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Q&A: Dun & Bradstreet on How and Why Data is Critical to B2B Success

Our Q&A series shines a spotlight on the biggest challenges, questions and trends in the programmatic marketplace with commentary from industry experts, clients and partners.

Today’s Q&A is with Anudit Vikram, Senior Vice President of Audience Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet delivers comprehensive business data and analytical insights. With over 300 million business records, from tens of thousands sources, D&B helps companies improve their business performance through the power of data and insights.

We recently onboarded Dun & Bradstreet’s B2B data into the Viant Advertising Cloud, enabling B2B marketers to target and reach their customers with unmatched accuracy and precision.

We sat down with Anudit Vikram to talk about all things B2B data. In his role, Vikram is responsible for leveraging Dun & Bradstreet’s vast commercial and contact data assets to solve sales and marketing challenges in the physical and the digital world.

Q: Ads reach people, but most companies are targeting accounts. How should marketers be thinking about the intersection of these two ideas to reach their B2B target?

Being able to tie people back to the companies where they work – or understand the digital identifiers associated with job profiles and roles and then map them back to companies – becomes critical in B2B use cases. Accounts are the key off of which B2B companies base their marketing strategies, but those accounts are composed of people. Using the right data assets, which have consistent and persistent account identifiers that tie to personal and role information, is critical to your B2B success.

Q: The B2B buying cycle is complex. It takes a long time and involves many stakeholders. How are brands addressing the challenge of tracking a single account (and the people associated with it) across a long, complex buying cycle?

This, once again, comes back to having a way of managing the account identity. What you need is a consistent and persistent identifier, which is immutable as it is transferred across systems, platforms and channels. Having such an identifier – and an identity-management framework around it – allows you to roll up the individuals you see to the accounts they represent and also track them as they span systems and channels – both offline and online – over the selling cycle.

Q: Transparency is still a hot topic in programmatic. How is technology developing to help address brand safety and ensure brands know who their ads are being served to?

Organizations such as the IAB with their ads.txt initiative and companies such as TAG with their certification program are helping fight fraud and increase the transparency in the ad tech ecosystem. Then there is also the potential of blockchain, which is being talked about nowadays (though I believe the jury is still out on how effective it will eventually be or if we are simply blinded by the shiny new object that is in front of us at this time). Frankly, transparency and fraud will not be addressed purely via technology, but will also need some changes in process workflows and in business models, which incentivize the right behaviors.

Q: What is the next frontier for programmatic? We’re hearing a ton about machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). But what does it really mean?

Programmatic lends itself very well to ML and AI. It is all about finding efficiencies in the smallest of transactions and in deriving insights from the multitude of signals that are presented. However, I think we are over-rotating on the belief that these techs will solve all our problems. It is important to understand that ML and AI systems are only as good as the data that is feeding the models and the methods being used to make decisions. I believe that ML and AI will help us in specific use cases but also that they will make even more obvious the need for good data, especially for making programmatic successful.

Q: With more public awareness and scrutiny around data collection and use, will programmatic targeting be impacted?

I don’t think so. Programmatic is about efficiency. It is about being able to execute at scale and make decisions on micro points. That – efficiency at scale – is the direction the world is trending in, and there is no reason to back down from it. Programmatic relies on data, and I believe all this scrutiny coming about nowadays will in fact clean up the data ecosystem. Good data will continue to exist and be used. The not-so-good players will get weeded out of the system. The concerns being raised about the validity of data assets will get allayed because the awareness and scrutiny will ensure that the data assets that continue to exist are those that are indeed clean, good and effective.

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