What IAB Data Transparency Labels SHOULD be



I sometimes hear people say that the IAB Tech Lab’s Data Transparency Labels are the best thing that could happen to the digital marketing industry. But in my opinion, they are incomplete, like a food label missing the ingredient list.

The IAB Data Transparency Label, introduced in 2018, provides meta information about how an audience is defined, how often it is refreshed, and whether it is cookie-based, among other attributes. While I think all of this information is good, I also see it as the opening ante to a poker game. What marketers should be looking for are the details of who is actually in a particular audience.

Doing Better

For example, at NetWise, we give you granular information about the people in our data set, including the number of companies, contacts, domains, and locations, as well as the industry, company size, and individual titles, job functions, and seniority. Yet, an IAB Data Transparency Label for one of our audiences could look virtually identical to an audience from a data aggregator with lower quality data. The files may have the scale but they often lack the accuracy, showing the same audience size, for example, but failing to reflect that fact that the aggregator file only includes ten companies whereas the NetWise files includes thousands.

Few data providers can say how many companies or contacts are in their data sets, which is why I believe that most B2B audience data is bad. A data provider that is aggregating data from multiple providers at the cookie level will have no insight into the companies or individuals associated with those cookies. All they know is that there’s a cookie out there from one of their data sources with this particular data attribute. They’re going to maximize scale, but the accuracy and ability to disclose what is actually in that data simply doesn’t exist.

Improving the Standard

If I were to add fields to the IAB data label to make it more meaningful from a B2B perspective, I would include information about the number of companies and contacts in the data set – not the number of cookies or device IDs – and more information about those companies and people. It’s important for marketers to know how many people or companies are in their data file so that they can calculate the percentage of targeted people or businesses that actually converted. But they may never be able to perform that calculation when they leverage a data set from anyone but NetWise, because other providers simply don’t know how many people or companies are in their audiences.  

The IAB Data Transparency Label is a step in the right direction. At this point, it is better suited for B2C campaigns. For B2B marketers, it just doesn’t cut it.

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