Think of Food Nutrition Labels. Now, There’s Audience Data Labeling

This summer — this “nutritional” label for commercially available audience data, which vendors, agencies, advertisers and publishers can use to understand the sourcing of targeting data and how it is prepared for market — is ready for marketplace use.

Last fall, I reported briefly on an industry initiative related to “data labeling” a bid to provide transparency of data sourcing for audience data used in digital and mobile marketing. DataLabel.org is an initiative of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the IAB Tech Lab. (At the time of inception, the Data & Marketing Association now the Data Marketing Analytics division of the Association of National Advertisers was also at the table.)

This summer this “nutritional” label for commercially available audience data, which vendors, agencies, advertisers and publishers can use to understand the sourcing of targeting data and how it is prepared for market is ready for marketplace use.  (From a June 27 IAB Tech Lab press release🙂

“Data transparency is a table-stakes requirement to ensure responsible and effective use of audience data and companies that provide consistent access to detailed information about their data will attract more business,” said Dennis Buchheim, EVP and general manager at IAB Tech Lab. “Taking part in the corresponding compliance program will further differentiate an organization, affirming their full commitment to the highest standards.”

Transparency in Data Sourcing Matters

I remember hearing IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg admonishing the ad tech ecosystem in early 2017 to get out of the “fake anything” business, and arguably the effects of fraud, brand safety, and other concerns have led many advertising and marketing professionals to scour their data sourcing, permissions, stacking, integrating, and statistical analyzing to make sure that an otherwise reputable company is not engaged with anything untoward on the data front.

DataLabel.org supports this objective, in part, and goes further.  While it does not assign a quality score to any particular data source, it does enable apples-to-apples comparisons in important areas, (Opens as a PDF) which inform where media dollars based on audience data are committed:

Data Labeling label
Source: DataLabel.org

Yes, it’s an agnostic nutritional data label for data sourcing. Through IAB et al, dozens of companies were part of a working group that led to the Data Transparency Standard, Version 1.0 (a PDF download] led by Meredith Digital, Lotame Solutions and Pandora, among its supporting cast.

Does ‘Table-Stakes’ Mean Traction? You Look Good Dressed, in Responsible Data

According to the IAB, “completion of the program requires an annual business audit to confirm that the information provided within the labelling is reliable, that the organization has the necessary systems, processes, and personnel in place to sustain consistent label completion at scale, and that a label can be produced for all in-market segments available. Engagements typically range between [two to five] months, depending upon the size and complexity of the company’s business.”

So now that’s the Data Label is available to the data-driven marketing marketplace, is there real traction to see its use?  From the data provider side, at least, I’d say so.  While some may be taking a wait-and-see approach, some data marketing companies are moving forward with data labeling and transparency certification.

“The digital ecosystem tends to focus on areas like inventory and traffic,” said Chris Hemick, senior product marketing manager, Alliant, whose company is now in the onboarding process. “Alliant is an advocate for bringing the same level of focus to the data marketplace. We firmly believe that IAB’s efforts to spotlight data provider practices around audience creation will be a positive for the entire industry.”

Another data provider, Audience Acuity, echoes these sentiments. “The concept of the Data Transparency Label was introduced in the fourth quarter of last year, after it was developed by the ANA’s Data Marketing Analytics (DMA) division, the IAB Tech Lab, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), and the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF),” said Riad Shalaby, CMO of Audience Acuity. “We are aligned with their perspective on this important topic, and we are delighted to be one of the first major data companies in the United States to provide this level of transparency.”

There are many things we, as data marketing professionals, need to concern ourselves with in best practices, ethics, and even legal compliance. Brand safety, ad measurement, piracy, privacy and security, and fake anything are among them. Proper data governance is related to all of these concerns. The more we spotlight our roles as stewards of and for data integrity, the better we can achieve marketplace confidence and trust in the very information that helps make brand-consumer engagement succeed.