4 Critical Questions to Close the Data Gap in Digital Advertising
January 20, 2017
Dr Nathan Mekuz Ph. D, Co-founder and CTO, AcuityAds
There has been a steady build-up around the issue of transparency in advertising this year, given the collaborative and dependent nature of the relationships in this enormous ecosystem. Advertisers depend on their agencies for the successful execution of marketing campaigns, in the knowledge that they are obligated to act in the advertisers’ best interest – a relationship that has stood the test of time for decades.
So in July when the ANA released its Media Transparency Initiative report, citing industry issues that stemmed from non-transparent business practices and behaviors, many marketers winced at the implications.
Unfortunately, doubts over transparency can distract from the overarching goal of the industry – performance. Many advertisers would not choose to live without their agencies, and they shouldn’t have to. There are ways to move ahead with greater confidence, allowing everyone to return to business with an unimpeded focus on the critical elements of success.
A later survey released by the ANA discussed the use of data to manage agency relationships. It revealed a number of positive findings that showed how the budding issue of transparency exposes a more important data gap, between and within agencies, advertisers, and their technology vendors.
To close that data gap, marketers need to be working with the right technology vendors who can support their needs for transparency. The industry needs to set precedents around what can and should be expected, including an understanding of how campaign insights are decided on and where campaign costs come from. Each decision should be based on data in 2017, so that the industry can loosen its grip on a conversation that derails its true focus on performance. Here are the top 4 questions that agencies and advertisers can ask to tackle the data gap.
How does your technology vendor define real-time? Far too often in our industry we hear the term ‘real-time’ referring to different aspects of technology when it is expected to be responsive, quick and accurate, but its definition is a nebulous one. It seems that any process that occurs quicker than once-a-day in an advertising technology platform can now be passed off as ‘real-time’ as companies scramble to show they can keep up.
‘Real-time’ requires a definition to fully understand the implications. First, what are we referring to when we say ‘real-time’? Are we referring to the marketing platforms’ decisioning, reporting, refreshing of data, distribution of advertisements? Then, does it mean milliseconds? Seconds? A minute? In a dynamic environment, marketers must rely on technology platforms that prioritize the fastest processing times as the ability to provide and use up to date analytics is critical. Each aspect of a campaign’s execution suggests a different definition of real-time and has implications on campaign outcomes including when considering fraud protection and campaign delivery.
Marketers need ‘real-time’ clearly defined by their technology vendor to be able to strategize execution accordingly.
What is the source of campaign insights? The ANA’s study found that data and insights need to be made more available, as in some cases they are difficult to get from business partners. Advertisers should be interested in understanding the workings behind the conclusions their agencies are drawing from data. They need to be able to draw direct conclusions about campaign performance independently, so that they can be more informed about the next strategic steps that need to be taken.
This information can and should come from the technology vendor. Advertisers should feel empowered to expect more from the technology that either they or their agency is using. In 2017, advertisers should be able to expect transparency of costs and margins, results through reporting and more. If the platform can’t provide these things, then marketers should be challenged to invest in one that can.
To what extent are agencies and advertisers using data-driven insights in campaign strategies? – The year runs on and is busier with each passing day. Because of this we may not be considering insights provided to us on campaign performance in subsequent digital efforts. This must change. Data provides advertisers with knowledge, and technology vendors can and should be helping to duplicate successful campaign strategies and eliminate unsuccessful ones. Technology should support A/B testing at the digital marketing level, effectively skyrocketing efficiency of campaign execution and optimization.
Are technology vendors helping users to understand the data they’ve just helped them capture? Vendors have a major role to play in closing the data gap. It shouldn’t be enough to hand over the keys to the car and expect an agency or an advertiser to simply drive away. Once that key is turned, a mountain of data is headed straight for the marketer and vendors should do what they can to support users’ success. If marketers are to deliver successful data-driven campaigns, vendors need to make sure that their clients are sufficiently guided through the platforms, without sacrificing critical campaign time, and that they can turn back for the support they need at any time.
As advertisers begin to bring more digital marketing in-house, as recommended by the ANA, technology vendors need to prepare for a new generation of in-house marketers who are new to the learning curve of programmatic media buying. In-house marketers will have different expectations and different needs of their technology and vendors need to be ready for the challenge.
The data gap is a critical hindrance to transparency in the digital advertising industry, as evidenced by the ANA’s survey of both agencies and advertisers. Bringing these questions to the table in an open agency-advertiser-technology vendor discussion is the first step towards a remedy.