GUEST COLUMNIST JANE CLARKE
This article first appeared in AdExchanger:
Certainly, transparency and data accuracy were already dominant
topics in 2017, but as the industry moves toward ever more granular
forms of targeting and measurement, while combining differing data sets,
the need for assurance that the information represents what it purports
to represent will become even more critical as the year progresses.
2017 saw some solid progress taken toward addressing this.
CIMM and ARF proposed a data labeling initiative to create a
“nutritional label” for data, enabling users of third-party data to
understand its source and composition. A similar effort is being
undertaken by the IAB.
The initiatives provide a critical first step in ensuring confidence
and trust in the data that’s used in increasingly granular and effective
targeted advertising. It, in effect, helps marketers to better
understand the impact of their advertising efforts and the role that the
data played in those outcomes. Innovation in targeting would stall if
uncertainty about data – the “raw ingredient” used – persisted.
While the approaches being undertaken by these associations differ,
they do complement each other, and each has merits and challenges. The
CIMM-ARF initiative is broader in scope than the IAB’s initiative, which
is limited to digital media and doesn’t include a TV focus. CIMM and
ARF want to make the labeling appropriate to audience-based buying in
TV, and also bring more buyers into the process.
But as is sometimes the case with our industry, methodology and
technology are not the main impediments to addressing challenges –
consensus and unanimity are.
At this stage, what is needed is not that the perfect solution be
found, but that the first step be taken together. The best technology or
methodology at this point is not all that is needed to achieve the
objective. It is also important that all facets of the industry agree
that the end goal is of sufficient importance that we move forward
together. Working together, the best approach for ensuring transparency
on data quality will emerge.
Certainly, an agreement on a universal data identification protocol
benefits everyone. The stakeholders for such a protocol are primarily
the data owners, but the benefits are widespread. And while the
initiative is focused on disclosure, there is also a validation aspect
to the project.
It promises to successfully link together all current and future big
data sets used to accurately measure the consumer journey across
platforms. Data labeling, which would be an actual listing of the
components, sources and characteristics that were compiled to create
targets, would raise overall data quality because of its focus on
transparency. But it also requires a uniform, agreed-upon structure so
all interested parties can participate and an implementation process
created that fits into both standard and proprietary systems.
There are inherent challenges in gaining consensus on technically
complicated problems and navigating the natural forces of
competitiveness that define our industry and make it great. For example,
as the information for the labels would first be self-reported, vendors
could, of course, provide misleading or incorrect information. But that
misinformation would ultimately be revealed through third-party
At the moment, we don’t even know how many lists and providers would
participate. But through this process, undoubtedly some of the
poorer-quality lists and providers would be found out as third-party
validation and experience of matching reality to reported information
Never has the need for consensus and placing cooperation over
competition been greater than in finding systems to advance data
quality. All that we want to accomplish as an industry, in terms of
better targeting and accurate measurement, depends on confidence in the
data on which we base insights and decisions.
I am interested in people’s ideas, approaches and their “aha” moments
for how to best ensure data quality. As 2018 gets underway, let’s take
that first step to this goal together as a statement on how even when
dealing with the most challenging of issues, consensus can emerge as the
greatest trend in the year ahead.
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