Defining ‘Data Management Platform’


ADOTAS – This summer, Forrester Research released an independent report on Data Management Platforms, “The DMP Is The Audience Intelligence Engine For Interactive Marketers.” In the report, Forrester defines a DMP as:

“… a unified technology platform that intakes disparate first-, second-, and third-party data sets, provides normalization and segmentation on that data, and allows a user to push the resulting segmentation into live interactive channel environments.”

I think this definition is spot on. However, over the last several months I have concluded that few DMPs are delivering on the promise suggested by the definition.

In our present parlance, DMP means almost anything to anyone. The term has become a catchall phrase with many meanings that seldom deliver against the definition in Forrester’s report. A DMP’s value and service varies greatly from company to company. Consequently, marketers face a significant challenge deciding what is essential in choosing a DMP.

The Forrester report identifies what I think is the most important trend in the DMP space:

“The past three years have seen an explosion of third-party data providers enter the market selling everything from demographic to behavioral to social data. We expect that market to condense and prices to drop as marketers turn to it merely to fill in gaps in their audience segmentation — which is increasingly built upon first-party data as marketers seek to maintain competitive advantage through deep knowledge of their customers — not to form the core of their targeting strategies.”

For years, we thought that marketers could accurately target audiences by buying online segments—and sometimes that is enough. Forrester’s report shines a light on marketers looking for technology solutions that bring together offline and online data—in a privacy compliant way. After all, marketers have spent considerable time and resources gaining these offline audience insights.

Safely harnessing these data assets will only lead to better results and improved ROI. That is why the industry is swiftly moving toward understanding consumers better through first-party data instead of trying to connect to consumers with buckets of audience segments stitched together from third-party data sources.

What’s Next?

The current ecosystem is way too complicated, seemingly working at cross-purposes. The demand side wants to reach its desired audience at the highest ROI, while the supply side wants to sell its audience to the highest bidder. Actionable insights are needed to change course where necessary, improve campaign performance, and ultimately improve each side’s return on investment. Marketers need a way to test each element of their DMP, including the buy side and the sell side.

My advice to the DMP corner of the interactive world is to focus on what our end-user needs–analytics and insights to drive ROI improvements, not more sampled third-party data with predictive modeling. DMPs should not provide estimations instead of real numbers. The best DMP solutions have a few commonalities: data accuracy and integrity, scalability, multi-channel reach, and lastly, neutrality and trust—meaning that DMP solutions should not be in the business of buying and selling data.

I would expand Forrester’s DMP definition to say that DMPs are the audience intelligence engine, while analytics with actionable insights are the media intelligence engine behind the DMP. Audience intelligence and media intelligence are not the same things, but they work in concert to provide a complete picture. Data as a stand-alone proposition is of little utility to the media buyers in the trenches.

If media buyers are spending three days a week just analyzing data, when do they actually have the time to act on what they have learned? Knowing “what to do” is far more important than “what happened.” The first-party data trend is catching on because media intelligence gleaned from first-party data and offline data is much more accurate—making “what to do” insights more actionable and reliable.

I thank Forrester for the wonderful work they did on the DMP Audience Intelligence report; now we need to add media intelligence into the mix. Media intelligence consists of facts learned in aggregate from attribution models, media and audience analytics, across all mediums (display, social, search, mobile, video, and IPTV), and across all media sources including first-, second-, and third-party, online and offline data.

We are not there yet, but Forrester’s report shows we are on the right track. By listening to what our end users want, and focusing first on guiding our clients to the most direct and accurate insight, we are one step closer to arriving at the true potential of interactive.


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