Behind Third-Party Intent Data - Understand the Source

Jul 16, 2019 | Author Ed Marsh

If you’re using or considering intent data for demand generation or any of the various use cases across the buyer journey, you need to evaluate it from various perspectives.

Of course, it has to fit your tactical requirements. Often that means including actual contact information, granular contextual detail on the action taken and collection from a broad range of sources.

It should also include understanding the intent data source(s) so you can gauge accuracy and weigh your company’s philosophical positions against the data. The decisions you’ll make will be specific to your stances on privacy and risk tolerance. First, though, you have to understand the source and the implications.

AddThis and Bidstream

Shashi Upadhyay, CEO of predictive tool Lattice Engines, which was recently acquired by D&B, posted an article on LinkedIn in March 2019 that engendered a feisty response from Charlie Tarzian, president of Aberdeen and formerly CEO of The Big Willow (see the article comments for the exchange.)

Upadhyay’s article is worth reading. He cites four sources of data (omitting the method we use) and offered specific details on two.

“Each of these has a very different profile with respect to GDPR compliance. For example, a recent AdExchanger article announced Oracle's decision to kill off the AddThis business in Europe. As the article states - "Under the General Data Protection Regulation, unconsented third-party data – the lifeblood of the AddThis audience asset – is a form of kryptonite that Oracle Data Cloud (ODC) wants nothing to do with any more." If you care about GDPR compliance, make sure your Intent provider is not using AddThis as their primary data source.

What about bidstream data? In a recent review of bidstream data and its uses, James Hercher of AdExchanger points out that "companies that ... don’t own the data and risk crippling penalties from regulators and clients if they were to use bidstream data beyond setting a bid for an impression." Moreover, he points out that the standard way of deriving intent data from bidstream is problematic - "The way to get the most value out of bidstream data is, unfortunately, to misuse it. An unscrupulous DSP could monitor the bidstream for sites with valuable audiences, pull cookies or IP addresses, which can be retargeted, and then find the same users on cheaper sites."

Bidstream has also come into recent focus for its potential non-compliance with GDPR. Johnny Ryan of Brave Insights has pointed out that real-time bidding would be incompatible with consent under GDPR. From a compliance perspective, intent providers relying on bidstream stand on very weak ground. Some of them have tried to get around this limitation by relying on IP addresses as an identifier of account-level activity, however, this kind of intent tends to be noisy and less accurate.”

Target Marketing Magazine’s look at bidstream data also notes, “For extracting the data from bidstream, you’ll have to ask for permission from the publishers.”

Understanding and Managing Intent Data Risk

GDPR is one consideration and based on the article comments, there are very different schools of thought on a company's exposure.

Walter Williams raises an additional set of considerations around successor liability - the process by which a new owner inherits exposure for the sins of prior owners.

Intent data is often used to grow aggressively by companies with dreams of a significant liquidity event. As an event nears, the due diligence process is intended to identify any potential lurking risks. Owners are asked to warrant that they’ve disclosed everything.

If a company has grown by using problematic practices, that could at least impair the valuation, and potentially derail the transaction.

Therefore, the process of understanding and managing any risk related to intent data should consider implications today, tomorrow and some time in the future.

Each company has to make its own decision, but it’s a decision to make proactively rather than by default.

1% Accuracy 😱 versus Volume

Why would intent data providers opt for potentially problematic sources? One reason is simple: It solves a technical problem of how to collect data.

Another may relate to volume. (In fact Aberdeen’s report alludes to this in noting that its bidstream source gives it access to “billions of webpages.”)

There is a natural inclination among folks considering intent data to assume that more signal means a better product. That’s true as long as the signal is accurate (really manifests intent) and actionable (includes the required context and contact details to support personalized sales and marketing at scale).

The reality with bidstream data may be somewhat different.

Let’s look at accuracy first. Estimates differ, but a quick search finds that somewhere between 80%, 90% or even 99% of bidstream location data is “inaccurate and sometimes even fraudulent.” Foursquare’s CEO succinctly summed it up, “Another note on accuracy: More data does not mean better data.”

Strength of Signal

The value of intent data is limited by the degree to which it reflects actual intent. You probably assume that buyer intent data reflects some specific action or engagement that could be reasonably construed as an indicator of purchase intent.

That’s an entirely reasonable assumption.

Shockingly, it may be unjustified.

To understand why, it’s worth taking a quick detour into how bidstream works. “7 Essential Answers About Marketers' Bidstream Data Questions” from Target Marketing Magazine (@TargetMktg) provides a good overview. The key element is this:

“Bidstream data may be gathered via an ad request within the browser or through the SDK, which is integrated into an app. In a nutshell, the user visits an app, sees an advertisement, and then the SDK sends the request to an SSP. This request already contains information about the user’s device location, screen size and orientation, language settings and more. Data is then transferred to your DSP.”

Stop and think about that for a moment.

The trigger here is that “a user sees an advertisement.”

Let that sink in.

You probably passed several billboards on your way to work this morning. One may have even been a 3D cow beseeching you to “Eat more chikin.”

Does that mean you’re ready to run to Chick-fil-A for a meal? Of course not. It takes a truly absurd contortion to extrapolate that merely seeing an ad (actually, the proper description is probably “being served an ad” since you might not actually see it) is a worthwhile manifestation of activity in the market.

Would you be comfortable standing up in front of your investors and telling them that your growth plan is based on the certainty you have that chasing people who have been served an ad is somehow tangentially related to what you do will yield amazing growth?

I didn’t think so…

Breadth, Accuracy, Context, Public

This article is primarily intended as an educational PSA. That being said, there is a self-serving angle.

There is an intent data solution that addresses these issues.

Our information is:

  • publicly sourced
  • collected from around the entire internet amid all the unstructured data across billions of sites
  • contact-level (versus account-level) and therefore actionable and allows personalization at scale
  • includes context, and often even the link to the instance of action/engagement so that you can consider the magnitude and relevance of the intent action

And we won’t ever report that someone who was shown (and maybe saw, or maybe didn’t see) an ad is a likely, ready buyer for your product/service.

Be an Informed Behavioral Intent Data Buyer

There are a lot of data models in the market. And there are multiple vendors for most of the models. Static lists, data enrichment, deanonymizers, second-party intent data and third-party intent data are all solutions.

There’s overlap for some applications and clear leaders for others.

So as you find yourself being swept up in the intent data frenzy, or reevaluating your current data solution’s performance, check out our Guide to Buying and Using Intent Data. We hope it helps you really understand the market to make the right choice for you and your company.



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