About That Data: Acxiom’s Experiment in Transparency Reveals How Data Can Get Stuck in a Time Warp

I learned something about myself recently that I didn’t know before.

Apparently, I am a mother.

This came as a complete shock to me. But according to Acxiom’s foray into data transparency, AboutTheData.com, I am the proud parent of one child. And I’m a pretty scrappy and stylish single parent, too — seeing as I only make $40K a year, but I drive around in an Infiniti convertible.

Looking at these data, it makes sense that I constantly get advertisements for baby products, degree programs and golf clubs. In reality, I’m a decently paid, college-educated, childless woman that drives an SUV and gave up golf after high school.  I’m actually the perfect audience for spa vacations, designer handbags and exclusive event tickets, but you’d never guess that from my data profile.

As a marketer that specializes in trust-based marketing, I applaud Acxiom’s efforts to educate consumers about data collection techniques and practices. This leadership is needed in our industry. The bigger Big Data gets, the creepier it can seem. But Big Brother isn’t quite as scary when you take off his mask or you can see him coming. While AboutTheData.com is a fantastic effort to empower consumers, Acxiom’s experiment in transparency reveals exactly how data can get stuck in a time warp.

Not Wrong So Much As Out Of Date

Now, I can see how the data brokers came to these conclusions about me. Some things they just assumed based on my behavior. For example, I am an aunt to two great kids, so there are a few children present in my life. I’m sure I’ve purchased a sassy onesie or a Ninjago Lego set online. Other things used to be true about me. I did, at one time, make $40K a year — 15 years ago. I also had a brief rendezvous with a hard-top G37 until I realized that I live in Texas and it’s just too dang hot to drive without the AC on.

I am constantly evolving. My data profile, however, is lagging behind. Unfortunately, this is the information that data brokers use to place me in a neat and tidy pre-packaged audience segments like “Gardening Gurus” (I can kill a fake plant) or “Turned On By Lighting” (I bought a chandelier once… six years ago). They sell these audience segments to advertisers trying to make their marketing more relevant. The result: completely irrelevant advertising served to the wrong consumer.

Roach Motel is a trademarked term owned by the Black Flag insecticide brand.

Roach Motel is a trademarked term owned by the Black Flag insecticide brand.

Pre-packaged audience segments are like Roach Motels — data checks in, but it doesn’t check out.

For all you folks in the “Millenial Masterminds” segment, Roach Motels were a brand of insect traps from the late 70s, a sort of halfway house for cockroaches on their way to sleep with the coffee grounds. The packaging for the devices included all sorts of unique selling propositions like:

  • Traps insects for days!
  • Hides dead bugs from view!
  • Guaranteed to work or your money back!

And that’s exactly what a pre-packaged audience segment does to data:

  • Traps data for days!
  • Hides dead data from view!
  • Guaranteed to work or… well, two out of three ain’t bad.

In the world of programmatic marketing, context is king. And a critical component of context is recency. Regardless of what bit of data you gathered about me, recency almost always holds the trump card.

When did I do it?

Is this fact still true about me right now?

Recency Is Key

Recency changes value. Significantly. The difference between a valuable customer and a waste of marketing budget could just be a matter of minutes to a pizza delivery service. And good luck getting me to buy after-market accessories for the car I traded in 3 years ago. But put an ad for a new restaurant in downtown Fort Worth in front of me around 7 p.m. tonight? Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Literally.

So how do you keep from marketing to a bunch of, um, trapped cockroaches? Use unstructured data sourced directly from the data source. By sourcing data directly, you never have to devalue the data by placing it into an opaque audience segment. By keeping each individual data element visible, including the time stamp associated with it, you create infinite opportunities for individual relevance within the milliseconds it takes to win an RTB auction.

When we stop guessing what people might do and use the data that tells us exactly what they are doing right now, buying advertising gets incredibly efficient — which also means it gets incredibly profitable.

And relevant advertising isn’t just valuable to your brand. It is also valuable to your customer. Relevancy allows you to connect with each and every customer through the shared values of dignity, understanding and respect — for their time, for their true needs and for their desires — both in this present moment and in the future.

But when it comes to data, there’s not much use in living in the past.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Display Advertising: Programmatic Media Buying


About The Author: is the VP, Marketing at Simpli.fi, a programmatic marketing platform that leverages unstructured data. A former strategic marketing consultant, client-side marketing executive and agency strategist, Amber is an expert in trust-based marketing–creating lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships between brands and customers.

Sign Up To Get This Newsletter Via Email:  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!