Experts: Fight for ownership of your first-party data

Experts: Fight for ownership of your first-party data

Now that customer data has become so incredibly useful in fine-tuning marketing campaigns and controlling ROI, some agencies and their clients are struggling to define who, exactly, owns that information.

A recent survey determined 81 percent of global marketers find data important to their goals, while 59 percent consider it critical. As optimization of such data ramps up, however, ownership issues are rearing their heads. Is it the marketing agency that orders, stores and interprets the research, or the client that pays the agency for its use? Should the client be enabled to share that intelligence with its other partners, or should the agency maintain it as an element of competitive advantage? And to what extent should the agency’s added interpretation of the data involved affect its ownership?

In MarTech Today, marketing consultant Josh Manion advises marketers to guard their access to first-party data at all costs, since third-party information tends to be less accurate and thus less useful. First-party data is collected directly from consumers as they access brand-owned websites, social platforms and mobile apps, integrated with info from customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, call centers, point-of-sale systems, website cookies, registration forms, brand surveys, social media and other company-specific sources. And a recent eMarketer survey found 87 percent of U.S. marketers rank it as the most valuable kind of customer data across the board, particularly as it relates to transaction histories, customer information and behavioral data.

“To win in this game of buyer agility, marketers require a rigorous approach to data ownership delivering high-quality intelligence for marketing and advertising initiatives,” Manion writes. “Yet closed marketing suites typically restrict access to data. And marketers and advertisers routinely dump their first-party data into third-party martech and adtech vendor systems designed to work with third-party cookies, then lose control of it.”

Alexandra Bruell advises similar precautions in AdAge.

“The issue is not so cut and dried,” she writes. “With data comes power, and agencies often have both. Agencies often ink the contracts with the digital vendors that generate client data and insights, (and it’s) often stored so deep in agencies’ technology systems it can be less efficient for the client to transition the account to another agency than to stick with its shop. That wrinkle gives agencies leverage to hold on to business.”

Clients navigating such ownership issues might follow these suggestions:

  • Seek contractual language granting you and your affiliates access to data-vendor materials, specifically addressing permission for account transition. If necessary, work with trade groups or other specialists to draft trade ownership and transition guidelines.
  • Ask that information you’re funding not be co-mingled with other client accounts.
  • Ensure you own the cookies that collect the data.
  • On an ongoing basis, stitch multichannel, cross-device data into user profiles to better determine what customers seek as individuals instead of audiences.
  • Aim to control the entire life cycle of data across every customer touch point. Consider establishing your own demand-side platform, data management platform or ad server to house the information. If the agency uses its own DMP, that may well allow it to sell the information it sold you to your competitors. “The problem many digital marketers face today is that they will use a DMP as if it’s their own database, while failing to keep a copy of the behavioral data they feed into it,” advises Manion. “If the relationship with that DMP vendor is terminated, the digital marketer loses both ownership and control of the data.”
  • Be aware the owner of the data also takes responsibility for its security.

“With every new channel, platform, device and the combinations thereof, data ownership becomes more strategic and complex,” advises Manion. “(But) complete data ownership is the only option for the enterprise that wants to engage individual consumers with relevant and timely experiences, as well as solve for security and privacy requirements.”

Learn more about the power of first-party data at