Marketers have successfully pivoted to first-party data, but struggle to deploy it


By Andy Johnson, Chief Data Officer, Adstra

Brands and agencies have seen the writing on the wall for a long time. First-party data rules, in today’s privacy-centric, consumer-driven world — and marketers have pivoted accordingly. They’ve done the work. The problem is, now that they’ve made difficult adjustments to how they collect and organize their data, they’re still struggling to deploy these vital assets in meaningful ways.

Brands and agencies need partners that are built for today’s complicated, data-driven advertising ecosystem, but many are finding that their legacy relationships — built on legacy technologies — aren’t up to snuff. To help marketers capitalize on all the hard work they’ve put into their data transformations, the industry needs a new data partnership model.

Data and change: Drivers of transformation

There’s no shortage of forces driving the need for brands to own their customer relationships. 

From new privacy regulations to the continued deprecation of third-party cookies, brands have had to recognize that continued success in digital advertising requires a new way of accessing and managing customer data. That reality has been driven home repeatedly for legacy brands that have watched emerging direct-to-consumer brands encroach on their territory with innovative new models for connecting with and advertising to consumers. 

At the same time, even as walled gardens have continued to absorb a greater portion of ad budgets, marketers have realized that allowing these platforms to continue to own the relationship with their customers is simply not sustainable in the long term.

For advertisers, the problems within today’s digital ecosystem are obvious. Unfortunately, there’s little consensus as to how to solve these formidable challenges. But the first step is clear: Brands must own and manage a first-party understanding of customer identity. The question is, how can they then translate that understanding into efficient campaign deployment? 

The efforts put forth by brands in recent years to transform the way they think about and tap into data has been tremendous. Even large CPG brands, which have historically been intermediated by retailers and lacked direct consumer connections, have made great strides in first-party data investment and customer relationship building. The problems arise when they look to centralize that data, match it to third-party resources and deploy it compliantly for campaign purposes. That’s often not their fault, though; it’s the fault of their partners.

The breakdown of legacy data partnerships

Today’s largest data companies are falling down on the job when it comes to helping brands put their hard-won first-party data strategies into action. That’s because they simply don’t have technology solutions that can adapt to today’s rapidly changing data environment. Instead, they’re tasked with continually bending their legacy tools — often to the breaking point — in bespoke ways for existing clients. These applications are inefficient, expensive and often insufficient.

Recognizing the weaknesses of their legacy data partners, some brands have tried to fill the gaps with point data solutions that are engineered to accomplish specific tasks along the path to first-party data deployment. Unfortunately, these companies typically lack robust service capabilities, leaving marketers to try to connect the dots for themselves. At best, the result is a fragmented mess of data connections that lose fidelity from point to point. At worst, brands can find themselves in direct violation of today’s ever-evolving data privacy regulatory requirements.

Marketers need a new paradigm

Today’s brands and agencies have put a massive amount of effort into turning the advertising ship toward a brighter future driven by first-party data. But they need a new model of data partnership to take them the rest of the way through deployment. Today’s legacy players and point solutions simply aren’t cutting it.

To end the dissonance within our industry, we need a disruptive approach to data that rethinks the technology and economics around today’s marketing paradigm. The model marketers need is more akin to a “data bureau” — a new data orchestration system that can ingest any form of identity, individual or household, assign a persistent ID connected to attribute data and then activate against any other media or form of identity. 

For any brand, it’s crucial that their data partners work independently of their chosen technology, enabling them to meet privacy regulations by linking their data back to validated individuals or customers. In this way, the very same data bureau model is compatible with CDPs, DMPs, onboarders and marketing clouds, facilitating privacy-compliant portability of critical data and intelligence between these different systems.

Brands need the right software, and the right hands-on service, to prepare their data for optimal matching in processes that are kept entirely behind the marketer’s firewall, and under their own complete control and supervision. When brands can deploy their first-party data in a privacy compliant manner, marketers can at last bring their data transformations to fruition in a future-proof way.

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