“My data is great! Really, it is! I asked it myself and it told me so.”
That is essentially what some data marketers are saying when it comes to validation of their data sets in the face of continued advertising industry skepticism. When assessing whether or not a “male is a male” or someone is truly in the market for a new car, is “trust me” really sufficient?
That is why it’s important for companies trading online data to submit their data to the scrutiny of third-party auditors to independently assess both the audience type and quality. This is critical in both building a world-class premium data organization and attracting new dollars to online audience buying from those advertisers reluctant due to their inability to have a standard reference point.
From the most basic perspective, independent, third-party panel-based analysis of online data is powerful for several reasons:
1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Checking several data sources against each other may create a confirmation bias, especially if all sources are wrong for the same reasons. This can happen when multiple vendors have the same technique to collect data. In that case, everyone agreeing doesn't make it right, it just makes multiple wrongs. Serial correlation in data streams is often misinterpreted as accuracy when it may really just be sources being wrong for the same reason.
2. People buy, not computers. Panels are comprised of people, while cookies represent machines. People are the ones who consume advertising, not machines. It is important to measure ourselves against real consumers. Panels provide a reality check to remove us from the proxy world of cookies.
3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Panels are an unbiased measurement technique with a rich history in statistical methodology. In many cases, the real-world panels are accredited by the Media Rating Council, a data analysts’ seal of approval advertisers have come to trust.
4. Speak the same language. When dealing with brands, sometimes being the smartest guys in the room just isn’t enough. Many in the digital advertising space are still considered start-ups in the eyes of big advertisers, and to commit their money to a new direction (i.e. audience targeting) the imprimatur of a leading, objective third party, which carries great weight with them, can only help their confidence level.
To move more advertiser money to online data, it will take a higher level of transparency and willingness to work within the standards and nomenclature that big brands are familiar with. To try to do otherwise, we are being not just egotistical but turning off the exact buyers we hope to attract.
For the online data market, having data verified externally helps build credibility.