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IPA report reveals how to extract maximum value from Media Databases

What is the right data? Who owns it? How do you join up and extract value from the wealth of available data sets? These are just some of the vital questions addressed in the IPA’s free report, ‘Media Databases: the challenges and the potential in the age of convergence’, published today (16 October 2014) as part of the IPA’s comprehensive Know the Value of Media project.*


The report acknowledges the increasingly complex media landscape in which multiple sources of media databases are available to advertisers, ranging from clients’ own data, third-party data, media owners and pure-play digital platforms. It also provides advice, a 10-point checklist for working with media owner databases and 10 best practice case studies, to help the industry to manage, interpret and extract maximum value from this data.

Says David Fletcher, Chief Data Officer, MEC, who authored the report, with contributions from Vic Davies, Senior Lecturer, Buckingham New University: “The dynamic nature of convergence plus the continually increasing power of technology mean that both the amount of data collected is greater and that it is collected on a continuous basis. This creates the potential for distribution into business processes and structures which in turn need to be understood and managed. This is something we hope this guide will help all sides of the industry to acknowledge and address.”

Report highlights, in addition to the 10-point checklist:

  • Today’s marketing databases are dynamic, vast and can be collected quickly and continuously.
  • Increasing computing power means it is simple to analyse and act on this data in real-time. For example, automated online advertising trading systems allow consumer data analysis, bidding and ad-serving in less than 10 milliseconds – comfortably within the 0.1 seconds that it normally takes a page to load. 
  • The definition of a media-owner database can be expanded to include: the client’s owned media assets, such as website and social media channels; traditional media owners, such as broadcasters like Sky and publishers who collect data from their digital platforms; hybrid media-data businesses, including Experian, comparison sites, and mobile phone companies; and digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter whose advertising proposition is built on vast amounts of audience data.
  • There are three key themes around databases: audience targeting, insight, and evaluation:

1) Targeting: new platforms and datasets offer multiple ways of targeting including by demographics, location, behaviour, content matching and interest – as well as combinations of these. Best practice case studies include Coca-Cola, Virgin Records, Renault and East Coast Trains.

2) Insight: data itself does not deliver insight. Insight comes from the application of information and knowledge that brings fresh perspective on consumer behaviour and relationships with brands. However, the different ways data is collected affects its use as a means to gain insight. Clients must be clear about their objectives, but also how that any single database relates to others, to the client’s marketing communications activity, and to competitor actions. The best practice case studies include Homebase, Morrisons and Lenovo.

3) Evaluation: in theory, data from digital platforms can be used to assess the efficacy of communication activity in a relatively straightforward manner. However, given the growing use of multi-channel, multi-platform communications strategies (including non-digital media), meaningful evaluation is more complex. IKEA’s work with EE data to evaluate Facebook, and PHE’s use of Dunnhumby data to evaluate Change4Life serve as best practice examples.

  • Advertisers need to understand that there can be significant differences between databases that can make analysis or integration difficult, especially with an advertiser’s own database(s) or in a dynamic manner. Issues include: audience definition, data collection and platform, database functionality and analytical tools, data ownership, ‘lake’ databases (i.e. static) and ‘river’ databases (i.e. dynamic), date of origin of data, and consumer churn and linkage with ‘offline’ audience universes. 
  • Three non-exclusive methods for ensuring that perspective is maintained when dealing with data are to stand back from the data; contextualise the data against other categories; and use research-based approaches to provide a consumer view of the category.

Download the free report from the IPA website at:

*This report forms part of the IPA’s Know the Value of Media Report project to help C-suite business leaders understand the impact of the increasingly complex media communications eco-system and to explain the role media agencies can play in today’s business world.

The project consists of an IPA-commissioned Economist Intelligence Unit survey to discover how companies are adjusting their strategies to target and sell to connected customers, two additional free and invaluable reports, written by industry experts, another by Denise Turner is to be published today (16 October) and one by Andrew Willshire and Paul Sturgeon to be published on 13 November. The project will then culminate in a free debate on 13 November, to be hosted by Google and featuring Nick Blunden of The Economist. Further information and to register to attend the free event and/or to download the free reports is available at

Last updated 16/10/2014

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