The IAB has partnered with Winterberry Group to author a new study on the practices "in data aggregation, management and deployment" called "From Information to Audiences: The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases." According to a press release, four different use cases are used as a baseline for discovering how ad targeting data is being implemented today across online marketing programs and educating the advertising community at-large. Download the whitepaper.
IAB Patrick Dolan and Winterberry Group analyst Jonathan Margulies discussed the whitepaper and its findings.
AdExchanger.com: Looking at the study, what's the biggest surprise in your estimation?
Patrick Dolan: I'm impressed with how quickly a set of marketers and agencies have tapped into data to create better user experiences, harnessing newly available information to deliver a successful marriage of tailored content and relevant advertising.
Fully realizing the promise of "big data" will require both innovation from the industry plus coordination among industry organization such as the IAB to insure that the industry operates at the highest level of transparency, integrity and quality to continue to foster trust with consumers and legislators.
AdExchanger.com: Audience Optimization, Channel Optimization and Ad Sales/Yield Optimization all showed a "low maturity" level. Is it simply "early days" for the use of these data techniques in your opinion?
Jonathan Margulies: "Early days" is absolutely accurate, but I don't think it's fair to say that maturity levels are low just because we haven't yet had enough time to understand and act upon all that data can do to drive marketing performance. For those of us who are close to the ad tech world, the inherent long-term role of technology may be easier to conceptualize, but the fact of the matter is that a large portion of the advertising ecosystem—the preponderance, really—still look at data through one of two lenses: either as offline prospecting lists (which are effectively used as the fuel behind direct mail campaigns), or as the amorphous batch of quantitative reporting that comes back from Web analytics efforts, campaign management tools, media buying platforms and the other technologies that supposedly provide the "insight" to drive better spending decisions.
I think it's that second data "type" that's ultimately responsible for inhibiting broader data sophistication. At this stage in advertising's evolution, we're struggling with the fact that we can now access an abundance of raw, unstructured information—but we have no set of unified best practices around the channels, marketing applications and optimization approaches that best make use of it. Going forward, though, I think that presents a substantial series of opportunities: both for those advertisers who identify data as a core asset and can build the governance processes (and infrastructure) to support its use, as well as those data suppliers and technology intermediaries who can establish robust, best-in-class platforms for deploying data for use across execution channels.
Jonathan Margulies: We didn't really expect the "expertise gap" to factor as prominently as it did when we kicked off this research effort. But when we broadened the research tent, so to speak—and spoke with publishers, advertisers, tech companies, marketing service providers, agencies and the like—virtually everyone complained they could "do more" with data if only they had the right kind of staff to support its use. Publishers struggle with big, unwieldy sales teams that are trained to sell discrete, media-centric products. Advertisers struggle with internal silos, organizational politics and other barriers to accessing the information that their organizations already own. And the ad tech world—which should be at the very forefront of the data revolution—is even struggling with its own pace of change; what product development teams are assembling, for example, very often differs the vision that many of their own salespeople are bringing to market.
Ultimately, if the industry is going to live up to the promise of data as a central corporate asset, it's going to need to put senior-level resources behind its assembly, integration and use. That means that a "chief data officer"—focused on building use cases, not just managing compliance—may be something worth considering for many organizations. Further downstream, I think this presents an enormous case for deeper education. But that education should be multidisciplinary; it's not enough to just teach "What is data?". It requires an understanding of technology, marketing channels, process development and how these elements fit together to make advertising work. Not an easy task, by any means, but even incremental progress in this regard could drive transformative results on the back end.
AdExchanger.com: What are the other ways that you see the IAB guiding the advertising industry as it relates to data practices?
Patrick Dolan: Over the past few years the IAB has been working to demystify data. In 2010, for example, the Data Council released "Data Usage & Control Primer," outlining existing techniques and practices, defining terms and explaining relationships in the marketplace. The study ultimately recommended a set of business-to-business best practices to foster clarity and cohesion throughout the interactive advertising industry. Last year, we published "Data Segments & Techniques Lexicon," a new practical tool that provides media planners with a framework for clearer communication with publishers and data partners.
The IAB is committed to expanding efforts to build businesses around data compliance programs. "From Information to Audiences: The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases" is just one of several initiatives and deliverables you can expect to see coming out of the IAB on this front. It's such a dynamic field that we're even planning an update to the Primer. In addition, currently, the Data Council is mapping the advertising data ecosystem to lay the foundation for establishing industry best practices in regard to quality, transparency, accountability, and consumer protection in data usage across the board.
AdExchanger.com: Finally, what's your take on how the interactive world has responded to concerns around the use of data in advertising in order to reach consumers? Are initiatives such as the whitepapers and the Data Council helping data-driven advertising's cause in Washington?
Patrick Dolan: All IAB members have agreed to our "Code of Conduct" which requires participation in the Digital Advertising Alliance's (DAA) self-regulatory program. This program provides notice and information about interest-based advertising that consumers are seeing as well as an easy way to opt-out of receiving this type of advertising.
In tangent, the Data Council is working to provide transparency through the recent release of the Data Primer and our Data Lexicon, as well as this study and upcoming whitepapers. The IAB is also working on programs to demonstrate that participants are operating at the highest level of quality and integrity. The hope is that these programs will help our members continue to build a trusted relationship with consumers and reinforce with Washington that our industry is proactive in its effort to address consumers concerns.
By John Ebbert