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You Need A Data Strategy. Here’s How To Get Started.
Three steps to starting a data strategy and why you should start now.
By Kyle Kienitz Eric Thompson

September 11, 2018

5 min read
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What’s Going On

A little while ago we wrote about Facebook’s upcoming removal of Partner Categories, their third-party data integration function. This is a big move for Facebook, but in the grand scheme, it’s another small step away from the democratization of AdTech.

All the big players are either growing or walling off their gardens. A walled garden is a closed ecosystem of technology run by one player (i.e. a one-stop shop). If Facebook, Google and the like have their way, there will be a handful of players that control most of the advertising data and inventory.

To tell you the truth, that reality is here. We already have the duopoly of Facebook and Google. Amazon and AT&T are making moves to join them (a quadropoly?).


Why It Affects You

Facebook’s removal of Partner Categories accomplishes two big things:

  1. It puts the responsibility on advertisers to make sure their data follows regulations.
  2. It walls off their targeting data. If you want to target on Facebook, you have to use Facebook’s data or upload your own (which makes it your responsibility).

As a result, the everyday advertiser has to:

  1. Make sure their data strategy is compliant.
  2. Understand Facebook’s data capabilities and work with or around them.

You can expect the effects of upcoming moves by the big players to mirror Facebook’s removal of Partner Categories. Whether it’s about data security or ad fraud, two things will happen — responsibilities will shift to advertisers and we’ll all have to learn how to live with it.

But more responsibility doesn’t mean more power.

Third-party vendors get whiplashed by these types of moves. It’s harder for them to survive, which makes the weaker ones ripe for failure and buyouts.

Consolidation is exactly what the big players want. And that’s very dangerous for the health of this industry.

The original promise of Real-Time Bidding and programmatic advertising was the democratization of AdTech. – Kyle Kienitz

Programmatic advertising is supposed to make digital advertising and all its features more accessible to all. Innovative solutions could thrive within digital advertising, but don’t for the most part. Walled gardens and consolidation kills all that in its infancy.

What To Do About It

Data Strategy Step One: Know Your Target vs Audience

1. Know your target vs audience.

Your target is the people you want to hit. Your audience is the people who already interact with your brand. The overlap of these two groups is what will construct a good data set.

The similarities are called attributes. Say you’re selling trucks and your audience is men 50+, while your target is men 30-35. Study these two groups, find similar behaviors, traits and interests.

Many agencies construct a target audience based on an ideal of who they want to reach, not the reality based on attributes. Let the reality inform your target audience.

Understand Data Strategy Step 2: Where Your Data Will Live

2. Understand where the data will live.

Once you’ve constructed a good target audience, decide where you’ll get the data from and how you’ll use it.

Does your platform have the data natively? For instance, does Facebook have all you need to target effectively?

Do you have the data on hand? If so, see if you can use this first-party data in conjunction with data native to the platform. It will also be good to work with a data partner to supplement your data.

Do you have the money to have a data partner construct the data for you? They might have data ready to go, or (if you’re targeting is unique) they can build custom data for you.

When working with data partners, understand that they’re not cheap. It’s not unheard of to spend as much on data as your entire media execution budget.

So, do the math first!

You should also consider the recency of data. Some data companies like Dstillery claim to refresh their data every 24 hours. Others may do it every 3-6 months. If the data isn’t refreshed often, it’s likely that a good chunk of it will no longer be relevant.

For example, if you’re selling trucks and your data is 6 months old, you’ll likely be advertising to new truck owners, not people looking to buy trucks.

Data Strategy Step 3: Test Your Data

3. Test your data.

You can spend all your time constructing the fanciest data strategy and have it not work the way you want it to.

Reality doesn’t always match the data.

So, be diligent and QA test your data often. Understand that things don’t always go according to plan and tweak when you can.

Because data isn’t a golden ticket. It’s not a panacea. It won’t solve all your problems or ensure campaign success. Test it and treat it like any other asset or variable.


These three steps are a good starting point.

If you have questions, drop us a line. We’ll help you figure out best options alongside your media strategy.

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