Bridging The Data Disconnect

Marketing has never been more competitive. Today's consumers enjoy content across a variety of devices and channels. They browse social media on their smartphone, read articles on their laptop and stream shows on TV. No matter which option they choose, there's a good chance they'll run into multiple advertisements along this journey.

Understanding your audience and each channel can help attract attention in this steady stream of stimulation. We spoke with Paul Martecchini, senior vice president of global marketing for Connexity, a consumer analytics provider, about how good use of data can help.

How can data help marketers stand out? 
Many brands use data to identify the right audiences and tailor their creative messaging to resonate with the individual consumer. At its best, data can empower marketers to discover new audiences and reach them at the right time with the perfect message.

The fact is, the possibilities of data-driven marketing have yet to meet reality.



How so?
Although more data is available to marketers than ever before — whether it's a brand's own first-party Web site and customer data, or data that can be purchased from third parties — many marketers find themselves drowning in this sea of information.

Connecting the dots between your audience data and actual marketing campaigns is extremely challenging. It requires a combination of in-house talent, depth of experience and proprietary software. This takes many years to develop.

Finding the people with the right experience required to pull it off is a time-consuming and expensive process. Plus the modeling technology takes time to build and then requires extensive iteration to optimize.

How does programmatic play into this?
In recent years, companies have sought to leverage their data by using programmatic advertising, an automated ad-bidding technology that allows brands to reach specific groups of customers across a range of Web sites.

The goal is to combine data with software to run targeted campaigns, allowing brands to optimize their media spending by seeking out a relevant target audience and advertising to them at a reasonable cost.

Many businesses still struggle to use programmatic effectively. 

What do you see marketers doing wrong?
For starters, marketers often target demographic audiences that are not precise enough to truly optimize their spending. If you do not have observed first-party data showing you have buyers outside your traditional target audience, you could miss a substantial number of potential buyers.

What’s an example?
Say your company manufactures diapers. You might think it's a good idea to target parents — even though the data shows that 40% of all baby products are actually sold to households without children. That could be as gifts or from other groups that are not marketed — such as older folks using baby lotion.

The point is you need the data to define what really works, not make assumptions based on generic demographics.  

Here’s another example. A sporting goods manufacturer might have data that suggests it should advertise a specific tennis racket to male sports fans between the ages of 18 and 35. While these parameters are better than nothing, such a broad audience guarantees the company will waste a great deal of money advertising on sports sites its customers never visit, or to consumers who just bought a new racket earlier in the year.

How do you solve this?
If you don’t have the right technology in-house, you need to find the right partners to get the information necessary to determine which people are truly in their target audience, where those people spend their time and when they will be ready to make a purchase. 

How do the insights make it into the ad buying process?
Learning more about your customers is imperative, but great audience insights won't help you if they are siloed from the media planning teams or technologies used to make programmatic ad buys.

Until a company's audience insights and audience activation efforts are smoothly interwoven, it will remain a challenge for marketers to reach the right audience segments on a real-time basis.

In the future, smart marketers will combine data about where Web site visitors have arrived from, what keywords they search for to reach sites, and what device they used, with demographics and consumer survey data to finally bring together audience discovery and programmatic targeting.

3 comments about "Bridging The Data Disconnect".
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  1. Doc Searls from Customer Commons, May 9, 2016 at 8:58 a.m.

    I've been in marketing, or friendly to it as a business person and a journalist, for most of my adult life. But the last thing I want is for marketers to know a damn thing about what I'm doing when I'm not having a consenting first party relationship with them, in their domain.

    I don't want them to know where I arrived from, what I've searched for, what devices I've used, or even any demographic data. I don't mind them knowing a few things if we have a genuine consenting relationship, but beyond that, nada. Because it's none of their damn business. Simple as that.

    People don't like being spied on. The fact that marketers can do that in the digital world (and couldn't in the old analog one) doesn't make it right.

    By the way, we don't "visit" websites or "arrive" at them. Literally, we make requests to them. That's what the HTTP headers in our browsers do. What we request is the valuable content of the site. In old print terms, the "editorial." We'll put up with the advertising, just as we did in the analog world, and we do know that ads help pay for the site's desired content. To some degree we even appreciate it. But we don't want to put up with being abused by uninvited spies, or by putting up with ads that can achieve levels of annoyance and intrusion that old-fashioned print and broadcast could never dream of. (Or, if they did, would be nightmares.)

    That's why more of us every day install ad blockers and tracking protection. These are clear messages from the market to marketing. This post tells me they're still not getting it.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, May 9, 2016 at 9:26 a.m.

    Don't necessarily disagree with Doc, but shouldn't he point out thet user behavior is being tracked offline to a greater extent than ever before from set top box data used in comjunction with offline data, to cameras in stores that watch how customers navigate isles, and even loyalty cards are a means of observing customer desire. Wonder how people feel about those kinds of tracking?

  3. Doc Searls from Customer Commons, May 9, 2016 at 10:54 a.m.

    Good questions, George.

    Some observation makes sense. I've worked in retail and know how important it is for stores to know how traffic flows, how to improve traffic patterns, and to employ closed-circuit cameras and one-way mirrors to fight shoplifting. None of that is personal, or intended to result in personal marketing messages. Little of it should creep customers out, or make them feel like they are being treated the way ants treat aphids, which is how surveillance-based adtech works online.

    I also don't begrudge cable and satellite companies using set top box data to improve their services, or to provide anonymized and aggregated data to their distribution partners, although I would prefer it if that was all done by my grace and by my express permission rather than by passive acceptance. What I suggest there, by the way, is how Apple now does its Health app, which is a model for the rest of what it will be doing over the coming years, and modeling for other companies equally inclined to be respectful to their customers and users. (For more on that, see

    The problem online is that we don't have the elementary privacy technologies we call clothing and shelter in the offline world. We were naked there too, tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago. And we've had that much time to work out the norms that go with the simple signaling that buttoned clothing and closed doors communicate to others. But we've only had about two decades to do the same here in the digital world, and that's not enough.

    The frontier here is on the personal side: giving individuals their own sovereign means for guarding their privacy and communicating welcoming or forbidding signals to others, with the same subtlety we've enjoyed for millennia in the offline world. Ad blocking and tracking protection are just the first step in that direction. We'll have more, and those tools will evolve as well. Fostering that work has been my job for the last nine years with ProjectVRM ( and more recently with Customer Commons ( Laurie Peterson, who wrote the piece above, covered some of that work in The Campaign for Ads Not Based on Tracking (, posted here a few days ago.

    The middle ground we need to build is a floor where customers and companies can dance, and either can lead. The Internet supports that. The old media only supported one-way shouting and targetting, whether the customers liked it or not. That's still obsolete, no matter how fancy the technology gets.

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