Data & Marketing Association Launches Data-Quality Initiative

The Data Quality Labeling Standards program is intended to help customers assess a third party’s data sourcing and performance at a glance.

Oceans of customer data are available for marketers to use, which is both a big opportunity and a serious problem. How do you assess whether the data a third party is selling is worth purchasing?

To address that question, the Data & Marketing Association is taking the lead on the creation of a tool that will allow purchasers to easily see a validated measure of the content and quality of a data set, much like an FDA nutrition label does.

What kept coming up was a need for greater transparency and accuracy.

Announced last week, the Data Quality Labeling Standards program is a product of DMA’s Council for Data Integrity. DMA joins 15 of its member companies and two partner associations, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), in the effort. According to Neil O’Keefe, DMA’s SVP of marketing and content, the Council annually takes on a big topic, and lately transparency has been top-of-mind for the group. “Coming out of 2017, what kept coming up was a need for greater transparency and accuracy in the data that’s used by marketers in order to better deliver relevant and valuable experiences to consumers,” he said.

The matter is pressing thanks to the growth of inaccurate and deceptive data sold to marketers. In 2016, IBM estimated that bad data costs the U.S. economy $3 trillion annually. “Between the fraudulent bad actors, the lack of transparency in data sources and uses, and the loss of data fidelity as data passes from vendor to vendor, marketers end up relying on data that they don’t understand nor have the tools or comprehension to interrogate,” said Julie Fleischer, vice president, product marketing, marketing solutions at the data analytics firm Neustar, one of the participating members, in a statement.

To that end, the council and its partners intend to create a common “data label” that would identify the quality of a data set relating to the data’s sourcing, cleansing, collection, and performance in a number of categories. DMA intends to have the first iteration of the data label public by the end of the year, and among the first tasks for the council, O’Keefe says, is narrowing the scope of what the label will cover.

“The challenge for us right now is to balance between a very exhaustive list but also getting something into the marketplace quickly and efficiently,” he said. “We don’t want to get overly bogged down and try to boil the ocean to make too exhaustive a list. But we understand that there’s a quite a bit of detail and quite a bit of work that needs to be done.”

To make that happen, O’Keefe said, its kept the door open to a variety of participants on the council, and encouraging more members to participate, including groups who may have different goals when it comes to data usage. “There’s competing companies and their clients in the same room, and it’s amazing the amount of openness that’s shared between the companies,” he said. The DMA and its two partner associations, ARF and CIMM, will also be establishing an independent validation process for the program.

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Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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