• Eddie O'Loughlin

Age is Just a (Very Important) Number for Marketers

How old are you? Once you reach a certain age, this probably isn’t a question you spend much time thinking about (unless you have an extremely meticulous bartender). It is, however, one of the most critical pieces of information that a marketer should know about each one of their consumers when constructing an effective marketing campaign. Age is often used as one of the key defining factors when establishing a target audience. It also plays an important role in how, when and where a marketer should engage with their consumers online.



I realize I’m not treading down controversial territory by advising marketers about the importance of age, but what many people in this industry may have taken for granted is where this data is coming from and its level of accuracy. Truthset was founded with a simple mission in mind; to foster trust and transparency within the marketing ecosystem by shining a light on the quality and accuracy of data. <Shameless plug; you can read all about what led to the foundation of Truthset in our CEO Scott McKinley’s blog post here.> After working with a number of leading data providers over the past 6 months to score the accuracy of over 4 billion demographic data points, it’s never been more clear how important this mission is for the future of advertising.


In my role at Truthset, I work with our data partners to help them understand the accuracy of their own data and highlight their strengths within a crowded, competitive and complicated ecosystem. I’ve continued to be amazed and inspired by our data partners’ commitment to data quality - they are all working really hard at getting it right. The number of providers leaning into being scored against their peers continues to grow week over week. That said, we do occasionally run into skeptical minds. Some of the most common criticisms we hear about demographic validation overall, and age validation specifically, is that “all this consumer data comes from the same places” and “every provider is going to have the same file.” (Disclaimer: as a skeptical mind myself, I’m often MOST excited to have these conversations, so feel free to grill me).


Well, I can tell you now, this way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. But don’t take my word for it! Aditya Chaturvedi, who has his fingers on the pulse of the 400M+ distinct hashed email addresses (HEMs for short) we see every minute of the waking day, challenged my skepticism with these compelling observations:


  • If we just look at agreement rates between providers (i.e. overlapping HEMs with the same age assertion), two or more providers only agree on an individual HEM’s age range 58% of the time. Already, the notion that “data comes from the same place” doesn’t really pass muster.

  • If we expand agreement rates to 4 or more providers, all four providers agree on a given user’s age range less than 40% of the time. That’s not a lot of agreement!

  • Looking at agreement rate for birth year and month, 4 or more providers agree only 2% of the time. Luckily getting that granular need only be reserved for free Denny’s birthday breakfasts and yearly calls from your mother.

  • While all this disagreement is occurring, we haven’t even touched on the accuracy of the data. The Average Truthscore looks at the probability of accuracy in correctly making a demographic assertion about a specific HEM. When we analyze the Average Truthscore for age across providers, the difference in accuracy between the highest and lowest data partner performance in the age category was nearly 25 basis points!

  • If you drill down to specific age brackets, 18-24 for example, the accuracy spread gets even wider with a gap of over 100 basis points between providers. Imagine how important this information would be to advertisers of age-relevant products like Axe Body Spray or Urban Outfitters.


All of this slaps my skeptical mind and dispels the notion that all data is created equally and all consumer data files are the same. I hope it has done the same for you. There is an immense amount of valuable consumer data out there, and it is important for any buyer to evaluate quality when making a purchase decision. If you’re a buyer of data, we’d love to help you make those decisions with more confidence. If you are a data owner, Truthset would love to work with you to shine a light on the quality of your most precious asset. Stay tuned for more interesting consumer data facts to come, but in the meantime, remember how important age is in the decisions you make every day (like when I decide I’m too old to wear jeans with holes in them)!


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