Citibank Urges Agencies To Do More About Data Quality

modelsDirect mail has always performed well for Citibank.

But like most advertisers, if the company wants to push more dollars into digital, top brass expects marketing to prove the impact on short-term revenue growth.

With digital, it can be technically easier to prove – in near real time – what drove a conversion rather than pulling up years’ worth of historical data seen in traditional mix models. But in order to properly attribute digital signals to business metrics like sales or improved share of voice, it requires a lot of coordination on the brand’s part.

“If you’re not up on your tagging and keeping track of [multiple data sources] as a business, those things will really kill you,” said Michael Wexler, director of digital insights and marketing effectiveness for Citibank, at the 4As Data Summit on Tuesday.

Traditional measurement strategies like marketing-mix modeling need a refresh to accommodate emerging digital players.

And while digital platforms like Facebook have worked to do so, some marketers are concerned about biases – that those digital platforms might emphasize their own media effectiveness at the expense of other marketing channels.

“If you’re assigning a certain amount of sales to digital without having a complete understanding of whether a television ad was running at the same time, you will need checks and balances to ensure you don’t misattribute,” said Alice Sylvester, a partner at consulting firm Sequent Partners. 

Nancy Smith, president and CEO of consulting firm Analytic Partners, agreed.

“Each partner will show you their version of the truth,” she said. Although different data sources may perform well individually, Smith added, marketers want to know how these insights roll up into a total view of the business.

Despite recent efforts from digital platforms to move the needle on marketing effectiveness and attribution, advertisers like Citi say they still need help thinking through data integration projects and to ensure they have up-to-date information.

This is where agencies could help the most, but advertisers say they’re not doing enough.

image1-5“We’re not always seeing the data quality we want to be seeing [from agencies],” Wexler said. “As agencies, you guys are in a great position to become more technically adept and to do more with data. They should be showing us data quality that’s better than what we have ourselves, not just pushing us a stack.”

And for marketers, the stakes are high as media spend increasingly is consolidated among a handful of partners.

“When your CFO wonders why you spend so much with one or two partners, they want to see what’s driving impact,” Wexler said. “It’s holding us all to a higher level of rigor. Its harder and harder to defend your budget and your spend.”

But agencies fight an uphill battle as well, since their clients’ data is often siloed and simply gaining the approvals to begin data projects can take months.

It’s not uncommon for IT to be the keepers of the data warehouse while business intelligence teams mainly have marketing intel around campaign anomalies, said Tina Moffett, a senior analyst at Forrester.

“I’m seeing it as a gap within the brands,” she said. “When I worked at GE, we had a marketing data technologist who was responsible for the quality of data. We need to get grounded in the fundamentals before we can begin to manage cross-channel attribution. Data stitching is still the biggest hurdle to measuring marketing effectiveness.”

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