The Data Dilemma: How To Leverage Big Data To Deliver Big Results

A few weeks ago, I attended the CDX Brand Innovation Summit in NYC, where I heard a speaker state: "Big Data is just a whole bunch of little data added together." The phrase has stuck with me due to its innate simplicity. Why does Big Data seem so overwhelming? 

Perhaps because the phrase "Big Data" gets thrown around in meetings, conversations and on book covers — often with little depth or substance behind it. Yes, data is somewhat all-consuming and omnipresent. Yes, it remains a crucial element to a wide variety of businesses and industry verticals. However, data by itself isn’t worth anything. It’s what can be done with it that lends it its distinctive status as a capitalized proper noun.



In the advertising industry, it has become apparent that not all data is created equal. First-, second- and third-party data all exist but are valued differently by advertisers and ad tech vendors. Deterministic and probabilistic data carry different clout when it comes to cross-device ad targeting. Then there’s industry vertical data — or all the data that’s just out of reach within walled gardens like Facebook and Google. And don’t forget the massive data dump looming on the horizon, compliments of the now-ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT). 

With so much data being produced, and so many media companies relying on it to tell a compelling story to marketers, how should clients and agencies best navigate today’s incessant data deluge?

There is no single “silver bullet” solution. However, leveraging partners who are skilled data experts is a great start. Reputable programmatic platforms offer the capability to purchase data, consolidate it from all party segments, glean insights from it, and make it actionable (at last!) for marketers. In addition, an effective data partner will be able to analyze campaign and customer data and report on outputs in real time, so advertisers can understand how media campaigns are performing against KPIs and adjust them to correct for underperformance while campaigns are still in flight.

In devising a sound data strategy, consider the following best practices and if they are suitable for your organization:

  1. First-Party/Site Data

Advertisers should mine their proprietary data regularly to unearth hidden valuable learnings about customers. Data-driven insights help brands create a more tailored, one-to-one relationship with consumers and Web visitors. Gaining access to insights about existing customers allows advertisers to provide a more personalized experience in the future, as well as leverage insights to target lookalike users.

  1. Information Protection

Ad-targeting systems and technologies are faced with the unenviable mission of producing results while still protecting each individual’s personally identifiable information (PII). Although this may seem daunting, information protection and targeting can be accomplished simply by selecting and working with a reputable third-party vendor equipped to strip all PII out and deliver audience segments via pure cookie matches.

  1. Data Onboarding

Beyond first-party data imports, you can “onboard” internal company information from an existing CRM or sales and marketing databases. By stripping out or anonymizing this data via a third-party vendor and then using it to build segments and audiences, user privacy is protected and useable insights are garnered to help improve your marketing plan.

Big Data is here to stay. After all, it has proved extremely useful to brands and media companies as they tighten up cross-device links and identifiers and seek to better understand and target key audiences. However, if all of the “little data” doesn’t add up along the way, the end result won’t be “Big Data.” It will simply be a big, messy data dump to clean up. And who has time for that?

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