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BizReport : Advertising : June 14, 2017

Expert: Why digital needs data normalization

Programmatic touches the entire digital advertising ecosphere including brands, agencies, ad tech vendors, ad networks, and publishers. One of the challengers is that each player tends to have its own data set which may or may not be compatible with the next player, making revenue reconciliation particularly difficult. So we asked Dan Lawton, the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Ad-Juster about data normalization as a potential solution:

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: What is data normalization? If businesses have been able to operate without it for all these years, why is it necessary now?

Dan Lawton, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer, Ad-Juster: Data normalization technology unifies, transforms, and standardizes incongruent values across platforms. It allows for direct comparisons that wouldn't otherwise be possible. It's like getting a cornucopia full of 100 different types of fruit and not only converting it all to apples, but actually being able to eat them.
As more time goes by without standardization, the more mired the industry gets, trying to make sense of an ever-growing tangle of terms and mismatched values. The largest obstacle to comprehensive, end-to-end programmatic reporting has been normalizing data across different vendors due to the astronomical discrepancies between what they support and what dimensions they provide. With every new vendor that enters the industry, so too does a whole new set of terms, values, and mismatched dimensions. Normalized data is too intensive and complex for publishers to do manually on their own. And even if a publisher were able to achieve anything in this area, it most likely wouldn't be useful for anyone else, because it would be too specific to the unique terms and values that particular publisher deals with.

Kristina: How is normalized data more actionable? Is this greater degree of actionability intended to completely replace the spreadsheets traditionally used in ops reporting?

Lawton: Without unified, transformed, and standardized data, it's virtually impossible to identify patterns within traditional spreadsheets. Normalized data makes it possible to quickly identify trends and patterns throughout your partners. For example, normalized data allows you to automatically inject numbers into a graph to get highly digestible trends such as if a partner's eCPM numbers are significantly underperforming or if their fill rates are sharply declining. Normalized data also allows you to speedily assess revenue performance and even potential, future ROI by identifying valuable unique demand. It's like the most efficient physician's checkup possible for your operations. You're shown what parts of your operations are ailing and need mending or, perhaps, a complete replacement. Similarly, the quick-reference capabilities of normalized data boost the overall wellbeing of your business by prescribing optimal supplements, new partners that will best work with your particular organization.

Ad-Juster isn't trying to replace spreadsheets though. In fact, Excel spreadsheets are still a staple of their data reporting--there's no need to reinvent the spreadsheet wheel. Ad-Juster uses the built-in functionality, such as formulas, filters, and conditional formatting, to support their mission of delivering a universal language across companies and industries. Excel spreadsheets are an ideal vehicle for that vital unifying commonality.

Kristina: What is being done to improve the ops industry as a whole?

Lawton: To address the need for a solution that transcends single, siloed applications, Ad-Juster has been establishing a universal language through the industry's first and only data dictionary. The dictionary unifies values and maps files across platforms. For example, Ad-Juster's data normalization technology can process a list of different countries in different platforms and transform them so they're the same comparable values. This data dictionary does take time, but it has already been revolutionizing the way businesses can make sense of, optimize, and put their data into action in ways not previously possible.
Publishers have long been without sufficient leverage in their business relationships since they're typically perceived as the service provider, not the customer, and thus not in a position to make significant demands. Ad-Juster's data normalization technology is starting to help publishers enjoy a more mutually beneficial experience in what looks increasingly like strategic relationships versus the lopsided relationships they traditionally had to endure. This is because Ad-Juster's data normalization technology naturally reveals which partners can deliver specific data. Perhaps more importantly, data normalization also unveils which partners can't deliver the data publishers need. This grants publishers a degree of leverage not previously available to them. Now they can approach current and potential partners, indicating the data they need while providing evidence that isolates those partners as the only ones not providing what they need. At that point, it's either conform to the publisher's requested data sets or start losing premium publishing opportunities.

Tags: Ad-Juster, advertising, advertising data, data normalization

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