be dealing with the data tonnage. It’s one thing for a party to secure rights to data, it’s quite another to be capable of taking its delivery.

    Marketers should not attribute to malice that which might be adequately explained by a lack of competence. What may appear as reluctance by agencies to provide data may actually mask the serious challenges they face in managing it internally.

  2. Marc Rossen

    Ericka, great piece. In my experience the onus needs to fall on the Marketer. Marketers need to take control as you noted and demand data rights. More important Marketers need to own data strategy and collection. Its one thing to have access to Adserver log files and another to have in place a global ID mechanism to join all data sources together. It’s been my first hand experience that when Marketers include their Agencies everyone can come to the the table to define reasonable solutions but the Marketer needs to drive the conversation.

    Further to Michaels point above, Marketers also need to push their Agencies to understand their data infrastructure. Again it is one thing to store Adserver data and a whole different ball game when you need to sequence multi-channhel data and process it for digestible insights. Handling AdTech ecosystem data requires different approaches that most are not experienced handling.