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Data Possession – Not Just Ownership – Is Key To Improving Advertisers’ Results

This post originally appeared in AdExchanger on September 15, 2016.

In a time where big holding companies are expecting all buying to go programmatic (Dentsu is the latest), it is more important than ever that advertisers not only own their data, but actually be in possession of it.  Many advertisers may not realize that ownership is not enough (or what the difference is).  The benefits of data possession in today’s world of Big Data cannot be discounted. Without data possession, the advertiser cannot take full advantage of its most valuable asset and, therefore, cannot compete against those that have already learned this lesson.

Owning and possessing data are two very different things. Owning data means you have control over how the data is used. Possessing data means you can use all of the data to get a full view of everything you own across disparate partners.  This holistic data set, including advertising campaign results, site visits, and customer data, is already helping the most advanced advertisers drive big improvements in ROI.  For those not yet centralizing this detailed data, it is lying around in pieces and produces limited understanding and suboptimal ROI.

For years, advertisers have given permission to ad tech partners, such as DSPs and DMPs, to safely collect and use data on their behalf.  Programmatic advertising’s healthy ad tech ecosystem has created incredibly detailed and diverse data on every ad impression and user. This data, however, tends to be siloed.  Where the ad ran, how much it cost, information about the user it was shown to, viewability scores – all these pieces of data are generally possessed by different ad tech partners.  New best-of-breed solutions are popping up every day, so this situation is likely to continue for a while.  Since all of this data is contractually owned by the advertiser, the advertiser is the only one that has the right to take possession of it all and join it all together into an incredibly rich, deep data asset.

But what is an advertiser supposed to do with all this data?  Today, the beauty is that an advertiser does not have to do anything with it.  The marketing and ad tech ecosystem has many uses for this data already and teams of data scientists champing at the bit to get access to it.  New companies are sprouting up every day with great, new Big Data ideas.  An advertiser’s central warehouse can cost minimal amounts of money relative to overall marketing budgets and the advertiser’s partners can be given access to it so they can add their unique value to the core data set.  Even if the “warehouse” is only a collection of raw log files and downloads from vendors, it can serve as the source for improved algorithms, insights, and strategies.  It can also serve as a sandbox for those at the agency or advertiser as well as valuable third-party partners to experiment with new analysis, research, and technology.

It seems like digital advertising evolves every six months.  Bring Your Own Data (BYOD) has evolved into Bring Your Own Algorithm (BYOA).  Cross device targeting and attribution is no longer science fiction. Native advertising and dynamic creative are delivering improved, personalized calls to action.  All of these new pieces of the advertising and marketing ecosystem are being driven by data – and they will drive even better results for the advertiser if they have a more comprehensive data set.  As a first step, advertisers should begin saving the last six months of historical data from their partners at the most granular level possible – hopefully at the impression or user level. Then they should let their partners loose on it all.  Advertisers will be richly rewarded.