An entry-level model for in-house your marketing stack

Now that third-party cookies are disappearing, interest in first-party data is increasing rapidly. The focus here is mainly on collecting data that can be collected using Google Analytics, customer data platforms and CRM systems. Of course, there is also a world outside your own website and app: paid advertising. This first-party data is less easy to discern.

Take hold of your data

Many companies partner with an agency that runs an external ad server. If the ad server is managed by an agency, external data is generally only sparsely available to the advertiser or other agencies. As a result, the data will not be stored in a central location, but will roam across different departments. This often makes it difficult to get an overview across channels. In order to break through these silos and thus gain more control over all data, companies are wise to use a central, internal ad server.

In-house ad server

A central ad server allows you to collect all internal and external first-party data streams. This data then allows you to get an overview and to compile target groups and benchmarks. He also ensures a more efficient way of working in your organization, because in particular the different specialist teams within paid media can work better together. A central, internal ad server gives you ownership of your own data. It allows you to fully understand your own data and enrich your first-party data strategy. Much more and better than when you work with an external ad server and the media agency is in charge.

Entry-level model of the in-house

However, it is easier to say you want to in-house than to actually do it. An internal ad server is an important first step in setting up your martech stack. It is also seen as the entry-level model. Indeed, it achieves a great effect, but it requires few technical skills and does not require large investments. Furthermore, it also has a minimal impact on the relationship with the agency. In-house of an ad server is mainly about who owns the data and technology and not about who does the work.

Include the C level

If it is an in-house ad server, it is essential that you start by mapping out your vision, marketing strategy and goals before you start choosing the right technique. The first step is to decide together with the C-level where you want to go as a company. These goals determine what your martech stack must accomplish, and therefore the way you’ll use the first-party data you collect with it.

First-party data strategy

What I see is that many companies articulate data collection as their main purpose. Data alone is not an end, it is a means to achieve your business goals. To achieve these goals, it is advisable to establish a first-party data strategy. When choosing a first-party data strategy, think about what data you want to collect, how you want to do it, how the data is distributed and secured, and what data you want to use next. The most important starting point is that you put your customer first. Therefore, make a list for yourself of things you would like to have insight into in two years, what you will need to achieve your goals, and what your expectations are of your customers and prospects whose data you collect.

Get rid of the silos

Setting up a first-party data strategy and internal ad server touches more disciplines than marketing alone. In fact, it affects every department that interacts with the customer. From planners and online marketers to digital specialists, analysts and traffickers. Therefore, make an early assessment of who the most important stakeholders are in order to arrive at a broadly supported strategy. In this strategy, it is important to determine how the data is collected and can be used. It is also important to map whether all the necessary skills are represented in the organisation.

Choose the right (marketing) tool

Once the strategy is in place and the right group of people are connected, the next step is to create an overview of the current architecture. In other words: what data do you have available now, what tools are used and in what way will you use the insights from the data? Especially if you want to use data for personalization, it is good to know what data is available at an individual level and what you want to use in the future. Based on these insights, you can then start the selection process of the (marketing) tools that provide this. For example, Google’s Ads Data Hub allows you to upload first-party data and match it with external data sets, after which you only get aggregated data. You don’t see the exact journey, but you see the journey of all specific groups of users in the past month. You can gain valuable insight from this. When it comes to ad servers, Campaign Manager 360 (CM360) is the best option. CM360 offers a central place from which you can plan, publish, analyze and optimize all your campaigns. It is particularly suitable for large brands or agencies that run many campaigns in several countries, in different languages, on different channels. By using different parts, you not only get more data, but also more control.


Once the right tools are installed in-house, it’s important to maintain insight into the status of your goals to be met. It is important that the values ​​are determined with all parties involved, as all parties control and influence the goals. For this monitoring, you can use dashboards or business intelligence tools such as Google Data Studio. Don’t forget to add a dashboard and/or quality report where data from different systems, such as the number of leads measured in Google Analytics, first-party data from your own website and app, and 0-party data (direct) feedback, ratings, etc.) can be compared and aggregated .

There is no right or wrong

Whether you go straight to a first-party data strategy, outsource data collection, or start in-house, always remember that it’s okay not to get everything right the first time.

It’s no problem to embrace first-party data while also collecting and implementing third-party data. Most importantly, you are taking the first step towards a future where you are in control of your data and how you can use it as profitably as possible, while respecting and monitoring consumer privacy.

About the author: Nathalie Peters is a partner and founder at MORGENFRISK.

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