Ad Execs United On Data Ownership, Divided On Whether It Belongs To Agencies Or Clients

The debate over who rightfully owns the data generated by digital ads served to consumers' browsers and devices has been raging ever since media-buying giant GroupM first invoked changes in the terms and conditions of its buys with publishers and other third parties beginning in early 2009.

At the time, GroupM changed the wording on all the invoices it exchanges with publishers asserting that data generated by ads served belongs to the “agency/advertiser.”

Since then, the amount of data has grown, but has also increasingly become consolidated within so-called “walled gardens,” such as Google and Facebook, which have become gatekeepers for targeting consumers with digital ads.

That trend has caused a rift and increasing consternation on Madison Avenue and among big brands and is one of the chief reasons GroupM has reorganized its digital data infrastructure around its own “platform,” dubbed [m]Platform, announced this week.



Unrelated to this move, MediaPost recently fielded a survey of advertiser and agency executives with Advertiser Perceptions Inc., asking them who they currently believe to be the rightful owner of data generated by digital ads served to consumers browsers and mobile devices.

Overwhelmingly, the respondents believe it is owned by the ad industry, but there is a substantial rift among respondents in terms of which constituent is more the rightful owner: the advertiser or the agency.

Not surprisingly, the majority of marketers (60%), believe they are the rightful owner, although nearly half (49%) believe the agency also is.

Agency executives were more circumspect in their responses, but among those weighing in, they believe agencies are the more rightful owner by a margin of nearly two to one: 35% said agencies, while only 19% said advertisers.

In terms of stakeholders, a higher percentage of agency executives than marketers believe that other third parties -- including publishers, consumers and even the walled gardens -- are the more rightful owner.

The findings are based on the responses of 303 ad executives -- weighted 60/40 agencies vs. advertisers -- to an online survey fielded by Advertiser Perceptions in October.

9 comments about "Ad Execs United On Data Ownership, Divided On Whether It Belongs To Agencies Or Clients".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, December 1, 2016 at 2:50 p.m.

    We take consumer data without asking permission and then argue who owns it?  I log one vote that the consumer owns their own data.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, December 1, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    Ari, personally, I agree with you.

  3. Andrew Boer from MovableMedia, December 1, 2016 at 4:57 p.m.

    Deck chairs on the Titanic for publishers and media buying agencies.  Facebook (what we like) Google (what we want) and Amazon (what we buy) all have deep and unparalelled insight into our psychographic profiles and physical location. They continue to offer better and better targeting for advertisers.  All of this behavioral/contextual data stuff is web 2.0 and won't matter.

  4. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:38 p.m.

    Where's the LIKE button . . .

  5. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, December 1, 2016 at 5:47 p.m.

    Andrew you just landed a huge punch to the gut it's hard to disagree with you but you are missing one point -- knowing what we like what we want and what we buy starts with "knowing" so brand awareness has to be factored and that's where contextual advertising when done right fits 

  6. Joseph Williams from NetBase, December 1, 2016 at 6:04 p.m.

    It's complex.  The real issue the agency should be more worried about is whether or not they get compensated for the time and effort that goes into collecting and formatting all of this data from ads served.  They need to make sure it's scoped properly if it's something that's needed on a regular basis.  If the client had an actual valid reason (e.g. Market Mix Modeling, Audits, etc) to request client-specific data (i.e. data not mixed with that of other clients), the agency would most likely comply.  As long as the agency market remains crowded and so overlapping in competencies, clients can place uncooperative agencies under review, pivot to more accommodating agencies and/or if all else fails, employ disintermediation to access the data their money paid for if need be.  It's usually in the best interest of agencies to share what's needed to help their client better meet their objectives, as their success as an agency is measured on this. Brands on the other hand, have troves of internal data they will continue to hold tight to their chest and only the most trusted agencies will get a peak into that data.

  7. Florian Kahlert from Yayo Media LLC, December 1, 2016 at 6:05 p.m.

    +1 Ari.

    The actual opinions distribution is pretty scary and the low number who think it belongs to the user sets up an interesting contention with Europe, where this isn't a much disputed question (answer:belongs to the User)

  8. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, December 1, 2016 at 6:15 p.m.

    The owner is the one who has the right to sell it (or keep it private). Consumers own their data because they have the right to turn it off. 

  9. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, December 1, 2016 at 8:13 p.m.

    Jack have you ever tried opting out of having your data collected?  You would have an easier time flying to the moon

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