Big Data in the Age of the Consumer

April 12, 2018 — by John Slocum    

Programmatic marketing is entirely dependent on big data. Our ability to deliver a compelling consumer experience requires our ability to understand and orchestrate data across marketing channels— there are far more today than a decade ago, and new ones emerging. This is more important than ever as consumers are not just demanding the right message at the right time, but also control over both their data and their advertising experiences.

Where we are in this journey

Marketers are doing amazing things with data, yet we often still generate much heat and little light. Data are noisy, inconsistent, provide conflicting signals and don’t come with instructions. When programmatic came onto the scene over 10 years ago, we were optimizing with data from remnant display inventory. Device and channel proliferation have expanded the volume and types of data to include mobile, video, connected TV, DOOH, virtual reality, social and more. Each channel offers a distinct signal and data structure; cross-channel orchestration requires we align those structures for consistency.

Data tools are still new, flexible, evolving and changing. This is good, because it means our capabilities are always growing and improving. This is challenging (and fun for a caffeinated data engineer) because it means best practices haven’t yet been established. We get to write them.

Enter consumers into the big data story. Advertising has failed them by way of annoying banners, popovers delivering intrusive experiences, and surprisingly creepy oversights such as long-ago purchased product advertisements that follow us around. And then there’s the issue of consumers not knowing what is being done with their data.

This is something we need to solve. Adtech must re-establish a balance with consumers that delivers value, that puts them in control of their advertising experiences through the proper application and education of the use of data.

What’s next to be done

The technical challenges are “easy.” We’ve been scaling these hills by obsessing on marketers’ problems, experimenting with solutions to address them and finding marketers willing to partner with us on further proving out those solutions. We will keep doing that, the data set will continue to expand, the tools will mature. What’s essential for MediaMath is that we continue to solve the right problems with our focus on helping our clients be successful. And, really, doing that means speaking to our clients’ clients: consumers.

For these other challenges, the philosophical, ethical ones, we need to perk up our ears. We only solve for consumers’ concerns first by listening to them. Getting this right means consumers control their data, have visibility into their data, and do not have their data used in ways that might surprise, annoy, offend or even hurt them. Getting this really right means doing all of those things and helping marketers to create valuable experiences with data—relevant, timely, unobtrusive content. This is at the core of our consumer-first philosophy.

We’re seeing consumers abroad taking an interest in privacy, and taking back control. As we build to support consumers, we need to remember this is a global mandate. At MediaMath, this has taken shape in the form of new product features, services and other commitments to deliver outcomes, transparency and control to consumers now in addition to marketers. We are reviewing everything we do for alignment with these consumer-first principles and adjusting as needed.

We owe consumers a better deal, more control and real value from advertising. Data are the building blocks we use to get there.

John Slocum will be speaking on the panel “Activating Big Data Across the Enterprise” at Qubole’s Data Platforms conference in Phoenix today. Follow @MediaMath on Twitter with the hashtag #DataPlatforms2018 for real-time updates throughout the conference.