CES: Marketing, media and the data dilemma in 2021

Panel of marketing and media leaders at the Consumer Electronics Show discuss the impact of increase data compliance, governance and death of the cookie and how marketers better prepare for the data future

Marketers needs to rid themselves of the idea that third-party data is bad and first-party data is good and instead focus on improving their access to ‘good’ data - full stop. And that means transparency and consent.  

That’s the view of Transunion EVP marketing solutions and head of media vertical, Matt Spiegel, who spoke on a panel this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on the data dilemma facing the marketing and media industry heading into 2021. The panel, which also included Disney EVP of client and brand partnerships, Lisa Valentino, UM global chief strategy officer, Hamish Kinniburgh, and Hudson MX president, Jay Stevens, was chaired by Medialink’s Reshma Karnik.

Consumer privacy regulations such as GDPR and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) are coming to the forefront, shaking up the nature of collecting and managing consumer data and the ways brand and media harness it. In addition, with the demise of the third-party cookie, traditional ways the media industry has analysed and utilised consumer data for advertising targeting and optimisation are disappearing.

Against this, we’re seeing the rise of the connected home and streaming services on top of social media, all of which trade in identity-based consumer engagement and open up a wealth of other insights.

Media leaders on the panel were asked to what extent these issues were creating hurdles for brands and marketers, how prepared the overall media industry currently is to cope, and how marketers can get in a better position to respond.

Spiegel saw the topics converging and all leading to a flight to quality data. He compared it to the flight to quality media over the last several years.

“If you look at the very beginning of programmatic era, it was all about any impression, and if you could buy a cheap impression with a bit of data you were interested. We quickly saw that wasn’t a great strategy, that media sources matter and that top quality media matters,” he said. “We’re about to see the same thing with data.

“We have written a script in this industry that third-party data is bad and first-party data is good. The simple reality is that’s not right. There’s good data, and there’s bad data. And the art of what equals good data increasingly comes back to the proper sourcing methodology of the data.”

Key considerations for Spiegel are whether data has been collected with consent and transparency around use, if brands have maintained freshness, and if data is correct.

“The idea we have built the data side of this industry upon companies uncomfortable touching any sensitive data or anything defined as PII is strange,” Spiegel continued. “What will happen is the importance of having a data footprint that is securely sourced, reliable and has that traditional ‘offline’ mentality is only going to become more and more important.”  

As a result, Spiegel said the media and marketing industry needs to work together to ensure the wider market understands the different ways data can be sourced with highly ethical, consent-based practices. “That just has to become the norm,” he said.  

As a consumer credit reporting agency, Transunion has built its business around data compliance and is regulated by financial institutions. “We need to bring some of that goodness into this industry from a macro perspective. We all just have to get used to it in this industry,” Spiegel said.

“Data governance is really critical and it shouldn’t be seen as bad news in any way.”

It’s a similar story of pursuing ‘good’ data for Disney’s Valentino and she said the company is taking the opportunity to “rewire” consumer data across the organisation to put it to better client and brand use. Disney has spent the last three or so years building out its own audience graph as it pulls more brands into its portfolio. These include Hulu, which Disney acquired in 2019.

“We have all been living in an industry for years where we questioned data sources. And it has been commoditised to the extent that I don’t know if we’re seeing performance that ties back to a host of third-party variations on data,” Valentino explained. “This idea of ‘cleaning up data’ makes us feel great about the business we’ve been invested in. But it requires rewiring how we connect all of that data.”

With the acquisition of Hulu, Disney gained a rich dataset in terms of connected viewership, Valentino said. This will help Disney+ build out a “connected universe of consumption and behaviour”.   It’s recently launched its first client solutions product across both brands tapping insights across the portfolio.

“The Holy Grail is to connect all of these [data sources] so clients can manage reach and frequency in more interesting ways; using data to provide more insights at a psychographic and behavioural level to inform those decisions,” Valentino said.

At a wider ecosystem level, growing reliance on owned data and the death of the cookie is allowing brands and publishers to take on new roles in the ecosystem, Valentino claimed.

“These intermediaries look very different and can be ‘[data] bunkers’ or ‘clean rooms’, that can connect this data in privacy compliant ways,” she said. “Our agency partners also play a strategic role by identifying insights coming out of data, proof points of performance, and so on.”

It’s not just accessing good data, however, it’s also about the speed of data, Kinniburgh said. To lift its own game during COVID, UM build a demand forester predictive tool, which incorporated Google Search data, geographic and epidemiological data sets and tapped advanced machine learning modelling to predict the flow of the pandemic on consumer demand.

“We could predict in a three-month window changing consumer demand and help clients to see how demand will fluctuate in their categories either worldwide or state by state level,” Kinniburgh said. “It’s both helping at a category level but also around things like events.”

For example, UM looked at trick or treating at Halloween and expectations of physical, virtual or hybrid activities. These insights could then be put back into marketing program to one client thinking through virtual experience in some states, versus physical one in states in a lesser state of lockdown.

Read more: As the cookie crumbles, what comes next for digital advertisers?

Life beyond the cookie: 5 steps to mapping the future of marketing measurement

The future of data in a cookieless world

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