Three Top Marketers Talk How to Deal With Agencies and Data

CMOs From E-Trade, Nationwide, Chobani Offer Best Practices

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Fear that an agency might hold a client's data "hostage" to keep an account, and use the data to benefit other clients, has marketers lawyering up and realizing how blurry rules around data ownership can be. But it's not all on the agency. Marketers need to be clear about what's off limits and be open to sharing data if they want agencies to produce good work. Here are some best practices from chief marketing officers on how clients and agencies can avoid conflicts over data.


Liza Landsman
Liza Landsman

1. Manage customer and prospect data. Customer transactions, cookies, tags and the like offer vast opportunities, but you need to anticipate data usage by internal and external parties (DMPs, DSPs, media-mix modeling, etc.) to ensure all rights/usages are included in your contracts and that you have the rights to take this information with you if you switch vendors.

2. Demand transparency. With real-time bidding, exchanges and a variety of third parties in the mix, ensure your agency is providing transparency into performance, cost mark-ups and whether your data is being used within proprietary agency tools to benefit anyone besides you.

3. Stay ahead of regulations. Make sure your marketing, legal and procurement teams are up to date on the latest regulations. Staying ahead of the curve helps avoid contracting multiple times for data usage and access for different purposes.


Matt Jauchius
Matt Jauchius

1. Don't hand over customers' personally identifiable information. We sign our contracts so we have customer data or even prospect data within the walls of our consumer-protection IT cyber-security policies. We have intellectual-property and entertainment lawyers on staff who read every contract and counsel me before I sign contracts.

2. Embrace agencies' proprietary offerings. Over the last year, agencies have been developing their own proprietary sources of data and models. If I have a media agency offering to get low-cost auto-insurance leads on the internet, and I can sell business off those, that's what I'm going to evaluate them on -- their performance. As a marketer I'm less worried about owning that data.

3. Back up your data. You want to do business with people you trust. But to avoid getting into a situation in which an agency can hold your data hostage, you probably ought to come up with a strategy to have data backups.


Peter McGuinness
Peter McGuinness

1. The client owns the sales and customer data. That's clear-cut and dry. It's painful, but we have to hammer out all [the ownership details] in the beginning, with a lot of lawyers. Back in the day, we worked off a one-page letter of agreement. Now contracts are hundreds of pages.

2. Ownership depends on agency scope. If we contracted an agency to generate data, we own it. If it was a proactive assignment and not in the scope, then we probably don't. But contracts should outline more scenarios. It's not a black-and-white world. If it's syndicated data at an agency, we don't own it and it's OK to use it to formulate trends, vs. our sales, brand and customer data.

3. Use your moral compass. Everyone has more of a moral obligation to be transparent about how our data is stored. We rely on that moral compass.

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