NEW YORK: Much of the data now being leveraged by marketers could benefit from coming with a health warning attached, according to Jonathan Steuer, Chief Research Officer at Omnicom Media Group.

Steuer discussed this subject during a session at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) 2017 Audience Measurement conference in New York.

"What I would love from all of you data and research methodology sellers is something like the food information – and nutrition information – labels about what's in your research product: What's in your data, where did you collect it, and what did it get matched to?" he said. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Why marketing data should come with a health warning.)

Building on this theme, Steuer suggested that providing "more disclosure and more sunshine" would be invaluable to brand custodians, who are hungry for insight but currently unsure about the quality of the numbers they receive.

"You have to really dig to figure out what's in there, and then you still don't know if it's true, because there's no way to test it," he said.

"So, please, tell us what's in there at a high level of detail so we know whether we can bet on it or not, because that's exactly what we're doing."

A common problem observable at present, Steuer continued, involves the fact too many marketers base their data diet purely on trust, while too few exercise rigorous scrutiny.

"One of the huge mistakes on the digital-side has always been taking at face value the kinds of targeting data … and trying to take that all the way to the bank without properly vetting it, and without knowing for sure what you were doing was fully baked," he said.

The risk of fulfilling the marketing prophecy of "garbage in, garbage out" should encourage agencies and clients to take a proactive stance in this area. But that is not the only issue to worry about, Omnicom's research chief asserted.

"In fact, the most dangerous situation is the one where you use garbage data and it works anyway, because then you don't even get to find out [why it worked]," said Steuer. "It's why the test and control is really, really important."

Data sourced from WARC