Q&A: Meredith Mavrikos on Data Transparency

Mar 14, 2018

Article ImageMeredith Mavrikos leads the vision, development and go-to-market strategy for ownerIQ’s CoEx Platform. Her primary focus is working with the engineering team to build out the features and functionality of the platform to make it easier for companies across industries to utilize second-party data for their digital advertising strategies. I had a chance to ask Mavrikos about data transparency, and how it continues to impact digital marketing.

Q: Can you explain what data transparency means to you, and why it's important?
A: Data Transparency is a simple but very powerful concept. It means a marketer or data buyer has complete clarity into the data sources and composition of the audience/data segments they are purchasing. I like the food label analogy that industry experts use. In the food industry, you can’t sell consumers a tin can labeled Tomato Soup and say, “trust me.” Instead, you are required to provide consumers with full transparency into the specific ingredients that make up your particular brand of tomato soup. By doing this you allow the buyer to make a more informed choice as to whether or not to buy your product based on their particular needs. 
Apply that same concept to the data market. Data Transparency means a vendor can no longer claim a segment reaches new parents by just sticking a “New Parents” label on a bunch of cookies. Marketers want to know what they are buying and whether or not it will enhance their marketing program. They want systems that allow them to make a more informed choice and gain access to the most relevant data based on their particular needs.  
It is also important to note that Data Transparency is also synonymous with Second-party Data, which refers to a marketer (i.e. the “Second-party”) directly and transparently accessing/buying another marketer or organization’s First Party data. This is important because the role of determining which data is most relevant and how audience targets should be composed should be placed in the hands of the marketer, not a third party vendor that know little about your business.  
Q: What are the consequences of a lack of transparency for digital advertisers?
A: Without the requirement of transparency, third-party solutions can take wide liberties with segment construction without fear of audit, i.e. they can put mud in a can and call it “tomato soup.” As a result of this practice, the negative impact of non-transparent data is pervasive. Some of the more common issues reported by marketers are: 
  • Lack of data accuracy  
  • Large data biases within segments that are undisclosed
  • Generic audience segments, no customization
  • Homogenized insights
The IAB put the third party data market in the US around $10B in 2017. That’s potentially a lot of mud. Data transparency solves all these issues. 
Q: Have you experienced any resistance to the idea of better data transparency?
A: First, data transparency or second-party data practices are already mainstream within the retail sector. Retailers and brands are openly sharing their data assets to support join marketing strategies at scale. Amazon, Walmart, and Target have the most visible second-party programs. 
As far as the rest of the industry goes, according to the recent Forrester report we co-commissioned with Universal McCann in Q4 2017, 82% of marketers say that the lack of transparency is the data market’s #1 problem. So lack of interest or desire is not an issue. But a $10B US industry dominated by big name players takes time to change. But make no mistake, change is coming. The buyers have all the leverage, and as second-party data markets are forecasted to reach the level of scale of third-party data by next year--the incumbents will be forced to shift to transparency quickly or risk becoming irrelevant. 
Q: What questions should digital advertisers be asking about data transparency? And what standards should they be demanding?
A: The answer is in your question--marketers should ask about data transparency! They are so used to a world of data opacity and blind segments that they’ve resigned to playing a never-ending game of 20 questions with vendors, (i.e. they ask for clues about the characteristics of the data, with no expectation that the vendor will ever reveal the name of the data source). 
Marketers should ask data vendors the most basic and obvious question they have a fundamental right to know: “What are the data sources in the segment you are selling me?”  
Q: Data reliant industries are bracing for the impact of GDPR. How do you expect GDPR to impact your work on data transparency?
A: GDPR is about giving transparency and choice to the consumer and data transparency is about revealing the sources of your data. There certainly are some common themes between them. Our data would facilitate responsible use of data through its inherent transparency to the sellers and buyers. In that respect, our data model is consistent with GDPR and puts us in a good position when and if we expand to the EU.

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