The Data Swamp: Forrester Study Shows Lack Of Transparency In Market

Digital marketers are being taken to the cleaners.

Roughly half of all digital campaigns use multiple data sources, according to a study out today by Forrester, commissioned by ownerIQ and UM. That would include email. 

But they lack clarity into data sources and what they are buying.

Of the 100 executives polled by Forrester, 85% complain of lack of visibility into data to define target audiences. And almost as many say there is no ranking for quality and authenticity.

At the same time, two-thirds say the ad industry isn’t doing enough to address the visibility issue. And slightly more complain about price transparency.

These are no small problems, given that 26% second-party data and 22% use third-party data. And 49% utilize multiple data sources. 

Now, you may think you’re safe because you mostly email your customer list (first-party data), and only rent a few permission-based outside lists (second-party data). You don’t do any programmatic advertising.



But what about the services you use for web tracking, and for gleaning demographic, geographic and other variables?

How sure are you about them 

Most marketers aren’t too sure, as you can see by the additional problems identified by Forrester:

  • Lack of transparency into data sources — 78%
  • Limited scalability — 74%
  • Lack of inventory transparency — 73%
  • Lack of transparency into costs — 60%
  • Inability to access data sources that provide the most valuable/relevant audiences — 65%
  • No established system to audit data accuracy — 65%

As frustrated as they are, marketers feel that the ad industry can solve these problems.

How? First, by requiring providers to supply greater visibility into data sources. Next, by forcing providers to own up to the true costs.

Good luck with all of those ideas. You don’t need Forrester to tell you that the data industry suffers from lack of standardization, and seeming lack of interest in it (except for a few visionary thinkers). But here is the list of requested actions:

  • Require providers to supply greater visibility into data sources — 60% 
  • Require providers to supply itemization of costs — 51%
  • Promote/support TAG inventory quality guidelines — 50%
  • Require providers to give rankings for data quality — 48%
  • Require providers to supply detailed campaign guidelines/reporting — 47%
  • Establish restrictions for sourced audiences/traffic — 44%
  • Recommend language to include in insertion orders to increase transparency — 44%

What are the anticipated results?

Forrester writes that if the industry “were to address issues around data transparency and quality, 98% of marketers anticipate improved targeting accuracy.”

So what do marketers use data for?

Overall, 72% use data for CRM. In addition, 61% rely on it to inform their media spend, 60% for programmatic media buying and 58% for campaign optimization.

In addition, 50% use it for measurement and attribution. Thirty-four percent for predictive segmenting and modeling and 32% for audience analytics. 

Email would fall into most of these categories.

Specifically, the respondents say these types of data are important in driving their digital campaigns:

  • Purchase behavior — 79 
  • Browsing behavior — 75%
  • Attention (what the audience focuses on) — 70% 
  • Demographic/geographic/household — 69%
  • Intent — 67%
  • Psychographic — 61%

Want to improve data transparency? Forrester offers these tips:

  • Push incumbent data providers to create a path and standard for transparency and validation.
  • Include first-party data sharing in marketing partnership agreements.
  • Opt for second-party data brokered by an independent solutions provider.
  • Be prepared to pay for quality and to embrace a flexible compensation model.


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