Data’s Value Beyond Targeting

The empowered consumer presents an interesting paradox. While there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to truly engage. Witness the declining effectiveness of advertising and marketing: 37 percent of media buys are mistakenly placed, Americans trust talk shows more than advertising by a margin of 2-to-1, and $112 billion in advertising is wasted each year. Brand metrics have fallen nearly 50 percent over the last 20 years.

While bad creative will always be bad, great creative is no longer good enough. The game has changed. The result of this changed reality speaks for itself, yet advertisers and agencies struggle to find new direction. The answer lies in the data.

Behavior, search patterns, context, demographics and proprietary segmentation are the buzz today. Yet much of this is misplaced. Data is thought to be synonymous with targeting. In fact, the delivery of an impression to a desired audience fails at an astronomical rate — up to 80 percent of the time. Individual consumer signals are interesting but incomplete. Consequently, advertisers react to false signals that misdirect spend and reduce performance. The need for better multidimensional data to buy, target and optimize has never been greater.

Multidimensional insight comprises nine key areas, distinct for each brand and the byproduct of today’s math men: relationship profile and history; product propensities; geo-demographics; interaction history; media preferences and history; interests and attitudes; brand advocacy; channel preferences and history; and monetary indicators. Cultivating this proprietary mash-up is a strategic imperative in the era of the empowered consumer.

Constructed and leveraged properly, multidimensional insight filters out false signals and positions brands and their media partners to drive better returns while capturing value that is presently accruing to ad tech intermediaries. Moreover, it provides the best possible foundation to effectively pursue act-, think-, and look-a-likes.

While many brands have amassed deep insight, a second paradox exists in this story — while indispensable to the value structure and success of brands, control of consumer insight can be inadvertently compromised during the purchase of digital media. Brands need to insist that their proprietary segments be the basis for targeting, buying and optimization of media investments.

Brands can realize payoffs from refining and controlling multidimensional consumer insight in three areas — improved marketing ROI, increased value of their customer portfolio, and improved margins. ROI improves because math men are better able to value each point’s impact upon customer engagement. The value of the customer portfolio improves because math men better allocate spending, driven according to future impact to customer value. And, math men help brands decommoditize initial intent by better tuning products and content to customer needs.

So, consumer insight is valuable. But who will control it? Brands? Or their agents and media partners? Control is particularly challenging for brands given many of the world’s most valuable (and respected) firms have business models expressly built upon the collection and subsequent auctioned usage of consumer information. Without proper focus, a brand’s control can be easily compromised as a byproduct of an ad buy. To maximize value, marketers must be attentive to their data rights and drive decision-making based upon proprietary brand insights (not weaker third-party proxies). Brands that control their own insights will enable improved results with trusted partners and the recapture of value from ad tech intermediaries.

Tim Suther is chief marketing officer and senior vice president of Acxiom, a marketing services and technology company.

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