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THE IMPORTANCE OF PROVENANCE IN DIGITAL MARKETING
By Aqilliz
Published on June 22, 2020
It is no secret that the digital advertising supply chain is a complex, often unseen process. The involvement of multiple intermediaries, compounded by a lack of transparency in various areas of the industry, has made it difficult for brands to see where their budgets are spent and has led to some serious questions being raised about the integrity of the ad tech sector.
According to a recent report from the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), 49% of ad buys dry up before reaching publishers. Out of this money, 34% are disclosed fees that agencies and ad tech vendors take for trading impressions, while the remaining 15% vanishes into an “unknown delta” on the supply chain—a component that remains unaccounted for.
At the same time, as rising standards of data protection frameworks demand for more stringent data hygiene practices, data provenance is fast becoming an area of compliance that marketers need to turn their attention to. To help marketers tackle the challenges of managing soaring data volumes from a wide range of data sources, as well as privacy and regulatory concerns, improving transparency and visibility within the processes behind the digital supply chain has become even more important than ever.
Starting at the Source
In the age of empowered consumers, competitive advantage hinges on an organisation’s ability to harness the data needed to improve customer understanding and engagement. In order to drive meaningful engagement and provide consumers with more relevant messaging and better advertising experiences, brands have to connect with the right audiences. To do so, they need to start at the source—the data.
Data is only as valuable as the insights it produces, the decisions it influences, and the results it yields. Without the ability to ensure data integrity, marketers are relinquishing their most powerful tool. Better data means better insights, which means more effective marketing and communication across touchpoints. Conversely, if the data is unreliable or not utilised correctly, it can actually do more harm than good.
According to a report by Forrester Consulting, advertisers waste 21 percent of their marketing budgets due to bad data. When asked how poor-quality data impacts their organisations, 35 percent of the respondents indicated that it produced inaccurate targeting, 30 percent indicated that it lost customers, and 28 percent indicated that it contributed to a poor customer experience. The report advises that marketers should seek to improve data as much as possible across these seven areas:
  • Timeliness: The data comes from sources which are up to date.
  • Completeness: All expected attributes are provided in the data set.
  • Consistency: Consistent data across platforms, channels and campaigns.
  • Relevance: The data directly relates to the analysis being performed.
  • Transparency: The sources of the data are easy to trace and identify.
  • Accuracy: The data reflects the true actions of customers or marketers.
  • Representativeness: The data accurately reflects the marketplace or the target audience.
When it comes to marketing analytics, harnessing trusted, high-fidelity data is not just vital in empowering marketers to effectively understand and engage consumers at the right moment, but also in ensuring that media budgets are not unnecessarily wasted. Marketers need to know where their ads are served and where their money is spent throughout the campaign supply chain. Ultimately, unattributable data is a burden as it eventually leads to untraceable ad spend. Without attribution, marketers are left unable to track the validity of a given impression, assess the quality of the insights they generate, or the overall performance of their campaigns. In other words, understanding where their data comes from and its reliability is vital in ensuring that marketers can make effective decisions and optimise the use of their media spend.
The Need for Transparent, Auditable Data
This is where data provenance comes in. Data provenance can be referred to as the pedigree of data—the record of components, inputs, systems, and processes that affect the collected data, providing its historical context. In short, it is understanding where data comes from, how it is collected, and how it can best be used, and how it has been used over time. Without being able to access and view all available data points at every step of the way, marketers can’t make educated and value-driven decisions. Data provenance is not only key to making marketer’s decisions better-informed, but has also come to be an expectation on the part of regulators when it comes to ensuring that consumer data is treated properly.
The implementation of privacy frameworks such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has set unprecedented standards for data protection, underlining the need for greater transparency, accountability, and ethics in the marketing industry. The core principles of these legislations mandate that all organisations that collect, control, and process personal data need to step up their data protection measures to safeguard and assure the authenticity and integrity of personal data.
Both the GDPR and CCPA require companies to track the types of personal data they collect as well as its uses, while giving individuals a variety of rights over that data including the right to view, move, and erase stored data. Under the scope of these laws, organisations will need to demonstrate how they generated or used the data or face significant penalties for non-compliance.
Tackling Provenance
By capturing how the data is processed and used (and by whom), organisations can use data provenance to assert the extent of their compliance with respective regulatory requirements. Data subjects can also request access to their data in order to assess whether their data was protected and seek recourse if discrepancies arise.
The advent of blockchain and distributed ledger technology allows data to be stored in a tamper-proof and replicable way, eliminating the need to trust in a central authority or an independent third-party. Through this decentralised network, blockchain provides a distributed, immutable ledger that tracks the origin and movement of data at the various stages of data creation and data modifications. With an understanding of who initiated the data points, when, how, and for what purpose, this record of information can then be used for data validation and audit purposes. Tracking and recording all the activity involving the data points ensures that the compliance process remains transparent and accountable.
Ultimately, data is still the backbone for targeting and personalisation—and while there may be no shortage of data in this information age, data that is trustworthy and accurate often comes at a premium. At the same time, there is a growing need for transparency, accountability and ethics in marketing, especially as countries around the world continue to enact new data privacy laws. These rising standards bring a new level of complexity to the marketing landscape, and it’s now more important than ever that marketers are able to have access to high-quality, reliable data that has been procured in a compliant manner, in order to make best use of their media spend. By implementing measures such as data provenance, organisations can bring clarity to consumer data use, and transparency in the advertising industry can become a reality.