ComScore, eXelate Cleaning Up ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’

Data companies join forces to improve audience verification

Advertisers wary of digital media almost always complain about the data. How do they know the audience they paid for actually saw their ad? Right now that kind of feedback, be it from publishers, third-party data providers, or media buyers, isn’t standardized. Thus, "garbage in, garbage out" is a well-worn mantra in digital ad metric circles.

Maybe that's why there’s no shortage of number crunchers looking to clean up the ad data landfills.

Today comScore announced it would partner with eXelate, a third-party data provider, to verify audience data (namely, demographics) by cross-checking it with comScore’s panel audience data. The company works closely with panels of digital audiences whose members have already provided comScore with identifying demographic qualities. The deal allows eXelate, which has anonymous data on more than 200 million unique users in the U.S., to prove to advertisers that its definition of, say, a 20-something male is in fact a 20-something male—or, at least, within a statistically significant probability. Advertisers meet something called “audience composition accuracy.”

eXelate hopes cross-checking with that demographic data will boost the credibility of the company's audience data to the advertisers who buy it. “There’s always a reluctance for large brands to rely on (third-party) online data where they don’t know the source or how it's qualified, but having someone else who has done this in other market segments for years gives the data more credibility,” said eXelate CEO Mark Zagorski.

Meanwhile, comScore gets to show the market that it’s at the forefront of standardizing and validating digital measurement metrics, Zagorski said. “It’s a way of them saying, ‘We can be players in this new emerging data verification space,’” he said.

The move comes just weeks after comScore agreed to acquire media verification company AdXpose for $22 million. AdXpose measures ad safety (what type of publisher and content is the ad placed with) and ad verification (where was the ad placed and was it actually seen in that location). That type of qualification is on the media side; comScore’s eXelate partnership is the first step in addressing qualification on the audience side, said Zagorski.

The deal is the first of its kind for both comScore and eXelate, though it’s likely the former will look to leverage its brand name and panel data—which is limited in scale, but valuable because of its verified demographic information—with other third-party data providers.