As Ad Week 2015 drew to a close, one thing became abundantly clear: digital advertising has come a long way, but innovations in programmatic, video, and big data have brought their own set of challenges for marketers. Top AWXII themes centered around the usual suspects—creative, viewability, mobile, cross-device—and Liquid (now PCH/Media) was in town to add our own insights to the mix.

Data Demystified

We kicked off our first ever Liquid Lunch Series roadshow in NYC with casual lunch and drinks (including our signature cocktail, the Liquid Courage). The lunch/presentation combo centered on “demystifying data,” with Ash Dhupar, Chief Analytics Officer at PCH and Noah Jessop, Liquid’s own Head of Data, covering off on topics aimed to help marketers successfully navigate the intimidating yet essential task of picking data partners.

When it comes to data, Ash and Noah truly know their stuff. The presentation began with an overview of the importance of data in today’s marketing landscape. It’s indisputable that data is everything—Goldman Sachs  affirms that soon, “the value of ad tech companies will begin shifting from media buying, to ‘data enablement.'” When thought of this way, unique insights are one of the most valuable tools marketers have at their disposal, more pivotal even than the media that they’re being applied to. With that, it’s important that everyone gets on the same page about what constitutes quality data: what are the different types of data? Where do they come from?

Ash and Noah broke down the often misunderstood—and misrepresented—data types, proclaiming first-party data as king, second-party data as the new but influential kid on the block, and third-party data as an oftentimes necessary component for scaling seed audiences of first-party data. Since first-party data comes directly from the source, it’s the most reliable, but in the currently hyper-commoditized data market, it’s tough to decipher who’s offering true first-party data and who’s just giving it lip service. Worse yet are the DSPs that are listening in the exchanges and then packaging up stolen data and selling it as their own.

Data Challenges Defined

A blend of agency and DSP folks made for interesting discussion, and we were able to get a first-hand account of some of the challenges they face in today’s increasingly data-driven marketing environment. They described the ever-growing abundance of available data as both a blessing and a curse, with the proliferation of oftentimes unregulated and unreliable data resulting in commoditization and confusion about what constitutes quality targeting information.

Four trends emerged as the leading hurdles:

  • Too many data companies are unwilling to articulate where their data comes from and who makes up their audience segments. How are they collecting data? What qualifies a “nightlife enthusiast” or a “couponer”? How are these categories defined?
  • Most data sets are small. The vast majority of data out there—especially first-party data—lacks the scale necessary for impactful campaign reach. How can marketers get both the unique insights they crave and the scale to make them worthwhile?
  • It’s difficult to unify campaigns across devices, including TV. It’s well known that the most effective campaigns are multi-channel, with ads hitting consumers at various touch points along the path to conversion. Being able to match devices deterministically, including across television, is a must, but is currently only possible through a small number of large-scale providers.
  • Goals are unclear at the outset of a campaign. When proper goals aren’t assigned to data segments, marketers are unsure what to expect from reaching particular clients. What types of results should they get from targeting “pet lovers”? How are we defining success?

Questions

With so much confusion in the market, it’s important that marketers know the right questions to ask when figuring out which data companies to work with, so Ash and Noah also covered off on best practices for evaluating data partners.

Key questions for marketers to ask include:

  • First-party data: Does this data align with your target audience? Does it have the scale to reach your audience? Is it comprised online or offline data?
  • Second-party data: What is the size of the data? What is the proportion of first and second-party data?
  • Third-party data: How was the data collected? What is the proportion of probabilistic vs. real data? How is this data going to drive performance?

Onboarding is On Point

Finally, Ash and Noah walked us through how exactly data can be leveraged to complete an audience buy across platforms. They explained that once a segment of user data is compiled, it’s synced with an onboarding partner like LiveRamp, who has licensed mappings from partner publishers. Mapping that user data to cookies allows targeting to those users across different devices and platforms so you can be sure you’re actually reaching the people you think you are.

Noah also explained why using first-party data as a seed audience is one of the best ways to ensure a high-quality segment while increasing reach from a smaller pool of data. By identifying your key customers and distilling the common intent signals from those VIPs, you can use that insight to identify new, similar prospects in the larger data pool. You then execute a media buy targeting a significantly increased group of people who you know will respond, based on past actions.

Next Stop is…

All in all, it was an eye opening day on all fronts. We’re looking forward to more inspiring data discussions at our next Liquid Lunch in San Francisco!

Keep your eye out for the Liquid Lunch Roadshow, coming soon to a town near you!