Flaws in accuracy and coverage in sampling data can foil brands’ targeting efforts, and ultimately their return on advertising investment, Sequent Partners consulting duo Alice Sylvester and Jim Spaeth charge. The culprits: crippling media fragmentation, and a dearth of research on missing and misidentifying consumers when using commercially available target segments for digital campaigns.
This, of course, bodes badly for advanced television advertising. Although the perils of bringing digital targeting to television and problems with data quality are well-known in the research community, “surprisingly few users of digital targets are aware of issues specifically related to accuracy and coverage,” Sylvester and Spaeth note from their daily interactions with marketers and media companies. Many vendors claim to have done numerous validations for their clients, but they don’t make the results available for proprietary reasons—a practice that is drawing increased scrutiny. The research industry is working harder to find solutions for these weak links in data quality, but to the authors’ knowledge as of March, there were only two official studies that specifically have explored accuracy and coverage of targeting and segmenting data. A third one by Sylvester published this year examines the root causes of misidentification and lack of coverage of ethnic consumers in practice.
Given the potential for making huge mistakes in targeting as a result of weak datasets, marketers should heed Sylvester and Spaeth’s advice to:
Encourage data providers to validate key audiences and push them to increase coverage.
Alice K. Sylvester (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a partner at Sequent Partners and Jolt!, consulting firms in the New York City area. She has led industry initiatives on return on investment, multi-touch and television attribution, digital audience segments, mobile media measurement, multicultural sales and digital data, among others. Previously, Sylvester held leadership positions in research and planning at advertising agencies including Young & Rubicam (Y&R), Leo Burnett, and J. Walter Thompson. She is a member of the Journal of Advertising Research’s Editorial Review Board, is a past chairman of the board of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), and coauthored Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer (Allen & Unwin; 2000).
Jim Spaeth (email@example.com) is cofounder of Sequent Partners and a Jolt! partner. He has consulted on media, advertising and brand metrics, and analytics for many of the country’s foremost marketers, media, and industry associations. Previously, Jim served a seven-year term as ARF president, and he worked at General Foods and Y&R developing new research tools. Spaeth is president of the Market Research Council (MRC). Accolades distinguishing his contributions to advertising research include induction into the MRC Hall of Fame in 2015 and the ARF’s 2017 Erwin Ephron Demystification Award.