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The Need for ‘Neutral’ Data and What it Means for Marketers

Astute execs today know that data in marketing technology has become the lifeblood to companies becoming 21st century brands. But while standing up to the challenge of digital transformation, many marketers are still new at managing data central to their businesses. Marketers increasingly expect to activate data for a variety of use cases, and many companies are shifting their business models to provide support.

Brands are increasingly building programmatic teams which learn to leverage first and third party data rather than outsourcing it all to ad tech companies or ad agencies. The IAB recently reported that digital ad revenue grew 23 percent to $40 billion in the first half of 2017 in the U.S. alone.  At the same time, an ecosystem of so-called ‘neutral’ data providers — those who offer data not tied to media — is emerging.


In the early years of building Factual, there was often confusion about what it meant to be a data company — a company that had its own data assets and made them accessible to other businesses. Many would react by saying, “Oh, yes, you are doing big data.” While that’s technically true since we do process and analyze trillions of records, it isn’t sufficiently descriptive, because most big data companies neither own nor license data assets to others, and fewer do both. A better descriptor is ‘neutral’ data company — we build data, license it to other businesses to power their own software solutions, and don’t compete with these customers.

Recently, the neutral data category has gone from a misunderstood and underappreciated concept to a growing necessity in the martech ecosystem. An increasing number of companies today are partially or fully re-orienting themselves around the new neutral data model, especially in marketing.


There are two ways a company can approach their data and media strategy — purchase media pre-bundled with data, or purchase data independently from media. Those who want transparency and control of the data tend to go with the former and those who prefer the simplest one-stop solution tend to go with the latter. Below, we outline the pros to each approach.

PROS of Purchasing Data Separate from Media

  • Transparency around supply sources and pricing
  • Direct control of, and transparency on, campaign targeting parameters
  • Ability to enrich your own in-house data assets
  • Cost efficiency based on direct access to exchange inventory
  • Experimentation loop optimizes in house learning and insights about customer acquisition strategies

PROS of Purchasing Data Coupled with Media

  • It’s a one-stop solution that require less time and effort
  • Managed solutions may offer more hand-holding and customer support
  • Guarantees on performance are sometimes offered (along with the higher fees)


Many people have evaluated the best ad platforms, but fewer have evaluated the best data. Here are a few questions to make sure you are choosing an appropriate data partner.

  • Is data sold alone, or exclusively coupled with media?
  • Are data assets proprietary and differentiated?
  • Is there transparency into the underlying data assets?
  • What processes are in place to measure quality?
  • Is data updated regularly?

Whether data is purchased alone or with media, the advertising industry wins as a whole with increased data usage. After all, data allows for smarter marketing decisions and better, more personalized consumer experiences.