Six myths about audience data and programmatic

29th Feb 2016

In a digital landscape inundated with ads, there is growing pressure for advertisers to reach their target audiences. Publishers are also vying for their users’ attention to gather audience data so they can serve relevant ads.

Let's debunk some common myths about audience data and programmatic for both advertisers and publishers.

“I only need first-party data.”

There are different types of audience data – classified into first, second and third-party data. Marketers might feel that all they need is their own first-party data – be it from their own CRM data, transactional or location data. Oftentimes, they are unable to understand their target audiences beyond the scope of their own websites. First-party data does not have enough scale and marketers have to perform lookalike modeling to obtain scale, making the data lose its quality during the process. The addition of high-quality third-party data allows marketers to achieve scale in their data.

“Buying inventory programmatically is all I need. Data does not matter.”

Programmatic buying has automated the formerly tedious ad buying process, allowing media buyers to purchase ads in a fraction of a second. 150 milliseconds is the average time it takes from the start of real-time bidding to the time an ad is served when the page loads. The fallacy is that you achieve uplift quickly once you use programmatic, but even this machine learning plateaus quickly. Audience data is needed to help you understand your target audiences so you know where to purchase your ads, to deliver the right message to the right user at the right time.   

“Cookies mean zero privacy.”

The heart of the data privacy debate lies in personally identifiable information such as your ID number, phone number, home address or email address. Cookies in a large part are anonymised and aggregated and do not collect any personally identifiable information on their own. Contrary to popular belief, cookies are important to the ecosystem because they allow users to have personalisation of content. Brands learn more about their users’ favorite content by tracking cookies so that the same ad does not keep appearing. If you are a marketer using audience data, ensure your data vendor maintains transparency throughout the data collection process. Find out if your data provider partners with publishers instead of purchasing data directly from them. Publishers are also taking steps to collect information openly – before you visit a website, there is usually a pop-up seeking your consent to collect cookies from you, and you also have the option to opt out.

“Marketers: The more data I have, the better.”

Marketers can be flooded with a barrage of customer data. A large amount of data is beneficial in understanding your target audiences, but only if you have the resources to collect, process and house your data. Therefore, it is important for marketers to ask which data will make the most sense for their campaigns. Publicis CEO Maurice Levy made an interesting point at Business Insider’s Ignition 2015 conference when he remarked that data is only valuable when you extract the real value out of it. He compared the mass of data to an oil field, saying: “Owning the oil field is not as important as owning the refinery because what will make the big money is in refining the oil. The same goes with data and making sure you extract the real value out of the data.”

“I have a budget for digital advertising, so that alone is targeting.”

Having the budget for digital advertising does not equate to targeting. Without a proper data strategy in place for your campaign, you might not be able to zoom into your exact target user. While setting aside the budget for digital ads is a move in the right direction, marketers also need to define what percentage of their ad spend goes into actual targeting.

“As a publisher, I should collect every single bit of data.”

If you are a publisher attempting to capture every morsel of data about your visitors, you will quickly realise that it takes hundreds of hours of manpower to set up and analyse an almost infinite amount of data sets. Enthusiasm and budgets will run out long before any profits are made off the back of the data you collect. A more pragmatic approach is to utilise a marketplace to test the data that you are capturing. This will provide a platform to review your data in the context of your competitors and the regional marketplace. You can then start defining the data segments you need to capture for the open market, private sales and your internal knowledge base.

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