The prevailing trend in programmatic over the past few years has been transparency, and with good reason. Larger players had been self-dealing by working both the demand and supply sides of the ecosystem, creating inherent discrepancies in their intentions (should inventory be cheaper to benefit buyers, or more expensive to benefit publishers? Why do these titans get to choose?). Some DSPs (who shall go unnamed) would pull a rabbit out of a hat – enter your budgets, et voila, see performance – without any of the details as to where they were running and who they were serving to.

In order to come across as a good buy-side partner in today’s day and age, you need to be open – clients need to see where their money is being sent, the quality of sites they’re running on, trading adjustments being made, CPM, and revenue percentages – but why don’t we vet our data partners with the same level of care?

In my time leveraging DSPs and working directly with programmatic traders, the overall attitude towards third party data has been ‘let’s see what sticks,’ creating large audiences of mixed providers and whittling audiences down to our best performing segments from there. Though that might work in terms of achieving performance, it does nothing to assure us we’re targeting the right users through the right methods.

This is easier to illustrate with an example – let’s say we’re creating an audience around millennial smartphone users. We could take some pre-built Blue Kai segments of high-propensity smartphone users, no problem, but where’s the value? How were these users collected? Which apps would be included? Was it built with deterministic data, or is it inferred? It leaves us with more questions than it answers.

Where I see value is finding out which providers specialize in app-based data, like PushSpring. We’ve worked with them to understand their collection methodology, which involves creating profiles around app ownership and allowing us to target users based upon the apps on their mobile devices. For this example, we would work with them to create a customized segment to be pushed to our DSPs with a focused set of app profiles. and have a crisp understanding of how we’re going about reaching our target audience.

I predict more and more advertisers getting smarter as to which data partners they align with – there’s concrete value in learning which of your providers are using deterministic data, panels, probabilistic data, look alike models – and paying the same attention as they do to their site lists. Big Data is a rapidly growing space with new partners emerging daily, with sets of differentiators to reinvent how we purchase media and target users. It’s staying on top of them that’s key.