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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fetters

It's Time For Data-Driven Marketing to Evolve

Think fast – when was the first time you heard the phrase “data-driven-marketing?” For myself I’m guessing it was somewhere around the year 2012 or even 2013. I recall pointing out that marketing has been at least “data-informed” since probably the 1800’s or earlier. The first time some soap seller put an ad in the local newspaper and saw his sales go up for the next week he made a data-informed decision to keep running newspaper ads. But now as marketers we are “data-driven,” implying the data not only informs decisions but often actually drives the activation of our marketing activity. This fact begs the question – do you know where the data is driving you?

The buying and selling of data for the purposes of targeted marketing activity has become so pervasive that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently published a white paper to shed some light on this ecosystem – Data Sources for Media: A Buyer’s Guide. One of the paragraphs in the Introduction section spoke directly to my heart (or at least the part of my heart that cares about my profession):

“This new data ecosystem is deeply complex, and often opaque. Without transparency, a solid definition of data quality, and tools to evaluate the data quality, advertisers are at a significant disadvantage in navigating this new ecosystem. This leaves them at risk of spending on data that isn’t suitable for their desired purpose.”

I couldn’t agree more with the ANA. Looking back to 2012 or 2013 when we first started talking the talk and walking the walk of data-driven-marketing at Kellogg’s we were basically navigating with our eyes closed. Data vendors, media companies, and technology platforms all came along offering the promise of precise data-driven-marketing. So we tested. And tested, and tested, and tested. And for a long time we concluded we should just be happy with a campaign on-target rate of around 50%. It seemed no combination of data provider, media property and/or technology platform could do any better than a random coin flip. At least half of our ads would remind moms how happy Rice Krispie Treats make their kids when they find them in their lunch. Who knows who saw the other half, but they weren't moms.

Fast forward to 2020 and not much has changed as it relates to data quality. The ANA published their whitepaper as a way to caution and inform marketers who are:

· Evaluating data to use for an upcoming campaign/initiative

· Conducting a post-mortem to understand why targeting an audience did or did not work

· Conducting a review or audit of vendors

· In the process of evaluating or signing a contract with a new data vendor

But what tools can a marketer use to be data-driven about their data buying decisions? We built Truthset precisely because it has been so difficult to understand and evaluate data quality until now. We have crafted our solution specifically to support the above use cases which the ANA identified. We evaluate and score billions of records each month to determine the likely accuracy of the attributes data vendors have assigned to those records (we call them Truthscores™ and they go from 0-.99). If you want to use data to run a campaign targeted to “moms," we identify the records with the highest likelihood to represent a mom. If you want to know which data vendor is most accurate when they say “here’s a mom,” we provide that analysis, and index data providers' accuracy so that a relative comparison can be made.

Think fast one more time – when was the first time you heard the term “viewability” as it relates to media. Once again for me it was right around that 2012 period. And just like on-target rates, the results we were seeing for viewability at that time were ~50%, meaning only half our ads ever showed up on screen. Since then companies like Moat, IAS, DoubleVerify and others have provided the industry with tools to improve viewability results through transparency. At Truthset we believe it is time to bring the same level of transparency and tools to data quality. We are proud (unbeknownst to us) to be included in the ANA's Buyer's Guide as a third party resource for data quality validation. The ANA is continuing to look at data quality in upcoming initiatives, and we are looking forward to releasing our partnership efforts with them in the near future.

If you are a marketer, data provider, publisher or platform and want to make data quality a strategic advantage for your business, reach out to us today at

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