Data Management Part IV: Syncing Offline Data To Your DMP

Before the internet and digital advertising, direct mail solicitation was perhaps the most technologically advanced form of data driven marketing out there.  Even today, as much as interactive marketers like to poke fun at traditional media people, the direct mail industry is far more sophisticated at accurate audience segmentation and message delivery than most of the digital realm.  Since everything in the snail mail world works off your actual name and address, data management is far simpler and can easily connect the data points in your life – the car you drive, your credit score, your age, gender, and plenty else from public records.  Start adding information about your purchase habits from catalogs, your credit cards, and all the hotel and airline loyalty cards stuck in your wallet and the direct marketers can profile you three ways to Sunday. The truth is that it’s far easier to move data offline by matching on a name and address than to move it online with nothing but a cookie.  That said, data companies and marketers alike have a huge incentive to try, because offline data is generally much more reliable and therefore valuable than its online competitors. (more…)

Data Management Platform: How to Sync Online Data

To get the full value out of a relationship with a data management platform (DMP), you want to provide the platform with as much data as possible.  That said, the low hanging fruit in any organization will be to integrate 1st party data for which you already have a cookie to the DMP.  The mechanism to accomplish this is your standard cookie sync,which passes a user ID from one system to another via a query string appended to a pixel call, and ideally, a server-to-server integration after that.

Practically speaking this means that when a user hits your site and calls your site analytics tag, either independently or through a container tag, that site analytics tag redirects the user to the DMP, and simultaneously passes the site analytics user ID to the DMP.  When the DMP receives that call, it cookies the same user and also records what the site analytics user ID is.  Now the DMP knows how to associate data from the site analytics tool to its own cookie ID.  The beauty of this system is only the user IDs need to be synced at this time, and the actual data that the site analytics tool records can be passed to the DMP later, without slowing down the user experience on site.  Now imagine replicating this process with all 3rd party tools, and syncing all systems into the DMP. (more…)

Data Management Platform: Centralize Your User Data

A critical component of any data management platform is the ability to centralize your audience data from multiple systems into a single interface.  They do this through a NoSQL database management system that imports your data from multiple systems using a match key between each system that they form via, what else, a cookie sync.  It sounds complicated but it isn’t.  Let’s take an example from the marketer side to explain the concept.

Identity Syncing and the Data Management Platform

Say you run a large eCommerce store and want to create audience-based marketing campaigns around different customer groups.  You send a weekly newsletter with a few hundred thousand users signed up, you have a site analytics tool, you have an order management database, or other CRM system, and you buy media through a Demand Side Platform (DSP). Each system fulfills a specific business need, but generally speaking operate in parallel and do not talk to each other. So there’s no way for you to specifically target users on your DSP that are also signed up for your newsletter, or who are signed up for your newsletter and have also visited three or more pages in the mystery novels section of your site in the past 30 days.  You have a site analytics cookie on the user’s machine, but no newsletter cookie, and even if you did, how do you know how to identify the same user in both systems?  In order to get your newsletter system to talk to your site analytics system and push that information to your DSP for future media campaigns you need to find a way to identify the same user between systems.  This is where the data management platform comes in. (more…)

Data Management Platform: What is a DMP?

If you’re working in digital advertising today and not losing sleep over your data management strategy (or lack thereof), climb out from under your rock and join the rest of us trying to figure out how to leverage the mountain of consumer intent and behavior collecting on the  doorstep each day. From both the marketer and publisher perspective, data isn’t the problem, access is the problem.  Each party has access to vast amounts of data, either directly or through 3rd party channels, but centralizing, organizing, analyzing, and segmenting are very difficult for all but the largest companies.  Unless you have a pedigreed team that speaks SAS and Oracle, understands how to use an IBM supercomputer, or has a team of PhDs on the payroll, building your own solution to this problem just isn’t realistic.  It just doesn’t exist in the DNA of most advertising companies today, at least not yet. (more…)

Managing Data Leakage

Like any issue, the first step in managing data leakage is admitting it is a problem and understanding how it happens.  It sounds obvious, but getting a large organization to commit to implementing a data leakage policy at the potential cost of ad network revenue and upset clients and you have your work cut out for you.  After you have buy-in from the internal stakeholders and understand it from a technical perspective, you can start to craft a policy around controlling advertiser access to your audience.  The below would be my recommendations on how to setup a foundation policy on managing data leakage from the publisher side.

First, as a policy, you should prohibit advertisers from dropping cookies on your users – it is a business liability and may even potentially violate your privacy policy. This will address the primary data leakage channel but is also the toughest internal hurdle to clear, because it will likely anger your clients so be prepared for a potential fight with your sales organization. They may resist anything that will anger clients (and they will probably be angry – after all, they most certainly don’t want to gravy train of free data to end), but once you explain that this technical issue is selling against them by commoditizing the site audience, they will probably get on board. You’ll also need a way to enforce this policy, which can be tough if you are lean on development talent. Larger publishers usually have some programmers handy who can create an internal solution to address the problem, and a few of the SSPs out there have also devised solutions to monitor ad tags for cookie dropping through randomly sampling. That is to say, they have a bot call every ad tag on a regular basis and see if any cookies are dropped via that ad call. Some Ops people may ask, ‘why not just manually check for cookie-dropping during manual QA, before the tag goes live?’  The reason just one look at the tag isn’t enough is because it is a well known fact that advertisers may not get around, or perhaps wait by design to adding piggybacked pixel fires to their ad calls until after their tag is up and running. That means you might not catch the issue during normal QA and need to have a way to monitor every third party ad call on your site on a daily basis.

Second, look into a tag management platform or data management platform (DMP) such as Demdex, RedAril, or Krux, to help blind the pixels you know about and do want to fire on your audience.  The reason for this is even if you prevent cookie-dropping, plenty of data exchanges and data collection companies can still use javascript to scrape page content, record page URLS, and semantically categorize page content. It won’t be as useful without a cookie, but it is still valuable.  Even worse, you may be inadvertently sharing user-level information in your URL string, as many of the social media companies were found to have done in an article in the WSJ in 2010.   This will be much more difficult if the only referring URL they can see is from your ad server or a third party company managing those pixel requests. At the very least consider adding a universal container to your site so you can control the pixels on site through your ad server. The major data management platforms will offer this service as a standard part of their offering, but there are ways to create one yourself though an additional iFrame based ad call placed in the header. The benefit of a universal container is you won’t need to rely on your IT department to add and remove pixels from the site, or worry about getting on a site release schedule. In general, DMPs will allow you to offer an alternative and safe way for advertisers to access your audience in a way that you can control (and get paid for).

Third, find out what your advertisers want and how you can add value. If the advertiser wants to retarget your audience, why not offer an audience extension product on your own and retarget the audience yourself through the ad exchanges? Both SSPs and DSPs have ways for publishers to productize their audience off-site and keep themselves in the value chain, grow share of budget, and offer advertisers the expanded reach and frequency they want to achieve. That auto and career sites in particular pioneered the publisher-powered audience extension model, so look to those companies as a model for your own business.

Data can be a business liability or a major opportunity for publishers who choose to manage their destiny. Tools and partners exist to help you and in most cases, advertisers will be happy to work through the channels you enable.

Read the other articles in this series –

Part I: A Primer on Data Leakage for Digital Publishers

Part II: Audience Analytics Lights the Data Leakage Fuse

Part III: The Cost of Data Leakage