Attribution and Measurement are Creating a Data Management Arms Race

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David Staas, president of audience intelligence and mobile programmatic platform NinthDecimal, is a veteran of mobile branding, and has for years has participated in the industry’s obsession with linking consumer location and behavior.

An average consumer spends nearly three hours per day on his or her mobile device or devices, according to a March 2017 comScore study, not including digital desktop time such as during the workday. The mobile time spent is often filling time for the consumer – during a commute, or waiting for a friend or a phone call or an elevator. To access that time, Staas says, companies need richer data.

“We use location data as a foundational signal, but we do a lot more than what people normally think of when they think of location data,” Staas says. “Quite often, it’s seen as an interesting signal for geofencing, for engaging customers in real time when they’re nearby, or perhaps as a very simple audience building tool, in the sense of ‘If I’ve seen you at Walmart, I can target you as someone who goes to Walmart.’”

NinthDecimal separated its data platform from media in 2014, and Staas says the business now exists in four categories: audience data, brand activation, measurement and attribution, and insights and analytics. He says that these segmented datasets are now solving some of the industry’s biggest marketing challenges, such as associating online customer data with offline actions. Now, Staas says that location data is at the core of a merger between ad tech and marketing tech.

“When you look at the shifts taking place in the ecosystem, there’s such a focus on data for so many smart reasons from a marketer’s perspective,” Staas says. “They really want to be able to better understand their customers, and one of the biggest problems is filling in that blind spot in customer intelligence.”

Neil Sweeney, founder and CEO of beacon network company Freckle IoT, has expressed how the marketplace is trending toward measurement and attribution – but he sees marketing tech as basically the same thing as measurement. Location is the tactic that everyone is already using, mobile technology is table stakes, and further segmenting a part of a business to expand into measurement is, he says, a lower margin choice.

“And other firms just don’t have the technology to allow themselves to decouple,” he points out, and says that some companies are going to have a tough time if they try to pivot to offer a response to the demand for attribution.

“If you don’t have the technology, you don’t have data,” he says. “With no data in today’s market you can’t be a true measurement solution.”

Companies that do have the technology and the data might also be seeing difficulty in growing their organic media business, Sweeney says.

“Placed is a good example of a company that never sold media,” he says. “They always focused on measurement.”

When Snapchat acquired online-to-offline attribution startup Placed in June, Sweeney knew it was an indication of the results and transparency that brands would increasingly be demanding.

“It increased the overall awareness of attribution,” he says.

Mark Gally, CEO of business-to-consumer marketing and analytics company Zaius, also notes how brands are demanding ways to see transparently through the execution and effects of their marketing and advertising strategies.

“There are emails, push notifications, they have this hodge-podge of solutions out there and no single system that ties analytics or understanding to the action,” Gally says. “We see this as an emerging category.”

A traditional ecommerce solution that uses an email service provider will generate a completely separate kind of engagement from what is created by a Google or Facebook or other customer engagement, Gally says. But there’s another side of the equation.

Freckle IoT’s Sweeney says that what’s happening with companies expanding data management platforms is having another effect.

“This is really interesting, I think, what is going on with the DMP [Data Management Platform] side,” Sweeney says. “I think it’s so obvious what’s happening right now. These big companies, Google, Facebook, now Snapchat, they all have this unique deterministic data. They’re putting pressure on traditional media companies.”

Sweeney says that Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and others are placing themselves as the competition to data management platforms such as Oracle. Last year, Adobe bought video ad company TubeMogul and Salesforce bought data management company Krux. And those companies essentially have unlimited money to spend on the data technology.

“So there’s this collapse of the ecosystem,” Sweeney says. “Where the DMP guys are moving over to the right to be more like Google, and the social guys are coming over to the left with more and more data and getting closer to purchase. And in the middle is the brands. It’s becoming an arms race between DMP and traditional social platforms. It’s gonna get ugly.”

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.