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Playing Telephone in People-based Marketing

Kyle Hollaway and John BaudinoNovember 04, 2019

I remember playing the telephone game with friends as a kid. You know, the one where you sit in a circle and someone whispers a phrase to the person on their left. That person then passes their interpretation of the phrase on to the next person, and so on and so forth. Eventually the last person tells the group what the phrase was and inevitably it is quite different than what the original person actually said. It was always funny to see how quickly the phrase got distorted and changed.

We are seeing a similar phenomenon in digital advertising. As brands and agencies continue to drive people-based marketing and transparency initiatives within their adtech ecosystem, there is a growing concern over the loss of fidelity and precision. Brands are making more and more marketing decisions based off highly precise offline data for known audiences and then leveraging sophisticated attribution and measurement techniques to assess the accuracy and efficacy of their campaigns.

These new insights are starting to show that the push for reach (advertising to multiple touch points for an individual) has resulted in a disconnect between the original audience definition (such as males 55 and older with high income) and responders, some of who may prove to be females or in their 20s. While initial analysis may question the accuracy of the audience, further research shows it is often a byproduct of the complex, multi-step process to onboard and distribute the audience.

As campaigns move from known segmentation environments at managed service providers to onboarding at data service providers and such, we see issues with how identifiers related to the data are matched and associated with pseudonymous and/or anonymous identifiers at scale. When we start with specific individual touch points, such as name and postal address, we assume a high level of precision. However, as the audience is onboarded the personally identifiable information is associated with cookies, mobile ad IDs (MAIDs) or some other identifier. Often these associations are to identifiers connected to multiple individuals since many touch points in the digital ecosystem are shared.

The resulting audience, while larger and covering more touch points (greater reach), has now lost precision. No longer can anyone say precisely who may view or respond to the advertisement. It is important that brands and agencies understand this. In measuring campaigns, it is important to differentiate between poor data quality and efficacy vs. the loss of fidelity and precision in the identifiers used.

Acxiom solutions are designed to help brands understand their full martech/adtech marketing lifecycle and to develop strategies for measurement and attribution. Don’t let the adtech telephone game confuse you. Acxiom’s Real Identity™ solutions can help.

To learn more contact us.